by Basak Gol
Savamala Diary with Beuys Tree and Stone includes a diary, an oak tree, and a stone erected on the Savamala riverbank in front of the Župa boat. The diary uses storytelling to document the ways Belgrade citizens relate to Savamala. The planting of the tree and the placement of the stone were inspired by the 7000 Oaks project, which the artist Joseph Beuys launched at Documenta 7 in 1982 and which people around the world have continued by planting oak trees and erecting stones in their own cities.
When Basak Gol was in Belgrade during the class’s research trip in May 2013, her home town of Istanbul witnessed the occupation of Gezi Park by protesters. They were demonstrating against plans to turn the park into a shopping mall. The preservation of the trees in the park became a symbol of their protest, which also included gatherings organized around cultural activities. Her personal experience of the Gezi Park uprising inspired the project Savamala Diary with Beuys Tree and Stone in Belgrade’s Savamala district, which faces a similarly controversial development. The statements she collected from residents document their relationship with Savamala, as well as their intent to participate in shaping a more sustainable future for the district.
An important part of the project is a reflection on the notion of ecology as it was understood in the 1970s, when Beuys started the 7000 Oaks project, and on the notion of sustainability in the contemporary city, which is based on sustainable everyday practices by residents. Both ideas reveal people’s desire to participate in shaping the kind of city they want to live in.