What’s happening on the edge of Europe ── 2019 Balkan Art Scene, Mika Maruyam

Online article by independant curator
artscape Japan
October 2019

Vienna has played the role of a geopolitical relay point connecting east and west Europe, and many people from Eastern Europe live as a window (or job opening) from east to west. Friends and collaborating artists are from Eastern European countries, and I often feel familiar with the history and art that existed in Japan in a form different from what I learned as “Europe = Western Europe”. . It simply shows that the word “art” is completely different depending on the time and place. Of course, Eastern Europe cannot be described in a single word. While showing the border between the east and west under the Cold War, the social and communist areas that were directly influenced by the Soviet Union, the former Yugoslav countries that spread northwest of the Balkan Peninsula, , Religion, and relationships with neighboring countries.

Presentation “The Conversation: Situated Knowledge between Theory and Praxis” by Professor Neu Banai, the only contemporary art professor in the Faculty of Art History who is the organizer of the symposium “Critical Inventory”

In June of this year, I participated in the symposium “ Critical Inventory: Towoards a Methodology of Contemporary Art History ” held at the University of Vienna’s School of Art History , where the focus continued on the difference between East and West, and the curator of Documenta 14 curated. Zagreb-based curatorial collective What, How & for Whom (WHW), who became director of Kunsthalle Wien this year, will be on stage to discuss the state of art, art history, and curation methodologies in the age of global art. It was the center of In the place of Vienna, which once created the Viennese School, which was the core of art history, what does it mean to write about eastern art and make exhibitions according to the western context, still centering on whites in Western Europe Discussions about what kind of context should be shared and what kind of position, place, and relationship should be considered in order to talk about future art, in contrast to global art being spoken in the category of principle It was impressive. Writing not only in Eastern Europe but also about art is not neutral at all, it is a natural statement of where and from what the writer is looking at the object.

Art theorist Mishuko-Shubakovitchi of Serbia born was one of the Speakers is the Yugoslavia referred to as a “non-historical us (Impossible Histories)” ★ 1 . Yugoslavia has always been a part of Yugoslavia’s existence, which has been cut and clashed with cultures from Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East, but with resistance to ethnic and national organizations, even though it has a family connection. Because it was a framework that required change and redefinition. Yugoslavia, including the regions of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Boibodina and Kosovo, was geographically founded in 1918 following the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Numerous social and political transitions such as communism, Stalinism, partisan activities, autonomous socialism, transnational socialism that seeks revolution from the middle class nationalism of Western Europe while being influenced by the surrounding culture Has passed.

Artists living in “impossible history”

However, when President Tito, who had gathered the former Yugoslavia, died in the 1960s and 1980s, which was relatively calm and peaceful, nationalism and nationalism in the flow of communism and democratization in Eastern Europe Begins to grow. The history of Croatia and Slovenia withdrawing in 1991, trying to prevent the demolition of Yugoslavia, and the civil wars and NATO interventions between ethnic groups, and the outbreak of outrageous violence It will remain a fresh memory for those who have experienced it. Changes due to the subsequent division and transition to capitalism are inseparable from the current cultural and artistic activities. For example, even if one language is the same language, the distinction between Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian, which did not exist historically, is strengthened, and the continuity of culture is the seizure of power of nationalist politicians. are divided for ethnic state founded ★ 2 .

In the former Yugoslavia, where nationalism and fascism accelerate, and in the former Yugoslavia, pretending to be a “liberal” aiming to join the EU, artists are between post-socialism and post-war ethnic groups that are an extension of “impossible history”. There is no choice but to face the space where the lying down and the overwhelming economic disparity with the West are exposed.

For example, Milica Tomić from Serbia, who represented Serbia and Montenegro at the 2003 Venice Biennale, created a performance and video using her own body that lived in the former Yugoslavia space, and caused it politically. Continues to deal with violence and identity and national issues. The role of anti-fascism and feminism in Serbia, especially in Serbia, including the Belgrade discussion group “ Grupa Spomenik (the Monument Group) ” formed during the war monument competition and discussion process. It ’s getting better. The video work “Turbo Sculpture” (2010-2013) by Aleksandra Domanović (2010-2013), also a Serbian artist, twists the turbo-folk ★ 3 that is popular in the Balkans, and is built around Hollywood and pop. The public sculpture of culture is called “turbo sculpture”. The transition from socialism to capitalism since the 1990s and the absence of leaders lost due to war is a pop culture that has nothing to do with history and a consumer culture that continues patriarchal power relationships. We are analyzing whether it has been linked and the history left on the land has been erased.

Aleksandra Domanović Turbo Sculpture 2010-2013
HD video, color, sound. 20mins

Meanwhile, the Bosnian artist Lana Čmajčanin and Adela Jušić’s video work “I will never Talk About the War Again” (2011) has been disseminated and spoken as an image many times. It highlights the violence by emphasizing the emotional and performance aspects that circulate the impossibility of “speaking / not speaking” about the war and its history that has been manipulated by nationalists.

Lana Čmajčanin and Adela Jušić I will never Talk About the War Again 2011, HD, color / sound

Srbenka (Director: Nebojša Slijepčević, 2018), who won the Documentary Film Award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival last year, deals with anti-Serbian sentiments in Croatia. This is a video of the production process of a stage work based on the true story of the Serbian massacre in Croatia by Oliver Frljić. Frizić has been controversial in the past with works dealing with the Yugoslav civil war and criticism of Western Europe.

Nebojša Slijepčević Srbenka 2018

These artists and works are resistance to erasing the violence and wounds hidden inside and outside in the space after the former Yugoslavia’s dismantling, and being silenced. It is a practice to watch. Of course, such a context is not visible in all artist activities, but considers the space that the east side implies, including the overwhelming economic disparity, the difficulty of movement, and the inability to talk about history. Then, artists and art activities are under the influence of the space. For this reason, it cannot be overlooked that there are many connections beyond national and regional boundaries and activities beyond the framework of Western art history.

After the absence of the museum

By the way, in July of this year, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Belgrade, the capital city of the former Yugoslavia. Belgrade was the center of Yugoslavian culture, along with the Croatian capital Zagreb and Slovenian capital Ljubljana. Especially in the 1960s and 1980s, it was said to have been the most open and liberal city in Eastern Europe, and it was a place where conceptual art, performance, and eclectic postmodern art blossomed. However, Belgrade, which has a presence as a big city, surprisingly had its main museum closed until two years ago. The Serbian National Museum in the heart of the city, in front of the Republic Square, was reopened in 2018 last year, and from 2003 to 15 years there was a lack of museums representing Serbia (and Yugoslavian culture). It was. This museum has a wide range of collections, from prehistoric ruins to Ottoman Turkish, Austrian and Hungarian empires, German romantic influences, 20th century avant-garde and former Yugoslav art. It has not yet arrived.

Serbian National Museum (from homepage)

The Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art, located in New Belgrade on the opposite bank, was also closed for restoration for 10 years from 2007 to 2017. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also the final patrol areas of Yugoslavia born in is Marina Avuramovitchi large-scale retrospective exhibition’s first Europe of “The Cleaner” in September this year, that is for her a solo exhibition in Serbia since 1975 4 ★ .

Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art in a park along the Danube [Photo: Author]

Abramovic was already famous for its radical performance art in the 70s, but he himself moved to overseas early and was successful in releasing many works overseas. Based in Germany and Austria, he works while going to and from his hometown. Many Belgrade artists said, “There is no art scene in Belgrade.” One reason is that many artists from Belgrade (or Serbia, former Yugoslavia) are abroad. There is a difference between the context spoken abroad and the art practice being conducted locally, and there is nothing that can be shared as a unique art scene. Because especially in abroad, including the Vienna from the 2000s art of the former Yugoslavia area came to be introduced, it can be said that their context have been formed outside the country ★ 5 .

In addition, there are no art museums to form a unique history in each region, and the cultural budget is zero until several years ago, and many factors form the art scene and each activity as one big flow There is a reason that did not come. Less culture budget as a nation and still compared to other countries, and apart from a culture that is ethnic, traditional, art and links with the economy are thin ★ 6 . While the production that should not be in the market-driven is continued, there is a status quo difficult it can be to live as an artist if it is not outside the country ★ 7 .

A rift in the former Yugoslavia space

However, there was nothing in Belgrade, the network of artists was active, and art and art spaces continued to exist even without a budget. This situation has also changed greatly since the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art two years ago, and commercial galleries have opened all over the place, and contemporary art has been actively introduced to the inside and outside of the country with foreign capital. Yes.

For example, the long-established art space REMONT-INDEPENDENT ARTISTIC ASOCIATION , established in 1999, is a place where not only exhibition spaces but also educational programs and publishing have been actively cultivated. It has been functioning as a place to exchange and discuss. An English gallery map introducing an art space called “Contemporary Art in Belgrade” has also been created, which is valuable information for outsiders who do not speak the local language.

Remont Gallery, Finalists of the Dimitrije Bašičević Award, exhibition view, 2017.photo by Milan Kralj

The National Museum is located next to the Cultural Center Belgrade and Belgrade Youth Center , which comprehensively handles movies, music, and theater, using the buildings of the socialist era. ・There are facilities such as the Student Cultural Center, the center of art, and there are also independent spaces such as HESTIA ART RESIDENCY & EXHIBITIONS BUREAU , which also conducts artists in residence . In addition, Gallery RIMA , Eugster || Belgrade , DRINA GALLERY , LAUFER , U 10 and others are actively introducing artists from inside and outside the gallery that opened from 2016 to 2017 . Apart from that, many art spaces such as Kvaka 22 with bars, clubs and galleries are scattered around the city as alternative spaces, and various activities are being carried out.

Culture Center Belgrade, [Photo: Author]

Kvaka 22 established in 2015 by a young collective [Image by Nevena Paunovic Lonely Planet]

Some say that the anti-fascist political art of the post-socialist sphere, which had been strengthened with the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, has been transformed into a gallery-like art in recent years. When I saw a lot of spaces and talked with the people concerned, I was impressed that Belgrade’s art scene was in the midst of change and was moving forward toward globalization while holding gaps. But what does that globalization mean? Mladen Stilinović, who was originally from Serbia and worked in Croatia, said in 1992 that “An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist”, 1989 As the east and west melted and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and capitalization proceeded, who was the capitalist and western European language and story of “English” (even if they were from non-capitalist) I was already asking what would be considered as. Today, English is the minimum means to enable global exchanges. At the same time, art institutions such as museums and art spaces in each country are considered as standard functions for understanding contemporary art. When writing this article that introduces the Belgrade art scene, I feel that there is definitely a rift between the language and art standards I use (western) and the space of the former Yugoslavia. Art is definitely present without public museums or national support. On the other hand, in order to describe it as art, some kind of judgment and methodology are required. Although it is a city of Belgrade, it is increasingly under the name of a modernized state to write about many inequality and contradictions such as culture, ethnicity, economy, state, religion, gender, community, etc. since the 1990s. In the world of fascism, it seemed to reveal what was regarded as an art scene and what ruler was watching art.

Mladen Stilinović, An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist , 1992

★ 1──Edited by Dubravka Djurić and Miško Šuvaković, Impossible Histories: Historic Avant-Gardes, Neo-Avant-Gardes, and Post-Avant-Gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918–1991, MIT Press, 2003
★ 2──Vlad Beronja and Stijn Vervaet, “Introduction. After Yugoslavia – memory on the ruins of history,” in Post-Yugoslav Constellations: Archive, Memory, and Trauma in Contemporary Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian Literature and Culture, ed. Vlad Beronja and Stijn Vervaet, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2016
★ 3── As modern pop music, it is a combination of “turbo”, which is an advancement and industrial and technical meaning, and “folk”, which recalls the tradition and maintenance of Yugoslavia. Too much emphasis on conservative sexual expression, such as intense women. Also, Serbian theorist anaarana Papić refers to separatist nationalism, male dominance and racial exclusion seen in the Balkans since 1990 as “turbo-fascism”. “Europe after 1989: Ethnic Wars, The Fascisation of Social Life and Body Politics in Serbia,” in Filozofski vestnik, special number The Body, edited by Marina Grzinic Mauhler (Ljubljana: Institute of Philosophy ZRC SAZU, 2002), 191–205
★ 4──The “The Cleaner” exhibition includes the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm (Sweden), the Museum of Modern Art in Louisiana (Denmark), the Hennie Onstad Museum (Norway), the German Federal Art Exhibition, the Strozzi Palace (Italy), the Torun Center for Contemporary Art ( (Poland). From September 21, 2019 to January 20, 2020 at the Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art. https://www.tickets.rs/programseries/marina-abramovic-cistac-3?q=marina+abramovi%C4%87+%C4%8Dista%C4%8D&sgtype=program&lang=en#2019-09
★ 5── It is necessary to keep in mind the history that was used to secure the superiority of Western Europe by drawing the former Yugoslavia and the former communist sphere as a negative or inferior history.
★ 6── On the other hand, there is a large budget for sports where people are enthusiastic and tend to form nationalism.
★ 7──Interview with the author, Serena curator Jelena Petrovich, who studies feminism in the former Yugoslabi, and Marina Marcovich, an artist living in Belgrade (July 25, 2019).

Link to online article