Andreas Broeckmann on Tue, 7 Mar 2000 19:45:01 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: Belgrade repor

Berlin - Budapest - Novi Sad - Belgrade - Berlin
(abroeck, 27 Feb - 5 Mar 2000)

This trip was supposed to have happened a year ago, in April 99, when we
had planned to hold a Syndicate meeting in Belgrade. Instead, the war
forced us to meet in Budapest, and my first trip to Serbia did not happen
until this year. When I saw Katarina in October last year we decided that
it did not make much sense to wait for some sort of big change, and that we
might just as well fix a date. Early spring seemed like a good moment, so
we marked the first week of March. The invitation from REX arrived in
December, preparations went on throughout the winter, and in the end I
spent 40 hours in Novi Sad, coming from Budapest where I had flown, and
then moved on to Belgrade, where I stayed for four days. The following is
not an exhaustive report, but just a summary of some of the most important
impressions that I got. (some bookmarks at the end)

On my way from Berlin I stop over in Budapest for one night and have a long
breakfast on Monday morning at C3 with Miklos Peternak and Andrea Szekeres.
We talk about different projects in conjunction with V2_, past and present,
especially about possible cooperations in the context of the European
Cultural Backbone and the EncART network.

In Novi Sad I am greeted by Branka Milicic and her co-BAZA members Vera and
Vlad, as well as Lisa Haskel from London who has been in Novi Sad since the
weekend. I stay with Larisa Blazic's family, where we spend the first
evening catching up and talking about the ideas for the next Video Medeja
festival which is due to take place in the first week of December 2000. On
Tuesday morning, Vera and Larisa take me for a walk along the Danube to see
the destroyed bridges - still an earie site, even if the rubble has mostly
been removed. A ponton bridge allows for passenger car travel; the week I
was there, work started on a new road bridge. We visit the Museum of
Vojvodina where Larisa's mother works as a biologist. Then I have a meeting
at the Open Society Fund, and later go, with Sarita, to the performance
Kunst-Lager Serbia, which the LED ART (Ice Art) performance group (in
existence since 1993) do at Katolicka Porta: in old Yugoslav uniforms they
invite the audience of about 100 to join them in the barb-wire 'lager'
where they will be protected, decontaminated, fed ... In the evening I give
a small presentation at the Galeria Multimedia Arts, Pasiceva 28, tel.
+21-20780, a new space initiated by the photographers and film makers
association which currently hosts an exhibition of young photographers and
which will hopefully develop into a local focus point for independent media
art activities.

Wednesday morning, Lisa and I travel to Belgrade. On her only full day in
Belgrade, Lisa gives a workshop at REX with artists using the Linker
software developed by Mongrel. The following days are full of encounters
with different people. Conversations circle around the social and political
situation in Serbia, about the working situation of cultural institutions,
and the sometimes vitriolic gossip that exists within the rather
claustrophobic (agoraphobic?) cultural scene. Sometimes I get the feeling
that too much time is spent on complaining about difficulties, rather than
using possibilities. But the psychological circumstances are difficult, as
well as, for many, living conditions, so the neuroses are understandable,
and there is a lot happening despite the hostile circumstances.

Biljana Vickovic shows me photographs from her new, in-progress video
project, a futuristic fictional essay about love, truth and beauty. Video
artist Dragana Zarevac takes me to the new gallery space of the artists
association Remont, which has brought together some of the most reknowned
Belgrade artists and cultural organisers from the younger and the middle
generation. They are presenting their first exhibition with works of the
members and hope to be able to organise events and exhibitions with artists
both from Yugoslavia and abroad. Alexander Gubas tells me about the Low-Fi
film and video project and the European Independent Film Network that has
developed out of it and for which he maintains the website and mailing
list. I meet Jovan Cekic with whom I have a very interesting discussion
about some backgrounds for the current crisis in the country. Oliveira
Milos Todorovic invites Lisa, Katarina, Sinisa and me for dinner and,
amongst other things, shows me the proofs of the book project,
Non-Acceptance, that she is working on and that will collect radio
interviews that she made during the war last year. I spend several hours
talking with Dejan Sretenovic and his colleagues at the Center for
Contemporary Arts, where one of the most important new projects is the
involvement of the CCA in the organisation of art history and theory
courses in the context of an independent academic network that has been
organised by professors outside of the university system. Smiljana
Antonijevic is a young anthropologist who does research about the role of
internet communication and activism during the Kosovo war, and who
interviews me about my ideas and hints for the topic. I'm glad to meet Dr.
Herwig Kempf of the Goethe Institut, who has recently come to Yugoslavia
and is investigating how best to help build up the cultural scene again.
Slobodan Markovic and Zoran Naskovski show me two projects that they have
been working on, War Frames (1999), a CD-Rom with small, often funny
narratives constructed from TV stills taken during NATO bombing raids, and
First Task, which is a web project in progress that invites web users to
contribute their own suggestions for 'the first task of our youth'.
Slobodan also tells me about the Internodium mailing list which he
moderates and on which around 150 people talk, in Serbian, about
net-cultural issues. With Dragan Ambrosic and Gordan Paunovic, both from
freeB92, I have an interesting speculative discussion about the nature of
the Yugoslav political crisis (aggressive, oligarchic capitalism rather
than a political system?) and about possibilities for resolution (parallel
systems; moral reconstruction). Most time I spend with Katarina Zivanovic
and Sinisa Rogic from REX, talking about life, the universe and everything,
as well as about the twilight-zone circumstances in Belgrade.

On Friday evening I give a lecture in the upstairs foyer of cultural centre
Dom Omladine. Surrounded by 20 public online computers, an audience of
about 100 people listen to my talk about V2_ and different networking
initiatives, including the Syndicate, the European Cultural Backbone, the
Dutch Virtual Platform, and the Next 5 Minutes conferences. What I try to
convey is that there are different possibilities for artists and organisers
to participate in international networks. In the final part I present
several videos of projects by the artists group Knowbotic Research, partly
because I assume that many people will not have seen any of the works, and
partly because the projects offer interesting approaches to dealing with
the politics and the culture of information and communication on the
networks. This presentation is the beginning of a workshop about cultural
networking that REX organised for the weekend and that brings together more
than 25 cultural organisers and art managers from all over current
Yugoslavia. The workshop continues on Saturday and Sunday with strategic
and practical discussions, to which I otherwise only contribute an
hour-long presentation of the ECB and its potentials and problems. (The
results and plans for further developments of the workshop are documented
on the  Srbija.Net website on

Throughout the week, in the background, I pick up remarks about the growing
tension in Montenegro which some say will soon descend into war. On the way
to Budapest, in Subotica, we see five tanks on the street, which could mean
everything and nothing, given that there are regular army barracks in the
border town - an illustration of the permanent tension in which everybody
is living, always waiting for the next move the regime might make, the next
desaster. A strange atmosphere rules. People are tired from ten years of a
tightening closure from the international scene, and increasingly
frustrated about the impossibility to act politically. The list of
substantial 'downers' is long: the failure of the 96/97 winter protests and
the impossibility of the opposition parties to unite against Milosevic, an
unresolved relationship towards Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, the
ambiguity of relations to just about anything, the drain on the artistic
and intellectual scene throughout the nineties, the financial pressure on
the cultural sphere in times when even the Soros Foundation is cutting
budgets. There is now a whole generation of young people who have no memory
of the heroic 1980s, a period that many older people look upon with
nostalgia because of the creativity and relative cultural freedom, and
freedom to travel, that existed at the time.

This frustration is contrasted by a great energy in a lot of people, also a
clear artistic and theoretical determination - after all, this is Belgrade,
where recent French and German philosophy, American literature, Wired
magazine, McDonalds, SONY and Buena Vista Social Club are all present and
visible -, and a continuing awareness that this could easily be one of the
great cultural capitals of Europe again. I heard that some of this energy
is even stronger in the provincial towns, in Cacak, Novi Sad, Uzice and
Nis, where the immediate pressure from politics may be felt in a lesser
way. It is not impossible to organise cultural events, to the contrary, but
as one is faced with an unpredictable and potentially brutal power
apparatus whose agents remain hidden - letter-boxes broken open,
technicians at B2-92 as well as students from the OTPOR resistance movement
beaten up, visa denied -, there is also an often debilitating level of

We got talking about the Syndicate and decided that it might be a good idea
to retry a meeting in Belgrade, in a year from now. This can be a complex
event with an exhibition, lectures, screenings and workshops, given the
contacts and possibilities that exist there. Novi Sad and other cities
should be involved from the start. And we should plan a joint guided tour
around the Tesla Museum. I'll be back. Something to look forward to ...

* Some Places & Institutions in Belgrade

Center for Contemporary Arts, Kn. Milosa 16/VI,

Center for Cultural Decontamination, Pavillion Veljkovic, Bircaninova 21

Dom Omladine Culture Center Beograd, Makedonska 22,

Goethe Institut Belgrad, Kn. Mihailova 50, progibgd@eunet.yu,

Industria (music club), Vasina 19,

Nikola Tesla Museum, Proleterskih brigada 51, ntmuseum@eunet.yu

Remont artists association, Trg Republike, Media Centre,

REX Culture Center, Dalmatinska 70/I,

YUSTAT Performing Arts Association, Dositejeva 20/I, yustat@eunet.yu

* Some Publications

- Dejan Sretenovic (ed.): Art in Yugoslavia 1992-1995. Belgrade: Fund for
an Open Society and B92, 1995
SCCA Belgrade: Scena Pogleda. The Gaze Scenes. Annual Exhibition, 1995
- Fund for an Open Society/Center for Contemporary Arts: Druga Godisnja
Izlozba. 2nd Annual Exhibition. Belgrade: B92/Publikum, 1997
- Shkelzen Maliqi, Dejan Sretenovic: Pertej. Exhibition of Artists from
Kosovo. Pavillion Veljkovic, Belgrade, June 1997
- Branislav Dimitrijevic (ed): Overground. Visual Arts Program Catalogue,
BELEF Belgrade Summer Festival, Dom Omladine Culture Center, 1998
- Konkordija Center for Contemporary Culture (eds): The Crying of Lot
46486799, 3rd Biennial of Young Artists, Vrsac 1998
- Branimir Jovanovic et al.: Nikola Tesla. One hundred years of remote
control. Belgrade: Nikola Tesla Museum, 1998
- Dejan Sretenovic (ed): Novo Citanje Ikone. Beograd: Geopoetika, 1999
(info: )
- Dejan Sretenovic (ed.): Video Art in Serbia. Belgrade: Centre for
Contemporary Arts, 1999
- Center for Contemporary Arts (eds): The Reality Check. Belgrade, 1999
[artists' postcard edition] (info: )

Some practicalities for those who ponder the possibility of traveling to
Getting the visa for Yugoslavia happened without problems; a private
invitation seems easier than an institutional one; procedures seem to vary
slightly between different consulates (in Germany I was supposed to present
an insurance certificate, which I did eventually not need when applying for
the visa in the Netherlands; the fee I was asked to pay was higher than I
had been told before on the telephone); I had to wait not more than two
hours and could then just pick up my passport with the visa.
I flew to Budapest and, on my way to Yugoslavia, took the train from Keleti
station to Novi Sad. There are two international trains coming from Vienna
every day, they are comfortable and travel slowly through Hungary and
Vojvodina; my train arrived in Novi Sad on time after about 5 hours, which
apparently is not always the case. The ticket was HFT 7.500 (ca. DM 60).
>From Novi Sad to Belgrade I took a bus, of which there are plenty. It cost
Din 40 (under DM 2) and took less than 90 mins. The Minibus from Belgrade
to Budapest airport cost Din 1.200 (ca. DM 60) and took 7 hours, of which
we spent 2 hours in a queue on the border, mainly because of detailled
checks on the Hungarian side.
There was some disagreement among Yugoslav organisers whether it is
actually necessary for foreigners to register with the police or not. When
not staying in a hotel but privately, this might be necessary. Going to the
police with my hosts in Novi Sad and Belgrade never took more than ten
minutes and it seemed to be an easy standard procedure, both registering on
arrival and 'checking out' on the night before departure.


C3 -
Cyberrex -
Young Yugoslav Artists -
Dom Omladine -
European Cultural Backbone -
EncART -
Goethe Institut Belgrad -
Internodium -
Mongrel: Linker -
Srbija.Net -
abroeck presentation links -

------Syndicate mailinglist--------------------
 Syndicate network for media culture and media art
 information and archive:
 to unsubscribe, write to <>
 in the body of the msg: unsubscribe your@email.adress