Art Under Attack

Online panel hosted by Kosovo 2.0
December 22, 2020 at 17:30h

Speakers: Donjeta Murati, Vladan Jeremić, Adela Jušić
Moderator: Eriola Pira

By now, it has been well established that the current pandemic has largely exposed social and economic inequalities and even strengthened autocratic leaderships. To various degrees in different societies, individual or collective freedoms have been curtailed, and critical voices either silenced, intimidated or attacked. The arts have not been excluded, with artists and cultural actors across the region facing varying degrees of pressures. Considering the ability of arts and culture to not only enhance our lives and our emotional world, but also to serve as an opposing voice of criticism and dissidence, these developments are particularly worrisome.

In Kosovo, for a very long time now the arts and culture scene has been positioned very low
down in the list of government priorities. During the pandemic, the scene has been subject
to ongoing lockdown measures with limited if any state support, while much of the rest of
the economy has remained open.

A public statement at the beginning of the pandemic in March by the outgoing deputy
minister of culture at the time promised emergency financial measures to support the
sector, but it took a further eight months for this to be realized in November, through an
open call for financial support for cultural artistic projects of individuals, stemming from the
Economic Recovery Fund. The late and lacking institutional support for culture produced dire, permanent consequences for many cultural actors and institutions, some of which were forced to close.

In Serbia, artists are being threatened and physically attacked, and are having their work
destroyed as part of a censorship culture that is being supported, albeit informally, by state
institutions and parastate factions to quell critical voices. Serbian state institutions don’t
support the work of artists who don’t correspond to the dominant state strategy for culture, known for intertwining ethnic and nationalist branding with creative industries. In particular, censorship is applied to areas related to crimes from the 90s wars and in relation to Kosovo’s independence.

In Albania, in what was seen by many as one of the most outrageous attacks against the
cultural scene, the landmark National Theatre was razed to the ground in the darkest hours
of a Sunday morning under the supervision of police and special force units who detained
tens of activists that had been protecting the building from being demolished. For Albania,
this was just another case in the wave of demolition, reconstruction and erasure of historic landmarks in exchange for modern, profit-driven buildings, with no regard for the preservation of cultural heritage.

In Bosnia, much like in Kosovo, arts and culture have just about been forgotten during the
pandemic, and many artists and cultural workers are finding themselves on the edge. Not
only were public cultural venues such as theaters, cinemas and exhibitions closed since
March, moreover the annual budget was reshuffled as part of the government’s emergency
measures, cutting back the budget of the Ministry of Culture by a whopping 40%.
Bearing this in mind, it is important to have a conversation about the state of arts and
culture in the region, so on December 22nd, K2.0 will organize an online discussion on this
topic, inviting key figures of the scene from different parts of the region to dissect what has
happened and analyze what must be done from here on in to reclaim this crucial sector.