OMITTED HISTORY, Publication within the project "The Continuous Art Class"
How ready are we to learn from our mistakes from the past? How important is it to position positive historical elements as a model for the future, especially when we speak about the freedom and progressive cultural and social practices?
These are just some of the questions initiated during the discussion “Omitted History” held in November 2005 in Novi Sad. This discussion was intended to throw light on crucial events on the political and artistic scenes at the beginning of the seventies of the twentieth century in former Yugoslavia, yet on the other hand, to offer the proposals for a model on how to critically read and write new history of the Yugoslav socialist times, connecting it to the present situation. One year after the exibition “The Continuous Art Class” and the discussion “Omitted History” in Novi Sad, the transcript of the discussion is published along with a research that speaks about a wider social context of the political practices in (post-) Yugoslav times and they are also seen here from a socially-philosophical angle. “The Continuous Art Class” is a long-term research project that deals with mapping of progressive art and neo-avant-garde and political practices during the 1960s and 1970s in Novi Sad and Vojvodina.
About the book "OMITTED HISTORY"
Title: Omitted History
Editor: New Media Center_kuda.org
Translation: Nebojša Pajić
Design: Predrag Nikolić, kuda.org
Print: Daniel Print, Novi Sad
Print run: 500
Publisher and distributor: Revolver - Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt, www.revolver-books.de
Publication could be downloaded for free and it is placed in the attachment at the bottom of this page.
“The Continuous Art Class”, the exhibition and the project: http://www.kuda.org/?q=node/541
Introduction to the Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art
One year after the Exibition “The Continuous Art Class” and the discussion “Omitted History”1 in Novi Sad, the transcript of the discussion is published along with a research that speaks about a wider social context of the political practices in (post-) Yugoslav times and they are also seen here from a socially-philosophical angle. “The Continuous Art Class” is a long-term research project that deals with mapping of progressive art and neo-avant-garde and political practices during the 1960s and 1970s in Novi Sad and Vojvodina. The main basis for the research is the fact that there was a strong cause-consequence relationship of the mentioned practices and the then official political system, which is the main reason for the overview of the wider social and political context of the time as an integral part of this project. As those practices existed in different parts of Yugoslavia, a need arose for their detailed examination on the entire Yugoslav territory. This fact is one of the reasons to initiate an over-research project named “Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art”, commenced by the “Prelom Kolektiv” group from Belgrade, “What, How and for Whom” from Zagreb, “pro.ba/SCCA” from Sarajevo and New Media Center_kuda.org from Novi Sad, all of which are very actively analysing mainly local practices of that time.
"Why a (post-) Yugoslav Political Context"?
After a decade of wars and political turmoil the geo-political and cultural space of former Yugoslavia is starting to take a new shape. Although now all the political elites/actors in former Yugoslav states declare their fidelity/adherence/devotion to the EU project, the actual political and cultural policies remain self-enclosed, autistic and hostile to most forms of regional exchange. On the one hand, the official local cultural policies still favour projects and programmes which aim to create strong and exclusive national identities. On the other, although the elites recognize the need for a more intensive regional exchange as a necessity for joining the EU, whenever some regional cooperation is mentioned they say that no one wants to do anything that would resemble the former Yugoslavia as a „prison-house of the nations“. All in all the prevailing opinion about the former Yugoslavia and the Socialist project is considered to be absolutely negative.
The aim of this research work is to critically study the heritage of cultural, artistic and intellectual projects of former Yugoslavia as to extract positive and valuable aspects from it. Instead of practicing neo-liberal multiculturalism politics of folkloristic “getting to know the Other(s)” and live with them in a kind of peaceful coexistence – which obviously go hand in hand with the still prevailing nationalism and chauvinism, the research will be focused on the possibilities of reviving the creative and progressive experiences that existed on the cultural, artistic and intellectual scenes in former Yugoslavia. Therefore, in the research of historical and political, artistic and cultural processes in former Yugoslavia and how are those perceived and utilized nowadays, there is a struggle to exit the cul-de-sac of doubly bound discourses of global neo-liberalism and local ethno-nationalism. The usual post-Socialist discourse supports the dominant neo-liberal views on socialist Yugoslav modernism as unilaterally totalitarian and authoritarian. Also, local nationalist and chauvinist discourses present the Yugoslav socialist modernism as a mere tool of dictatorship and tyranny. This is exactly where post-socialist neo-liberal and nationalist discourses meet. The project “Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art” is dedicated to re-discovering and setting the problems again regarding the political context of cultural, artistic and intellectual production as opposed to such simplifying and futile stand-points.
How ready are we to learn from our mistakes from the past? How important is it to position positive historical elements as a model for the future, especially when we speak about the freedom and progressive cultural and social practices? These are just some of the questions initiated during the discussion “Omitted History” held in November 2005 in Novi Sad. This discussion was intended to throw light on crucial events on the political and artistic scenes at the beginning of the seventies of the twentieth century in former Yugoslavia, yet on the other hand, to offer the proposals for a model on how to critically read and write new history of the Yugoslav socialist times, connecting it to the present situation.
“Yugoslavia as State of Exception”
This publication also includes the papers by Petar Milat and Tomislav Medak from Zagreb, which are a part of their more extensive research about “Yugoslavia as a Bio-political Experiment” where they speak about two essays – about the “New Class” by Milovan Đilas and about “Yugoslavia, an Unfinished State” by Zoran Đinđić – both of which, according to them “explicate social-philosophical issues that are tied to the destiny of a formation that used to be called Yugoslavia (…) Therefore, what is ‘Yugoslavia’ as a (social-) philosophical issue from the perspective of globalisation…?” This is where the authors discuss the need to analyse “Yugoslavia” as a social experiment, “which has probably … left us the legacy of a distinctive potential for emancipation” and in that sense they ask whether it is possible to re-philosophise the topic of “social revolution” outside the frame of bio-politics.
"Why Political Practices of Art"?
In this context, there is need to re-define relations between politics and art established by recent practices of curators and art critics in the (post-) Yugoslav cultural-political space. Those practices still owe to the classic art historical paradigm, which explains social and political potentials of art through the mechanisms of the inclusion of art practice into the body of daily politics and historical setting. The object of its analysis is – the way that particular art formulation represents its social environment and given political circumstances. At the centre of its attention is the representation (that is, transmission and comments on the existing relations in the world). That is why in most interpretations art acts as the separated from society, as its mirrored representation, as something that comes “after” the whole history has already happened. The same logic is applied to the recent set of East European and Balkan shows where the art works were presented (to quote Dan Perjovschi) as “documents” of political and historical processes of the fall of real-Socialism, dissolution of Eastern sphere, wars and conflicts, nationalist politics etc. This tendency is being reflected in the recent artistic production, in which artists are interwoven into their given roles.
The project attempts to use discursive, analytical, and explicative possibilities of contemporary art to point to the hegemonic position of the notion of “Western Europe”, articulating the subject from the perspective of “cultural workers” who belong to broad cultural-geographical complex which we call the European non-West. In contrast to the notions like the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Mediterranean, New Europe, post-communist countries etc., the geography of which oscillates in relation to hegemonic geo-political aspirations, “Western Europe” is actually defined as a clear geographical area, identified through economic parameters, resulting in reductive assumptions of its geography, politics, race, religion etc., while Western societies are (also) imbued with antagonisms, and these very antagonisms (class, tradition-normalization, national-global, openness-closeness, national and religious exclusivities, multi-culturalism as tolerant racism etc.) are constitutive for every contemporary society.
In this context, art and culture are made instruments of mediation between the developed liberal-capitalist West and the post-communist societies which “still need to be integrated in the liberal-democratic world of the free market and human rights”. Still, critical, financial and institutional validation from the West is often the only channel open for securing and increasing cultural capital at the local level. Against the understanding of cultural domain based on the notion of identity, particularly on national identity, this research would like to make a shift from the paradigm of art as something that represents to art as a political practice.
Prelom Kolektiv, Belgrade
WHW – Who, How and for Whom?, Zagreb
New Media Center_kuda.org, Novi Sad