With its curious mix of cold-war doomsday thinking, its reluctant charm of space-age optimism, and the captive presence of its underground setting, D-0 ARK (the Atomic war command bunker or Atomska ratna komanda of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) is a testimony to the survival of a community. Two decades after the existence of this once highly secret facility has become public, STEALTH.unlimited has re-wired a section of D-0 ARK, to indicate how this type of autonomous systems can be miniaturized, democratized and put to use to avoid the next cataclysm: a collapse of the ecosystem due to our dependence on large, resource-consuming (infra)structures.
D-0 ARK has been built by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) between 1953 and 1979. “This shelter occupies a space of 6.500m2 and consists of 12 connected blocks. It resembles a complicated labyrinth, with residential areas, conference rooms, offices, strategic planning rooms, and other functional areas. The construction and existence of this bunker were kept secret until the 1990s when ARK was finally revealed.” (quote: Project Biennial D-0 ARK Underground)
Through this device, a limited number of chosen ones (350 people, including President Josip Broz Tito, his family and his closest associates) would have been given the chance to pick up “normal” life after a cataclysmic event – like a nuclear war. Regardless of their actual chance of survival, the sinister part for the rest of us remains in the selection of that few.
It has been one of the most costly constructions made during the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with a recorded $4.6 billion invested in its construction. The shelter is preserved intact with all its symbols and signs of the former social, economic, political and ideological system.
Now, a mere couple of decades further from its inception in the mid-1950s and its final realisation in 1979, its plot can be inverted. What if its large, bulky, heavily centralised life support systems are radically downscaled and made available to all of us? What if with the help of distributed and miniaturised autonomous systems that provide us with water, food & energy, we do not have to sit through the aftermath of a cataclysm, but can avoid one in the first place?
D-0 to DO rewires one of the sanitary units of the facility. The section is equipped with a water purification facility (a 3 step septic tank, combined with a rapid sand filter with an active coal trap) and has been fitted with a light system that no longer runs on the D-0 ARK’s massive diesel aggregates, but is powered by sea salt, or in case of necessity, salt from our own urine (aluminium-air batteries with salt water).
With the calamity of massive cold-war catastrophism withering away and other global challenges ahead, such dispersed devices may on a personal scale take away our reliance on large protective systems, our dependence on scarce resources, and our ongoing devastating contribution to global warming, food or water shortage. What if the few become the many – radically independent from the “chosen” ones, because from here on, we make the choice of survival ourselves?
[team ] STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen) with assistance from Irfan Hošić and Jasmin Čorbadžić
[curator ] Basak Senova (Istanbul)
[background ] An initiative of Edo Hozić & Sandra Miljević Hozić, the Project Biennial of Contemporary Art, D-0 ARK Underground is organised in Konjic, in the military shelter ARK D-0. The intention is to transform ARK D-0 (which is currently still under the Authority of the Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina) into a regional cultural institution that stays at the forefront in research and promotion of new artistic trends.
[timeline ] November 2012 – April 2013, biennial opening 26 April, 2013