Survival Art Museum '96

Year of Production
1996 (July – August 1996)
Location of Production
Tokyo Big Site – Tokyo, Japan
Original Format
A Pavilion at Tokyo EXPO 1996: Tokyo Art Zone – Atopic Site
Original Language
English and Japanese
The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996: homage to practical, cultural and personal levels of Survival; preserving and presenting Innovation, Ingenuity and Creativity of ordinary citizens. The objective was to interconnect modern design, recycled materials and human-touch in order to depict and explain the story of Survival and 'what it means to be besieged' to audiences from Japan and neighbouring countries.
Research period
1992 - 1996
Museum (Exhibit) Pavilion – visited by over two million visitors – was a mix of modern design, recycled materials, human-touch, and survival artefacts from the siege. The objective was to recreate a typical Sarajevo home during the siege in an abstract form. Each room was used to communicate different level of survival by displaying original survival artefacts, innovations and processes – from electricity to food, water and heating. Daily interactive tours guided by Sarajevo actress Amina Begovic provided visitors with practical tips and demonstrations of use of survival artefacts.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government invited FAMA to be part of Tokyo EXPO'96 with Survival Art Museum in partnership with P3, a Tokyo Art & Environment organisation. This was the second stage of the project (1992) which will culminate with the Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996 Museum planned to open in 2014 in Sarajevo.


Author and
Creative Director
Miran Norderland
Suada Kapic
Milenko Simic
Project Manager
Shinobu Ito
Design Assistant
Goran Simic
Actress (tour-guide)
Amina Begovic
Nedzad Begovic and Enes Sivac
Survival Artefacts
Hikmeta Kapic & Citizens of Sarajevo
Setsuko Miura
Autorska prava
© FAMA International


Because of their influence, those who watch, observe, analyse and explain meaning to the masses are considered a kind of elite; however if this elite use faulty methodology or have impure intentions, it can lead to disastrous consequences. We, the founders of FAMA, the first independent multi-media company in the former Yugoslavia, were fully aware of the sensitivity of the area in which we chose to invest. From the very beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, we knew that documentation, of all types and forms, would play a vital role in the fate of current and future generations. In keeping with our own personal principles, our methods rely on fact, oral history and recorded documentation (documented documents). It is through our unique insight and gift of foresight that we have been able to develop a step by step methodology that 'makes the obvious visible'.

Gaining insight. This involves watching events attentively with an open mind as an observer rather than a participant, in order to note significant elements of the observed phenomenon; then putting these elements together to identify early signs of any emerging dominant trends that might launch a new process of cause and effect.

Continuing research through oral history. Those who participated in an observed event talk about their own experience of it, without commenting on other participants. These elements are recorded in photo/video format.

Structuring the research. Putting first hand facts and documented documents of a particular event, period or phenomenon into a structure that transfers this knowledge in a form acceptable to an audience, devoid of any indicators that would point to a conclusion. Readers, viewers, students, researchers draw their own conclusions on the basis of the given format.

Converting the structure. This phase involves producing a format suitable for mass production (maps, albums, films, encyclopedias).

Creating a study pack. We have created an educational pack consisting of different sections that can be used for different levels of education, as our unique contribution to the interpretation of the period 1991-1999.

Survival Art Museum '96

Two months after the city was completely closed off, it became clear that the new reality (that of destruction, shelling and sniping, unlawful deportations, disruption of lines of communication, inability to leave the city) had to be accepted as the permanent condition. The acceptance of a distorted normality as our normality implied a change of the way of thinking, and the loss of all former habits once considered true measures of the civilization – which had in the meantime disappeared. The need for balance made us realize that we must create as they destroy. And so the process began of establishing a balance between destruction and construction, fear and freedom, hunger and creativity, feeling the cold of winter and working – as the law of survival. Our Bosnian House was the only facility built in Sarajevo during 1992-1996. That same year when the siege of Sarajevo was lifted, Tokyo Metropolitan Government invited us to install Survival Art Museum at one of the most modern architectural spaces in the world. They recognized that our Bank of Knowledge contained several levels of survival experience that could be applied in any given city at the end of 20th century. They wanted to learn how to survive a four-year disaster without any possibility of rehabilitation, while the methods of terror in the meantime improve. For the purpose of the exhibition we improved our 1992 project whose primary goal was the liberation from fear and establishment of some kind of counterbalance to terror. Reshaping the exhibition/museum helped us to start transforming experience into knowledge.

About the project

A short while before the four-year long siege was lifted, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government invited FAMA to represent Europe at the Tokyo EXPO '96. Finally was FAMA able to accomplish its long awaited dream to present the Sarajevo Siege experience to the world.

The main objective of the Survival Art Museum '96 was to present the siege artefacts created by ordinary people, and show the true meaning of Survival philosophy to Japanese public (some 2.5 million visitors). The artefacts themselves, due to their practical and symbolic value, became an art form worthy of being treated as such and saved for every post-cataclysmic eventuality. The actual artefacts were originals flown from Sarajevo, and displayed within the futuristic modern design structure.

In order to make the experience as authentic as possible the entire installation was arranged as an abstract form of a typical Sarajevo home where space and objects kept changing their functions as the siege progressed. The visitors could follow a guided tour and familiarize themselves with objects, their origin, purpose, and function. A wide-range Japanese audience was able to capture the meaning of the overall display without verbal clarification, as the visuality of the objects sufficed to explain the complex event.