The title of the exhibition is a quote by Gilles Deleuze and has once already been used to describe the state of affairs in the Balkans. As one of the most prominent philosophers originating from the Balkans, Slavoj Žižek has been often asked about the Balkans; and who could forget his claim that “every state needs its own Balkan”. Namely, the Balkans functions as an ideological symptom with an aim of displacement of social antagonisms. In the imaginary cartography of Europe, the Balkans and to a large extend also Turkey, function as an embodiment of a certain hindrance, preventing the dream of European society as closed and homogenous totality to become true. However, artists presented at the exhibition, who are all coming from the Balkan region or Turkey, do not only react to this imaginary as well as real (geo-, bio-, and socio-political as well as economic) (ab)use of the Balkans, they are “identifying with the symptom” and as such work towards the critique of this ideology.
Damir Nikšić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Nemanja Cvijanović (Croatia) remind us that until recently the majority of citizens of the Balkans have had to struggle with very restrictive migration policies of the EU. In addition, even if now people of the Balkans (with exception of Turkey and Kosovo citizens) could travel visa-free to the EU, the so called 2nd and 3rd world citizens are welcomed almost exclusively in immigration centres with an aim to keep them away from the centre.
“The European dream” has been introduced to the Balkans mainly through the idea of a “free market”, which transferred the societies in question in a seemingly endless transition, where few get it all, while the rest stays empty-handed. Milijana Babić (Croatia), Ozana Brković (Montenegro), Enisa Cenaliaj (Albania), Biljana Garvanlieva (Macedonia) and Kristina Leko (Croatia/Germany) with their work all point to different aspects of the newly established economic order, which has introduced poverty as well as influenced gender relations and other aspects of social tissue.
Social, political and economic processes of change have influenced also city topographies or even naming traditions; whether through introducing new (inter)national heroes and subsequent changes in personal or street names (Alban Muja, Kosovo), or through ethnical gentrification (Ivana Marjanović and Eduard Freudmann, Serbia/Austria; Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić, Serbia/Germany). Sebastjan Leban and Staš Kleindienst (Slovenia) go beyond the humanitarian façade of the presence of the international community in Kosovo and are on track of contemporary (post)colonial strategies. It is generally known that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For the past sixteen years the international intervention in the Balkans called “Dayton Agreement” completed the ethnical division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lana Čmajčanin (Bosnia and Herzegovina), offers an ironical opportunity to make a proper model of BIH according to individual’s means, desires, and needs.
Gözde Ilkin (Turkey) with her Cohesion Fund makes the dream of the European unification palpable and thus together with other works of the exhibition reminds us not only of the fetish nature of the European unification, but also that this unification could only be bearable for the people not yet belonging to the centre, if they had the right to critically co-work and co-decide on the unification process. Then, all too painfully, we remember that in Slovenia any comment or critique of the EU convergence process has been immediately discarded not only as a symptom of EU scepticism but also as rejection of democracy. Artists of the If you’re trapped in the dream of the other, you’re fucked! exhibition take democracy seriously and once again remind us that art is today one of the few spaces where politics proper takes place. How, if not with an artistic expression, is it possible to give a voice to the trauma of our times, which we so manically try to cover with words – war. In the closing section of the exhibition Lana Čmajčanin and Igor Grubić (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia) will do so with shouting silence.
Katja Kobolt, curator
Our Beautiful Homeland (2010), installation of readymades by Mililjana Babić
The work Our Beautiful Homeland consists of a readymade series, ingredients and products, which symbolize bare existence, stolen in supermarkets. Their exhibit is supported by basic information about the theft of individual items (date, time, trading chain, address). The title of the work – a reminiscence of the Croatian national anthem – ironically points to the betrayed expectations form the Croatian new state, which has been built on and lives by the inherited principle of “Find your way around, comrade!“ in its most corruptive sense. Simultaneously, the stolen articles such as flour, oil, toilet paper etc. touch upon the question of socially endangered groups, whose survival in the times of recession is pure art (like the artists’ themselves). Therefore, the slogan “Find your way around, comrade!“ could also be understood as affirmative. The work is based on a felony, and thereby it problematizes the idea of the moral, false moral and the loss of moral, in the framework of Croatian reality.
Milijana Babić (1974, Croatia) is a visual and performance artist based in Rijeka, Croatia. She graduated in sculpture at the Durban Institute of Technology, South Africa and received her MA at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is a member of the Croatian Freelance Artists Association and the Croatian Associations of Visual Artists in Rijeka and Zagreb.
The starting point of Milijana Babić’s work is her own position as an individual and an artist, carried out in the context of transitional society. Her strategy is to transform an ordinary action or socially recognised icon into its opposite, creating a space for distance from the recognised perception of reality – a space for critical observation. Recently, her work has problematized the representation of contemporary art and the status of contemporary artists in (Croatian) society. It mainly takes the form of an installation and performance – often developed in direction of contextually specific long term works, and increasing actions in public space as a variation of activistic art.
In 2003 Milijana won the “New Media Prize” by NSA Gallery, Durban. Since 2004, she has collaborated in the organisation of the International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women, Ljubljana. Since 2007, Milijana has worked as an associate assistant professor at the Department of Sculpture at the Academy of Applied Arts, Rijeka. Her work has been presented in numerous exhibitions and festivals in Croatia and abroad (Dogma, Barrel Gallery, Zagreb; T-ht nagrada@msu, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb; FEM Festival, Girona, Spain; Trouble Festival, Brussels, Belgium; Critics Choice, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa; etc.).
Privatization (2003),photo by Ozana Brković, 200×145 cm
“Privatization mirrors the personal, intimate self-observation of the artist, of confronting her own image, her own persona. … The symbolism (‘loquacity’) of a face marred by herpes as spoiled Beauty acts as a symptom of an organism’s negative condition, of damaged health. The floating caption, Privatization, is the name for one of the key, yet painful, measures for activation of a positive turn in societies dwelling in a transitional ‘purgatory’. This process re-contextualizes and semanticizes anew the entire scene. It works as an indicator or a ‘locator’ of the transfer of causes and consequences on the line between the individual and society. … Privatization thus becomes a marker of a general state of (un)acceptable flexibility, changeability of situations, rotation of meaning, transfer of causes and consequences on the line between private and public, individual and social. … That painful/ill condition requires a specific therapy and treatment for the healing of the organism. … Thus, a minor cosmetic treatment appears as an illusive act of ‘fixing things’ inside, as a simulacrum of bringing a situation back to normal, an illusion of the revival of former Beauty. In fact, it is only a game of self-deception or someone else’s propaganda because the body ‘felt it with its own skin’ and has become aware both of the latent danger coming from the outside and its own weakness and vulnerability.” (Svetlana Racanović, art historian)
Ozana Brkovićwas born in 1975 in Podgorica, Montenegro, where she also lives and works. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Graphics in Cetinje, Montenegro. She has been a member of the Association of Visual Artists Montenegro since 2002. She exhibited at numerous exhibitions in her home country and abroad: Gender Check, MUMOK Vienna, Austria and Zacheta National Gallery of Art Warsaw, Poland; 65th Annual Exhibition, Art Pavilion, Podgorica; Montenegrin Beauty, Citadela, Budva; Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade, Serbia, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany; Orchid – Cetinje Biennial and elsewhere.
Welcome Dear Workers (2005), a photo documentation of a durational performance by Enisa Cenaliaj
As an act of resistance towards the past communist and present capitalist exploitation and appropriation of the working class, making workers and their rights invisible, Enisa Cenaliaj stood up. Literarily. Dressed as a worker, she occupied the pedestal in front of the entrance of Textile Combine “Stalin” in Tirana, where once stood a statue of Stalin monitoring mainly women textile workers going back and forth from work. Enisa stood there one morning long when workers were coming to their work and finally disappeared behind the entrance of the former Combine, current private factory.
“In connection with the slogan ‘Welcome dear workers’, I ironize the current factory owners, who see everything as a machine in function of their welfare … The placement of the worker on pedestal … beats the fact that this social class still exists and not only it does exist, but should require their rights or at least attempt to say: Hey people, we exist and we deserve more”, writes the artist on the performance.
While media have reported extensively on the performance in terms of a “post-communist live statute”, one worker commented: “We don’t need statues anymore …”. Indeed – the occupation of the pedestal functions as a fantasmic action “a scenario filling out the empty space of a fundamental impossibility, a screen masking a void” (Slavoj Žižek) – the social antagonism.
Enisa Cenaliaj was born in 1978 in Tirana, Albania. She holds a MA from the Academic School of Fine Art, Tirana. Enisa works with mixed media, mostly with painting, drawing, object installation as well as with photography and performance.
Enisa was exhibiting internationally and took part in residency programs in Belgium, Bulgaria, Sweden, Switzerland and Albania (Institute of Contemporary Art of Tirana – T.I.C.A.). She was awarded the “Onufri” prize in 2004 as well as “Marubi” prize for photography in 2005 and was a part of the exhibition Chosen Places (National Gallery of Arts, Tirana as well as in the exhibition Critique of Pure Image – Between Fake and Quotation in Center for Contemporary Art – PlovdivArt Today Lab, Bulgaria).
The Sweetest Dream (2005), a re-make of a readymade by Nemanja Cvijanović
In his work The Sweetest Dream, a re-make of a readymade – the EU flag, by manipulating the political or even cultural symbol of the EU, which supposedly stands for democracy and equality, Nemanja is relating to the immigration policies of the EU. His method is again grounded onjuxtaposition. The reference to the Nazi-regime shocks and induces a de-sacralisation of the EU flag. However by doing so the work points finger to something far more shocking that any mud-slinging of political symbol could ever be: to the politics of de-sacralisation of a human life. If the bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century and its “liberté, égalité, fraternité”gave birth to class and gender inequality, we must state that the process of the so called EU-ization re-articulates and materializes ethnicity, race and class in terms of necropolitics as described by Giorgio Agamben.
Nemanja Cvijanović was born in 1972 in Rijeka, Croatia in a mixed South-Slavic family. He lives and works as an artist and curator in Rijeka and Venice, Italy. Nemanja finished painting studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia and postgraduate studies of visual arts at the Faculty for design and art I.U.A.V. University in Venice. Nemanja is a member of: Croatian Freelance Artists’ Association, Croatian Association of Visual Artists, Associations “Drugo More” and Self-managing group of Rijeka as well as of the Italian Communist Party Rifondazione Comunista.
In his artistic practice grounded on conceptual and post-conceptual premises, respectively, Nemanja combines mixed media, techniques of visual and performance art (collective performance, installation and inter-active objects, video and new media, painting, photography as well as sound art). Thematically Nemanja is devoted to revealing and re-questioning the production mechanisms, and the manipulation and consumption of signs and meanings. His works are, as a rule, critical towards ideological and aesthetic structures of contemporary culture and society.
Nemanja has exhibited in numerous international group exhibitions (Steierische Herbst 2011, Graz, Austria; 52nd October Salon, Belgrade, Serbia; Un altro mondo e’ possibile, Sala Dogana/CHAN, Genova, Italy etc.) as well as in solo exhibitions (Don’t Fuck with Social Democracy!, Gallery Škuc, Ljubljana, Slovenia; NOT, Alberta Pane Gallery, Paris, France; Plaćam struju/I am paying electricity bills, MMSU, Rijeka etc.).
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Tailoring and Sewing (2011), installation by Lana Čmajčanin
Sixteen years after the Dayton Agreement which put the end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1995) at the cost of dividing the country into (artificially) ethnically defined cantons, the scars of this bureaucratic intervention provide still lots of problems on the political, social as well as on the intimate level. Some claim that BIH has a peaceful future only if united; others oppose the idea of unification. Lana Čmajčanin with her Bosnia and Herzegovina – Tailoring and Sewing offers a sarcastic opportunity to make a proper model according to individual’s means, desires, and needs, feelings of national identity, ethnicity, religion and political affiliation or guided by some others directions. By combining the entities, cantons, provinces, regions and districts / municipalities, anyone can create an individual territorial ideal BiH.
Woman With a Candle (2011), video by Lana Čmajčanin and Igor Grubić, 18’17”
A gallery visitor is invited to become a co-witness of an intimate struggle to come to terms with trauma and horrors of the war. On the level of composition and motif the video is built in a strong reference to baroque “women with candle” motifs from the European art history (Hendrick ter Brugghen, Matthias Stom, Dou Gerrit, George la Tour and others). In the light of the dawn, with sounds of a muezzin calling for the early prayer and barking dogs, the reflection of a mourning women’s face vanishes away. At the end of the night the candle dies out. Patience, persistence and strength begin to grow over deep scars from the horrors of war.
Lana Čmajčanin was born in 1983 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she also lives and works as a visual artist. Lana graduated in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo and is a founding member of the Association for Art and Culture “Crvena” as well as a member of the Artists Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Lana works individually as well as collaboratively (mostly with artists Adela Jušić or Igor Grubić) with mixed media, manly with video, video performance and object art. Lana is doubtlessly one of the most promising emerging artists of BiH. She is not afraid to be engaged with even most traumatic issues of the space she is coming from. Her work presents an unbribable political agenda: giving voice to the most marginalized subjects as victims of sexualized war violence. However, Lana always succeeds to translate and transmit this local realities and experiences in a universal code, comprehensive for international audience. Lana’s work has been shown at The Biennale of Contemporary Art in Konjic, BiH; The Centre for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv, Israel; at the Decolonial Aesthetics, Bogotá, Colombia; at the SpaPort Biennale, Banja Luka, BiH and elsewhere.
Igor Grubić was born in 1969 in Zagreb, Croatia, where he is also based. Igor studied philosophy and psychotherapy and worked as a producer, journalist and director at the “Fade In”, a studio for activist video and documentary.
One of his first artistic actions Black Peristil (1998), a re-enactment of the Red Peristil demonstrations in 1968 when the entire Peristil Square of the emperor’s palace in Split, Croatia was painted red in protest to totalitarianism, was made into a media event and paved the way for his future artistic/activist work. Igor often places his works into public space, works collaboratively and addresses issues, which concern local environment where his works are placed in or are happening. Igor mainly works with performance, public installation or video. Igor has exhibited internationally and was a part of acclaimed art events as Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt, Germany; Tirana Biennial 2, Albania; Creative Time Summit in New York, USA; as well as the 11th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey and Gender Check (MUMOK, Vienna, Austria and Zacheta, Warsaw, Poland).
Shivackite/The Seamstresses (2010), documentary film by Biljana Garvanlieva, 30′, Germany
The author with her camera follows three women from Štip, Macedonia in their everyday life. In order to make the economic survival of their families’ possible, women work in a local textile factory that offers one of the few possibilities to work in Štip. In the times of the socialistic self-management the factory has been owned by its workers, now the factory is in private hands and syndicates and workers rights have become only (foreign) words without real meaning. As there are several international forces around the region, Štip women are sewing mainly uniforms as well as cheap T-shirts and handmade blouses to be sold in the West and for which Štip women should pay their month salary if they would like to wear it …
While the women are fully employed (working days and nights), their men have found themselves unemployed after the collapse of the socialist Yugoslavia. A situation full of conflict potential – changing gender relations on personal and political level where there are no winners. Talented women like artists or writers cannot follow their ambitions while their men dream to win in lottery. With the textile industry as its backdrop, this is the story of the children of the revolution in Macedonia. The Seamstresses casts a glance behind the curtain of globalization.
Biljana Garvanlieva was born in Skopje, Macedonia in 1973. After studying drama in Skopje, in 1999 she received a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study theatre and film at the Free University of Berlin. She currently lives and works in Berlin as a freelance author and director.
In 2006 she directed a ‘border crossers’documentary for the TV network 3sat entitled The Accordion Player, which has won several awards, including the “Golden Lola” German Short Film Award. In 2009 she followed up her previous success with Tobacco Girl, which has received numerous awards for its direction. In 2010, Garvanlieva was awarded the “Heart of Sarajevo” Prize for Best Documentary at the 16th Sarajevo Film Festival, for her film The Seamstresses.
Cohesion Fund (2010), stitching in cloth by Gözde İlkin
Work was produced in 2010 when Istanbul was the European Capital of Culture. Next to the so called structural funds, the cohesions funds are financial tools set up to implement the cohesion policy of the European Union and to reduce regional disparities in terms of income, wealth and opportunities. By stitching an actual bank note of a cohesion fund, the artist referred to European regulations according to the cohesion funds Turkey had to adapt to. In this piece a 100 Euro bank note in its original size is printed and stitched on cloth with some different details. The artist changed some codes on 100 euro and attached some details to the stitched money, pointing to the adaptation procedures and the economic process.
Gözde İlkin (1981, Kütahya, Turkey) lived in various regions of Turkey until her university years. She studied painting at the Fine Arts Faculty of Mimar Sinan University, Turkey and is studying towards a master’s degree at Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, where she is currently based. Gözde works with mixed media, mostly with what she calls accumulated things: images, stories, photographs, objects and clothes that help her describe particular situations that she is interested in. Her speciality is stitching. At her stitching paintings her figures appear as amorphous bodies attached to one another mostly at the head, stomach, or occasionally limbs. These bodies create an atmosphere for the surface on which they find themselves and look for an identity via the texture of the fabric. Emancipated from their social and sexual identities, these characters are transformed in İlkin’s work like the children of a lost planet. They resist their pre-conditioned lives.
Gözde has taken part in international artist exchange programs in the Netherlands, Germany, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Her solo exhibitions include Refuge: Chorus of Voices from Inside and Please Clear the Dance Floor, artSümer Gallery, Istanbul and Body on Body, Wearable Art, Karşı Art Gallery, Istanbul. She has shown her work at group exhibitions in Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland; MUMOK, Vienna, Austria; Tobacco Warehous, Istanbul; Akademie der Künste, Berlin and Lothringer 13, Munich, Germany; Kibla, Maribor, Slovenia and elsewhere. This autumn her work will be on display at the 12th Istanbul Biennial.
Newborn (2010), video by Sebastjan Leban and Staš Kleindienst, 48’9”
The documentary Newborn deals with the contemporary reality of Kosovo after its official declaration of independence. This condition of almost pure subjugation in economical, political and cultural terms shocks us with all its brutality, forcing us to think about the true purpose of the role of the International Community in keeping stability. It is a journey through contemporary forms of colonialism and a disclosure of its repressive and ideological apparatuses at work.
Kosovo demonstrates the form of colonisation typical of the neoliberal expansive logic, the contemporary colonisation strategy whose parallels are implemented in different parts of the world and to which different geopolitical plans and strategies are applied, thus conditioning all other segments of social dependency. This goes on simultaneously at three levels. Firstly, it is established through the mediation of Western values conveyed by the system through visual inputs imposed on to the colonized. Secondly, the system introduces the strategy of subjugation implemented through capital control, which means that capital investments, equities, and privatisation are the means of controlling the economy and consequentially the social structure in a given country or geographical area. Thirdly, the use of the army in order to establish ‘a state of exception’ and by this to force people to subjugate.
Sebastjan Leban (1976, Slovenia), based in Ljubljana and Kojsko, Slovenia is an artist, a theoretician and a curator. He is currently enrolled in the PhD programme at the Institute of Philosophy at Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Sebastjan is a co-founder and co-editor of Reartikulacija (www.reartikulacija.org), a platform for radical critical analysis, together with Staš Kleindiesnt and others. He is also a lecturer of Radical Critical Analysis at the Academy of Visual Arts (AVA, ava.si) in Ljubljana. He has exhibited in numerous national and international exhibitions in collaboration with Staš Kleindienst, the group Reartikulacija and the group Trie, participated in many symposiums and have texts published in major national/international publications.
Staš Kleindienst (1979, Slovenia) holds an MA in fine art. His work consists of collaborations with Sebastjan Leban and groups Reartikulacija and Trie as well as his own artistic and theoretical research. He works with different media, from painting and photography to performance and film. He also regularly publishes theoretical articles about art systems and contemporary political issues. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad. He lives and works in Ljubljana and Idrija, Slovenia.
Zagreb Milkmaids on Your Right-Hand (2002/2003), video by Kristina Leko, 20’18” (a part of the Cheese And Cream 2002–2003 actions, events, research, archive, website, exhibition, roundtable and campaign to protect the milkmaids of Zagreb)
“While working on the project On Milk and People, I became familiar with many issues important to farming families. I learned a lot on issues related to agricultural policy, the dairy industry, and economic restructuring. I became deeply aware of social changes that would result from the process of accommodating to the European Union regulations in Croatia and, respectively, in my hometown of Zagreb. As I understood that one of the consequences would be the disappearance of the milkmaids in Zagreb open markets, I decided to start an initiative that would help the milkmaids of Zagreb survive, as they are a paradigmatic part of Croatian social reality.” (Kristina Leko)
In 2002, in collaboration with the nonprofit organization BLOK, Kristina Leko began an initiative aiming at protecting the milkmaids of Zagreb as a cultural heritage. Next to several happenings, Kristina Leko in collaboration with BLOK undertook a research on the condition of the milkmaids (448 milkmaids on 6 market places in Zagreb were interviewed), presented their situation in the exhibition Cheese and Cream; on three channel video installations; at the The Dishtowels of the Milkmaids of Zagreb installation; in the Book of Requests for the 22nd Century; as an open-office situation in PM Gallery, Zagreb; launched a website The Declaration on Milkmaids, a database on Zagreb’s milkmaids, and a media campaign. In order to influence the administrative and political decision making, ten officials from different institutions were invited, and participated in a round table entitled “Could Zagreb Milkmaids possibly join the EU?”.
Kristina Leko (1966, Zagreb, Croatia) is a visual artist based in Zagreb and Köln, Germany. Kristina works primarily in the medium of video, documentary film, photography, text, and object installation, with social interaction at the core of her investigation and activity, which is often placed in public space. She has initiated and realized several extensive community art projects in different countries, mainly in collaboration with deprived social groups (immigrants, farmers, elderly, unemployed…). Several of her projects refer to the societal transition in Croatia, such as Cheese and Cream (2002–2003), a research-documentary and activist project dedicated to the milkmaids of Zagreb; or Short History of Mining, a community project with a group of former mine workers in Labin, Istria, Croatia.
Kristina has exhibited internationally at solo exhibitions (NGBK Berlin, Germany; Bonner Kunstverein, Germany; Institute for Art in Public Space Styria, Graz, Austria; Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb etc.) as well as at group exhibitions (Wiener Festwochen, Austria; Muszarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest, Hungary; The Kitchen New York, P.S.1, New York, USA etc.). Her works are included in public collections (Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb; Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Germany; TBA-21 – Thyssen-Bornemisza Contemporary Art Collection Vienna etc.) and she has been awarded several residency and working grants (Kunstfonds Bonn, Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Germany; ISCP New York, P.S.1./MoMA, New York, USA etc.).
Uglyville. A Contention of Anti-Romaism in Europe (2010), film by Ivana Marjanović and Eduard Freudmann, 58′
The film is a critical analysis of the interrelation of racism (i.e. anti-Romaism) and capitalism in the so called New Europe (Europe after 1989) but also an analysis of strategies of resistance to its necropolitical governance. The starting point for the film was the brutal demolition and fencing of a Roma slum next to Belville, a residential area erected to accommodate guests of the international sports event Universiade Belgrade 2009. At the same time Serbia was holding the annually rotating presidency of the Roma Decade, the international initiative that tends to represent an “unprecedented political commitment by European governments to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma”. For that year, one would expect Serbia to make serious efforts towards improving the discriminated position of Roma and decreasing the effects of a policy of anti-Romaism that has lasted for centuries in the region. The opposite was the case: what we witnessed was the total disregard of the Decade’s objectives and even an intensification of discrimination by Belgrade authorities, citizens and media. Seen from the history of racism, this event appears to be a paradigmatic case of anti-Romaism in contemporary Europe.
The film was presented at the Cultural Centre Rex, Belgrade, Serbia; at the exhibition Between Identity and Ideology in Labour Gallery, Budapest, Hungary; at Wiener Festwochen Filmnight: Safe European Home? Architekturzentrum Wien, Austria; and as a part of the Roma Media Archive, the project initiated by Suzana Milevska in the context of: Call the Witness, Roma Pavilion Collateral Event, Live Testimonies 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Italy.
Ivana Marjanović (1979, Belgrade, Serbia) works as free-lance cultural worker in the field of contemporary arts and theory; she lives and works between Belgrade and Vienna, Austria. Ivana co-founded the Kontekst Gallery in Belgrade (www.kontekstgalerija.org). She publishes articles in books, exhibition catalogues, international magazines and online artistic and theoretical platforms such as Reartikulacija, Mute, eipcp.net, Kulturisse, Malmoe, etc. Ivana is a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
Eduard Freudmann (1979, Vienna, Austria) is an artist, filmmaker and author, who researches and intervenes in the intersections of art and politics, power relations and social contexts, history-politics and media mechanisms, strategies of exclusion and the commodification of knowledge. He studied art in Vienna, Austria and Weimar, Germany and currently works on his PhD at the Department for Visual Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. Since 2007, he has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he participated in the education protests as a Squatting Teacher. He co-initiated Plattform Geschichtspolitik, an open collective that critically reflects and publicly deals with the institution’s participation in colonialism, (Austro)fascism and Nazism.
Tonys (2011), photo by Alban Muja, 100 x 70 cm (photographed by Kushtim Ternave)
The old Kosovo tradition of naming new family members after the ones from the family who passed away has been gradually amended. This amendment was noticeable right after the Kosovo war in 1999 when some Albanian parents named their children on behalf of appreciations after people that were and still are alive. Alban Muja presents nine Kosovo Albanians, children that are named after Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is considered a war hero in Kosovo for his help dedicated to achieve peace and freedom for Kosovo. All the boys portrayed next to the Prime Minister’s photo Tony Blair hold a first name “Tonyblair” and are born in 1999, the time when their country Kosovo got freed from the Serbian oppression.
Blue Wall Red Door (2009), documentary film by Alban Muja with Yll Çitaku, 32′
Over the last decade, street names in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo have been changed many times so that nowadays people in Prishtina hardly find their way after the names of the streets. Blue Wall Red Door documentary film aims at analysing the way of how people in Prishtina orient themselves, and what is for them the main object or building which they use for their orientation. The camera follows taxi drivers, postmen, fire fighters who all face a lot of difficulties at their work – in a town “where the streets have no name”. In addition, in the film we hear politicians, permanent tourists/foreign people working for international companies and common people talking, which brings closer not only the topographical situation of the city of Prishtina but also different aspects of social reality.
Alban Muja (1980, Mitrovica, Kosovo) is a visual artist based in Prishtina, Kosovo. Alban holds an MA from the Fine Arts Academy Prishtina and he also studied at the Santa Fe Art Institute, USA (master class).
Alban’s works cover a wide range of media including video installation, short film, documentary film, drawings, paintings, photographs and performance, and have been exhibited extensively in international exhibitions, festivals and shows including personal presentations as well. Mostly influenced by the social and political transformation processes in Kosovo and the surrounding region, Alban investigates the history and the socio-political themes and links them to his position in Kosovo today.
Alban showed his work in solo exhibitions in Able Kulturverein, Berlin, Germany; Siz Gallery Rijeka, Croatia; Centre for Contemporary Art Station, Prishtina, Kosovo; 1/60 Insurgent space – National Gallery of Art, Tirana, Albania etc. His group exhibitions include: Play Girl, Göteborg Museum of Art, Sweden; Word for Word, Without Words, Mestna Galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia; Qui Vive? Moscow International Biennale, Russia; Exception, Kontekst Gallery Belgrade, Serbia etc.
The Immigrant Song(2008), video-performance by Damir Nikšić, 10’28’’
With his artistic work as well as in interviews and book projects Nikšić critically addresses issues of orientalism and islamophobia, (neo)colonialism, nationalism and identity politics, fascism, privatisation, as well as possible ways of resistance, empowerment and emancipation. As a genuine conceptual artist, Damir is not afraid of ideas and ideology: he is working towards a Muslim-European Art issuing a book Caravan of Dreams – Of Course We Can! (2010) and bets on virtues generated by transnational communist idea, the legacy of AVNOJ, where the Yugoslav dream has been dreamt.
In his video-performance to be shown in the framework of the exhibition, Damir on the one hand sings about freedom and im/possibility of personal choice, on the other hand he is mocking about curatorial power and gate-keeping mechanisms in the international art market. “In Europe the picture is grey. Black actually. And this is another reason for us ‘children of the light’ to fight against this dimness. … I claim that Europe will be a better place, however the first and root condition is that WE roll up our sleeves and we make it better … that we take part in making a better Europe as equal partners, that we as Europeans build our new European home. It is not only about the colour of the skin, culture, religion. I think that Europe needs a soul. The Europe could be given this soul by the little, poor immigrants. ‘Soul Power’ as James Brown would define it.” (Damir Nikšić)
Damir Nikšić (1970, Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a conceptual artist working with video, installation performance as well as painting. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera, Milan and Bologna, Italy and at the Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He graduated in Art History and Fine Art (New Genre) at the University of Arizona, USA, and worked as visiting professor at the Northwestern University, Evanston, USA. Damir is now based in Sarajevo, however he previously lived in Sweden.
His work has been exhibited in a variety of venues throughout Europe and the USA, including the Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, Sarajevo; National Museum of Montenegro, Cetinje; Trevi Flash Art Museum, Italy; Centre for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade, Serbia; National Museum, Szczecin, Poland; National Gallery, Skopje, Macedonia; Kyoto Art Center, Japan; Palazzo Papesse Centre for Contemporary Art, Siena, Italy; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, USA; Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; Tallin Art Hall, Estonia; Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland; Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary; Sammlung Essl, MUMOK Museum, Pallais Lichtenstein Museum of Modern Art, Wien, Austria and at the 50th Venice Biennial, Italy.
Expanded Scopes of Action – Politics and Art, a lecture by Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić
Unfortunately today, in anti-communist Europe there is no strong left movement that takes solidarity action with the millions of deprived Roma, underprivileged immigrants and illegal workers. On the other side, neo-fascists are getting organized and nationalist parties are gaining votes with anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic election campaigns. The increasing number of attacks on Roma in our time is a consequence of the strengthening and consolidation of right-wing forces. These are using today’s economic crisis for the populist promotion of their racist and anti-migrant agenda. The demolition of Roma and migrant settlements in France in 2010 is just one of the indicators that institutional and state measures are becoming increasingly violent.
In this situation, political practice in art has to communicate its message at various levels. Its activity and reception cannot be confined to the privileged aesthetic gaze in the context of contemporary art. Formalism and references to aesthetic norms reassure the viewers in their self-perception, making the artwork become just another lollipop in the candy-store. Art is more than that, it can develop methods for putting theory into practice. The specific potential of art is based on the fact it can at the same time practice, analyze and criticize a method or concept. Art does not take place in a laboratory situation. The artist must be conscious of the consequences, implications and circumstances of production and consumption. Needless to say, the production of art is subject to the same relations of exploitation as other forms of production in capitalist society. But this doesn’t mean that we are condemned to reproduce the existing conditions in our society. Our task is to use artistic production against the matrix of exploitation and in this way to turn the situation upside down.
With our initiative World Communal Heritage (communalheritage.wordpress.com/), we currently look at the heritage of social housing and workers’ housing, and at modernist urban planning in Europe. How can experiences gained here be rethought and updated? What can we learn from 20th century social housing projects? Is it possible to produce sustainable concepts for the development of communal flats for Roma precarious migrant workers and other migrant workers?
Belleville(2009), video by Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić, 22′
Belville is the name of a residential complex at New Belgrade being built on the occasion of the international sports manifestation “Summer Universiade 2009”. On 3rd of April 2009 in the early morning, diggers tore down the barracks of 45 families living in close vicinity to the residential units. Their violent eviction was assisted by police without giving time to the residents to save their belongings. Despite Serbia holding the presidency of the “Decade of Roma Inclusion” in year 2009, the authorities didn’t offer alternative housing to the families. The video documents the protest of the victims that set off to the city centre three times to demand shelter in front of the city hall.
Gazela – Temporary Shelter from 100 to 500 Years(2009), video by Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić together with Saša Barbul and Sali Kadrijaj, 24′
Gazela-Temporary Shelter from 100 to 500 Years researches the destiny of displaced people that lived in the Roma settlement at Gazela Bridge in Belgrade till August 2009. Some of the families of the over 1000 displaced were resettled to container camps in the outskirts of Belgrade, far away from the city. Others were returned to the poor south of Serbia they had escaped from, some built new barracks at alternative locations in Belgrade. The city authorities announced new demolitions of Roma settlements. All interviews and locations are authentic. The video was made in November 2009 in Serbian cities and suburbs: Belgrade, New Belgrade (Block 67), Makiš, Kijevo, Bojnik, Leskovac, Lebane, Novi Sad and Jagodina.
Rena Rädle (1970, Germany) and Vladan Jeremić (1975, Belgrade, Serbia) are artists, activists and cultural workers. Rena Rädle graduated at Kunsthochschule Kassel, Germany. Vladan Jeremić holds an MA degree from the University of Arts in Belgrade. They work together since 2002 and are the founders of “Biro Beograd”, an association that provides a platform for critical practice that goes beyond conventional forms of contemporary art, cultural and political activism. Their artistic practice is placed in the field of intersections between contemporary art and political activism. The current focus of their research is the significance of modernist urbanism today, and the emerging social movements, such as Roma emancipation movements in Europe.
Rädle & Jeremić have had solo exhibitions in Belgrade; Paris, France; Hamburg, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; Trondheim, Norway and Novi Sad, Serbia along with many group exhibitions. Their works are in the collections of MUDAM, Luxemburg; the Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain.