Landfills and rivers

environment, waste, (un)consciousness, art, transformation

Mode of travelling

Tracing environmentally damaging behaviors

Djurdjica Bjelosevic

UNSA Geto 

Plastic Collection Workshop by Djurdjica Bjelosevic, Some Call Us Balkans 2021. CC BY-SA 4.0

Stream of Research

The Commons and Right to the City 

Cross-Cutting Issues

ecology, environment, identity and belonging, intercultural co-existence, citizenship, civic engagement


kud svi, tu i mali Mujo (kud svi tu i mali mujɔ) - literally: “Where everyone goes, little Mujo goes too.” A popular Bosnian proverb used in the context of work, to justify individual improper behaviour or to appeal to a diffusion of responsibility. Example: - Zašto si bacio vreću za smeće u rijeku? - Ali komšija radi isto! (Why did you throw out your garbage bag in the river? - Well, my neighbour does the same!)

beterluk (bɛtɛrluk) - a characteristic for sloth and naughty man Example: Beterluk građana Banja Luke doveo do uništavanja zelenih površina. (The Banja Luka citizens’ insolence has caused the destruction of greenery.)


Myth 1: They themselves, especially politicians who are at the forefront of such a careless trend, like to say that we live in an abundance of pure and beautiful natural resources. This is a myth that shatters and re-examines this research, along with the myth that we are an environmentally conscious nation.


Art from Discarded trash, Interviews, Visual Investigation 


Djurdjica Bjelosevic

The research includes a broader picture of the environmental problem we face in Bosnia in general, these areas are actually locations where all unscrupulous attitudes and bad behaviors towards nature can be found (actually everywhere) and this happens every day in: nature / wilderness, rivers, protected areas, city, suburbs, villages,  legal and illegal landfills.

TrashFormNation is a condensation of words contracted into one: Trash, Form and Nation that altogether sounds to the ear as a call for Transformation of the same categories. Its title announces its will of transforming the relationship of citizens to their environment through forming artworks with trash within the complex national context of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The Process, picture by Djurdjica Bjelosevic, Some Call Us Balkans 2021. CC BY-SA 4.0

TrashFormNation deals with the problem of alarming environmental unconsciousness in Bosnia and Herzegovina, examining the possibilities of artistic action for changing this devastating image. TrashFormNation shapes around one question: can socially engaged art practices raise awareness and trigger more conscious and responsible behaviors of citizens towards the environment? 

Within the context of The Balkans that are a treasure trove ( or collection more commonly used) of strange contrasts: beauty and arrogance; beautiful nature and an awful attitude towards it; freedom and limitations; kindness and rigidity; melancholy and resourcefulness; stagnation and enthusiasm;, beters (Bosnian word for stupid, lazy and irresponsible people) and talented people with great abilities; rich cultural,  historical heritage and negligence and understanding towards the same. 

We strive to level, mitigate and reconcile these patterned contrasts through the making of our work. We want to see art practice and trash  as a raw resource of  transformation, more precisely of TrashFormNation, within our national fragmented community 

We recognize the complexity of our environmental issues and we want to cope with it from a multi sided perspective that links together the tangible and intangible aspect of it.  On the one hand the obvious negative effects of all sorts of pollution on our environment and health, on the other hand the role of the authorities and communities in generating the problem.  

Waste treatment remains one of the biggest problems in BiH. We have more than a thousand illegal dumpsites and only 1% of municipal waste is recycled. Smaller towns and rural areas do not have an organized system for collecting and disposing of used oil, batteries, accumulators, tires, electrical equipment, vehicles, agricultural waste, medical waste, expired drugs, pesticides – or, in other words, hazardous waste and chemicals, the operative word being hazardous. If not managed properly, such waste can have dire consequences for the environment and our general public health, contaminating water, soil, as well as the atmosphere. After quite a few long-term consequences, a collectively responsible attitude must finally be launched towards restoring the health of our environment.

The very source of this problem are our governing authorities and their lack of responsibility, a title earned by failing to provide adequate landfills, recycling mechanisms and clear punishments for non-compliance. After a poll was conducted in one of BiH’s Cantons, data revealed that the majority of respondents expressed concern for their environment at their places of residence, but also for our global environment and its future, expressing desire to change their habits and behaviors. Young people in BiH are particularly aware of environmental problems, shown by various public survey data. 

However, it is true that by not having citizen engagement, meaningful public consultations and practical debates, we allow those who implement policies and projects to act however they please towards the destruction of our environment, health and well-being. High levels of air pollution, limited water management and waste management capacities, including illegal landfills, uncontrolled construction, industrial pollution and other environmental problems, make BiH one of the worst environmental zones in Europe.

TrashFormNation views all citizens as a responsible community. However, several types of community groups were singled out and observed for the purpose of more clearly defining and understanding the structure of our real ecological situation. These communities are polarized into two opposing attitudes towards the environment. On the one hand, we will observe either a positive prism, while on the other hand, the negative prism in relation to their personal determinations that put them in one of these contexts. Belonging to a positive or negative example of the community depends on the aspirations of their personal awareness, type, attitude and the degree of (ir)responsibility in their relationship to the current environmental situation.

In addition to the mentioned communities, cooperation during the research was achieved at various fronts, including professionals, journalists, the virtual community, and especially citizens as individuals. In order to arrive at the data that is an integral part of our problem with mentality, we must start by examining individuals and their answers and attitudes, so that we can draw an average and clearer picture, such as answering the question: what is causing such irresponsible and ungrateful behavior towards the environment in everyone personally, whether such bad habits are innate or acquired? In case the question does not apply to them, what do they think is the cause of careless and irresponsible behavior in others, without justifying them, themselves or our mentality. Where is the cause of such an “error” in our sensibility?

In support of all this, we have data that we collected from citizens who responded through a public call online and sent a huge number of photos and videos of negative examples of environmental (un)awareness from their personal archives, such as photographs of inorganic and hard-to-decompose waste in nature, polluted rivers and springs, wild dumps that sprouted in unimaginably beautiful and clean areas. These visuals cause cramps, sadness and concern.

Online sourced material, Illegal Dump near Siroko Vrelo, 2021.
Online sourced material, Illegal Dump in Livno, 2021.
Online sourced material, Illegal Dump in Banja Luka

By gathering information on environmental issues and the state of the environment, a very clear question has emerged, one that deals with the very cause and essence of the obviously inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, very degrading and unscrupulous treatment of the environment by the majority of our citizens and authorities. They themselves, especially politicians who are at the forefront of such a careless trend, like to say that we live in an abundance of pure and beautiful natural resources. This is a myth that shatters and re-examines this research, along with the myth that we are an environmentally conscious nation.

All of this accumulates into one of the first negative impressions we leave on others, and such an impression is very intense and inevitable, precisely because on the other hand, we have beautiful natural resources, and something like this leaves someone with healthy logic in utter disbelief.

Extraordinary water resources, such as beautiful rivers, streams, their canyons and valleys, represent important natural treasures and a strong potential for the sustainable and responsible development of local communities, but, unfortunately, not enough effort is invested in protecting such beautiful landscapes .

Through this work, we came to the conclusion that art would be able to build a bridge between the three important links of this topic: environmentally responsible and environmentally irresponsible citizens, and our (in)competent state and local institutions.

“Bermuda Triangle” by Djurdjica Bjelosevic , Some Call Us Balkans 2021. CC BY-SA 4.0

This “Bermuda Triangle” has existed for many years, and we hope that art will be the secret ingredient that will shatter such a polluted and stagnant cocoon, triggering reactions from which we will all benefit, especially the environment, to which we owe our deepest gratitude.

Artists’ needs for activist-oriented action in recent decades have emerged as a response and reaction to the elitist trend of approaching art. Since art has always been a reflection of the state of our society, artists increasingly have a need to react, critique and act. The artistic language, methods and approaches that such actions offer attract attention, focus on a particular problem and its possible solutions, with the aim of raising public awareness through criticism, questioning, presenting solutions, while at the same time, developing new artistic practices. We see the role of the artistic community in the function of associate-transfer with the professional community, the one who listens, interrogates, and offers creative, fresh and, if necessary, shocking or provocative non-violent ideas and solutions for action aimed at an ecologically very unaware community. We believe that artists represent a bridge in the research for new and creative solutions. They are translators and pedagogues-moderators between these three communities (conscious-unconscious-responsible), as we have grouped them through research.

Our goal through this research is to give as much information as possible to artists who will create based on the topic of waste and environmental awareness in BiH, so that we can come up with ideas for ways of action together with them, which should provoke reactions that are aimed towards the points of dormant environmental awareness, ethics and responsibility, all of this constantly neglected and suppressed by most citizens because of various justified and unjustified reasons.

We consider it our task and obligation to make sure that all these efforts do not become just another in a series of mere theoretical forms, assumptions and clichés.

We see the approach to this problem by designing practical, interesting and effective examples through which we are publicly presenting both the positive and negative sides of the ecological status in which we find ourselves, as well as inciting the ways, values and power of civic activism.

As the end result of the research, without any Utopian fantasies, we believe in the power that art can have in being a vehicle  for social change and transformation of our community. 

Literature references

Euronews, 26/11/2021. : Could the ‘dump of death’ near Mostar be making locals ill? https://www.euronews.com/2021/11/26/could-the-dump-of-death-near-mostar-be-making-locals-ill?utm_medium=Social_campaign&utm_source=Facebook_Mobile_Feed&utm_campaign=Euronews+Witness_2021+S01+3.0&fbclid=IwAR3nnZUhkK0UMSgLKrCoMpF1372YWtw6lPBwM_05M4z7sbzOgsgEaVp-EzQ#Echobox=1637951119

Večernji list, 04/01/2021. : Ecological catastrophe in BiH: Thousands of cubic meters of waste polluted the Drina River https://www.vecernji.ba/vijesti/ekoloska-katastrofa-u-bih-tisuce-kubika-otpada-zagadilo-rijeku-drinu-1458615

Slobodna Evropa, 03/06/2019. :  BiH is losing millions on municipal waste https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/bih-komunalni-otpad-sustav-milijuni-gubitak/29979208.html

Mondo, 17/05/2018. : BiH will suffocate in its own garbage? There are over 10,000 illegal landfills throughout BiH. The number is constantly increasing, and the blame is divided in half - between the state and the citizens. https://mondo.ba/Info/Drustvo/a805781/Deponije-smeca-u-BiH.html

Bljesak info, 04/01/2021. : Ecology and us: The story of environmental protection in BiH is tragicomic https://www.bljesak.info/gospodarstvo/ekologija/ekologija-i-mi-prica-oko-ocuvanja-okolisa-u-bih-je-tragikomicna/334787

Balkan green energy news, 19/06/2020. : 40 artists back Blue Heart campaign to protect Balkan Rivers on occasion of World Music Day https://balkangreenenergynews.com/40-artists-back-blue-heart-campaign-to-protect-balkan-rivers-on-occasion-of-world-music-day/

Faktor, 30/11/2021. : "Rug of plastic plugs" set up in Sarajevo https://www.faktor.ba/vijest/u-sarajevskom-naselju-ciglane-postavljen-cepocilim/43282

Prve novine, 22/06/2021. : With the exhibition "Toxic Lands", artists warn of the importance of environmental protection (Mostar) http://www.prvenovine.com/vijesti/bih/74459/umjetnici-izlozbom-%C2%A8toksicne-zemlje%C2%A8-upozoravaju-na-vaznost-zastite-okolisa/

British Council: Toxic Lands https://www.britishcouncil.ba/en/programmes/arts/future-ecologies/toxic-lands

Bonjour, 10/10/2019. : NERA ETVA - all the details about the plastic creation designed by artist Armin Ćosić with the aim of encouraging the preservation of the environment https://bonjour.ba/nera-etva-armin-cosic-editorijal-kreacija

Artwork references

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