POLITICAL PRACTICES OF (POST-) YUGOSLAV ART
"Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav art” (Conceptual Art, New Media, Yugoslav and (post-)Yugoslav Film, Post Socialism-Historical Revisionism-Socialist Modernism...) The project "Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art" is conceived as a long-term process in which four independent cultural organization are collaborating in multidisciplinary researching, mapping and analyzing of the historical, socio-political and economic conditions that led to the current constellation of art practices or intellectual and cultural production in post-Socialist space of „Southeast Europe“ or, more precisely, of „Western Balcans“, eg. former Yugoslavia. The project is constructed in a manner to include the partaking of all interested contributors from the cultural field in the region, promoting by that inter-and trans-regional artistic and intellectual exchange and joint activities in ex-Yugoslav countries. The stages of this project will consist of presentations of the research materials and their analyses in different formats (web-platform, publications, exhibitions, discussions, forums, conferences, etc.). Project “Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art” is conceived as a long-term project in which four independent cultural organizations
"Why (post-)Yugoslav Political Context?"
After a decade of wars and political turmoils, the geopolitical and cultural space of former Yugoslavia is starting to take a new shape. Although now all political elites/actors in former Yugoslavian 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 favor projects and programs which aim to create strong and exclusive national identities. On the other, although the elites recognize the need for 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 former Yugoslavia and the Socialist project it stood for is absolutely negative.
With our research, we aim to study critically the heritage of cultural, artistic and intellectual projects of former Yugoslavia to extract positive and valuable aspects of it. Instead of practicing neo-liberal multiculturalist politics of folkloristic „getting to know the Other(s)“ and live with them in a kind of peaceful coexistence – which obviously goes hand-in-hand with still prevailing nationalism and chauvinism, we will focus on the possibilities of reviving the creative and progressive experiences that existed on the cultural, artistic and intellectual scene in former Yugoslavia.
Therefore, in our research of historical and political, artistic and cultural processes in former Yugoslavia and how are those perceived and utilized nowadays, we strive to exit the impasse of double-bonded discourses of global neoliberalism and local etno-nationalism, thus making the way for a new and productive future of regional cooperation. The usual post-Socialist discourse is affirming the dominant neo-liberal views on socialist Yugoslav modernism as unilaterally totalitarian and authoritarian. Also, local nationalist and chauvinist discourses present Yugoslav socialist modernism as a mere tool of Communist dictatorship and Tito’s tyranny. This is the very point of convergence or meeting point of post-socialist neo-liberal and nationalist discourses.
Our project will be dedicated to re-discovering and re-problematizing the political context of cultural, artistic and intellectual production as opposed to such simplifying and futile stand-points. Therefore, with this project we strive to open a new critical "third" space, being certain that it is the best way of establishing productive and lasting cultural relationships in the region. We contend that, through this critical research, the socio-cultural heritage of Yugoslav modernism could present itself as a viable source of present artistic, cultural and intellectual regional cooperation.
"Why Political Practices of Art"?
The aim of this project is to redefine relations between politics and art established by recent curatorial and art critical practices in the (post-)Yugoslav cultural-political space. Those practices still owe to the classic art historical paradigm, which explains the social and political potentials of art through the mechanisms of the insertion of art practice into the body of daily politics and historical settings.
The object of its analysis is – the way that particular art formulation represents its social environment and given political circumstances. At the center of its attention is representation. That's why in most interpretations art acts as the separated from society, as its mirror-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 artworks are presented as a "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 art production, in which artists are interpellated 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 the broad cultural-geographical complex which we term European non-West. In contrast to the notions like Balkan, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Mediterranean, New Europe, post-communist countries etc., whose geography oscillates in relation to hegemonic geopolitical 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.
Art and culture are instrumentalized as a means 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, we would like to make a shift from the paradigm of art-as-representation to art-as-political practice.
WHW (Zagreb), kuda.org (Novi Sad), SCCA/pro.ba (Sarajevo) and Prelom Kolektiv (Belgrade) collaborate on multidisciplinary research, focusing on relationships of visual arts, cinema and intellectual production with socio-political practices in the (post-) Yugoslav cultural space. The organizations share the attitude towards culture as a productive process rather than the representative product and emphasize the cultural policies aspect of all their activities. The project started in June 2006 as the result of a joint decision to develop further, intensify and expand our previous collaborations. The initial framework was set, and the first phase of research started resulting in a number of “case studies” presented from the end of 2006 and throughout 2007 in different cities of the region in the form of exhibitions, publications, panel discussions, screenings and debates: The Continuous Art Class (Novi Sad, Zagreb, Belgrade, http://www.kuda.org/?q=node/541), Who is “Goran Djordjevic”? (Belgrade), TV Gallery (Zagreb, Novi Sad), Vojin Bakic (Zagreb), On the Black Wave in Yu Cinema (Belgrade). This cluster of case-study researches unfolds around the notions of 'official' and 'marginal' culture inside of the Socialist state, political strategies in the field of culture and self-organization. Continuation and systematization of the project’s results will be presented in the form of a joint exhibition, multilingual publication and discussion panel, which will recapitalize all the major themes of the project. The exhibition under the working title "Yesterday for Today" in Museum of Contemporary Art - Belgrade, thus giving the project more visibility, and with the discussion and publication to follow further and wider outreach is expected. Organizations involved in the project The journal Prelom was established in 2001 as a project of the Belgrade Center for Contemporary Art, but from the very outset, it becomes a space for the critical query of the political constellations between art, film and social theory in contemporary post-Yugoslav context. During last five years (seven issues in five volumes) it succeeded in involving individuals, groups and initiatives from ex-Yugoslavia and beyond in a collective effort to problematize, theorize and fight against various, heterogeneous and paradoxical forms of contemporary neo-liberal capitalism. In the summer of 2004, Prelom lost its former institutional background and the editorial board founded an independent organization – PRELOMKOLEKTIV (www.prelomkolektiv.org), constituting itself as a publisher and laying the foundations for integrating and expanding other activities beyond just producing the Prelom journal (exhibitions, conferences, discussions, activist actions, etc.). In the last year-and-a-half PRELOMKOLEKTIV had been very active in the field of cultural policies by constituting a collective effort (forming an association of independent groups) in building and empowering the non-institutional scene in Belgrade and by organizing public art and cultural events that promote transnational cooperation. What, How & for Whom' (WHW) is a non-profit organization for visual culture and curators’ collective formed in 1999 and based in Zagreb, Croatia. Since May 2003 WHW has been directing the program of Gallery Nova - a non-profit, city-owned gallery in Zagreb. All WHW projects have been conceived as a platform for discussing relevant social issues through art, theory and media, as well as a model of collaboration and exchange of know-how between cultural organizations of different backgrounds. Besides exhibitions, WHW projects encompass lectures and public discussions conducted by international artists, curators and cultural theoreticians, publications and a book edition on contemporary cultural practice and cultural theory, radio broadcasts and interventions, screenings and live acts. SCCA / pro.ba SCCA (Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art) was founded by the Open Society Fund Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of 1996. Since 2000 SCCA has operated as an independent, non-profit professional organization. SCCA does not have its own gallery space. It is a mobile art center, complementary and alternative in relation to the already existing art institutions. Most of its projects, such as annual exhibitions, are held in open spaces of the city. The change of environment, the relocation from art-oriented space (the gallery) to non-art-oriented places (art in public space, site-specific art, environmental art, activist art, new media art) created a new art scene. The emergence of this new concept not only relates to a change in the artistic paradigm but also to a change in the understanding of the function of culture and art as well as to expand the notion of art. It has become a corrective agent to local artistic and public life. SCCA unites the functions of the institution (information/documentation/education center) and active participant in the artistic scene (production center). It develops two-way communication between BH and international art organizations and institutions and promotes new forms of art beyond territorial boundaries. SCCA establishes active cooperation with BH artists in the Diaspora, and with artists and similar centers in neighboring countries and in the region. As a SCCA multimedia lab, production center in the year 1998. pro.ba (www.pro.ba) was founded. As a multimedia production department, pro.ba produces original work in new media, encourages students and others to realize their own projects using digital technology, and provides assistance to artists in creating works in new media. pro.ba has developed rich video production that includes over 50 young artists, nationally and internationally recognized. Within this project, pro.ba will be one of the main production and distribution parties, by using its already existing skills and resources. New Media Center_kuda.org is an independent cultural organization bringing together artists, theorists, media activists, researchers and youth. Center_kuda.org focuses on new media culture, technologies, new cultural relations and contemporary artistic practice. In that sense, kuda.org is devoted to the exploration of new cultural relations, networked technologies, contemporary artistic practice and social issues. New Media Center_kuda.org creates a platform for open dialogue, alternative methods of education and research. Social issues, media culture, new technologies and art, Open Source and free software principles are amongst the issues that kuda.org is dealing with. Center_kuda.org organized more than 100 events, among them lectures, presentations; workshops in different areas such are new media art, Internet culture, experimental digital art and citizen activism towards building the society. The project “Political Practices of (Post-) Yugoslav Art” takes place in the framework of ALMOSTREAL. ALMOSTREAL (www.almostreal.org) is a project initiated by the European Cultural Foundation and it is an integral part of its arts program.