"HOW SOON IS NOW?" and REPORT TO EU CONFERENCE ON CULTURE, Ljubljana
"How Soon is Now?", an exercise to imagine our provisional futures, brought together 10 cultural practitioners from 10 organisations across the so called Western Balkans - or as group rather prefers Untitled region - for a speculative imagination of their context and practices ten years from now, in the year 2018.
With the assumption that all (individuals and organizations) invited have developed over the last decade specific skills and qualities that stretch the possibilities of their present situation, we went into a collective brainstorm where will we be when/if the transition in these societies is over.
Session participants: YANE ČALOVSKI (Press to exit project space / Skopje), ALBERT HETA (Stacion / Prishtina), DUNJA KUKOVEC (City of Women / Ljubljana), KRISTIAN LUKIĆ (Napon / Novi Sad), ANTONIA MAJAČA (Galerija Miroslav Kraljević / Zagreb), TOMISLAV MEDAK (Multimedia Institute MAMA / Zagreb), NEBOJŠA MILIKIĆ (Rex / Belgrade), DAVOR MIŠKOVIĆ (Drugo More / Rijeka), EDI MUKA (TICA / Tirana)
Reporter: ANA VUJANOVIĆ (TKH / Belgrade)
Set-up by: AZRA AKŠAMIJA, BOJANA CVEJIĆ, ANA DŽOKIĆ, ALENKA GREGORIČ, PETER LANG and MARC NEELEN.
As a message to the conference "New Paradigms, New Models - Culture in the EU External Relations", organised by Slovenian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Division for Culture, who also supported the workshop, the following statement has been presented and brought foreword. The text made by Ana Vujanovic comprises contributions by all the workshop participants.
Full Presidency Declaration and conference schedule and papers you can find at: http://www.mzz.gov.si/si/zunanja_politika/kulturno_sodelovanje/nove_paradigme_novi_modeli_kultura_v_zunanjih_odnosih_eu/
A REPORT FROM THE WORKSHOP “HOW SOON IS NOW?”
Brainstorming of a group of the actors of the independent cultural scenes in the region
The independent cultural and artistic scene in the region is usually supported – especially by international funds – to deal with its past, to develop programmes of reconciliation, conflict solving, overcoming the traumas etc. In spite of certain usefulness of the stream, it has a blind spot: it keeps us glued to the past, while loosing both particular and common futures from the horizon. Paradoxically, these constant rememberings, returnings, and re-enactments of the past is just what is the basic tie of the mainstream epistemological and ideological discourses of the region. If we are going to change it a radical shift of the perspective is needed. And, far from the foundations and grant making logic, a need to deal with the future is appearing as a priority to the many in the region – especially to the youngest generation that operates in the 2000s. When I say to deal with future I mean: to plan it, to forecast it, or to imagine it. To plan it, if one has right to plan it and certain control over the future. If not, and if one doesn’t like the idea of closing the future by planning, one can try to forecast it, supposing and unrevealing the links between the causes that exist in our present and their future effects. If it’s too unreliable, and besides one works in the cultural-artistic field, s/he can imagine it – daring to notify the potentialities of the present that can be actualized in future. For example, 10 years from now. And that is what we did yesterday.
Imagining collectively we note several potentialities of the present state of affairs of the independent cultural-artistic scenes whose actualization we would like to promote.
- The region as a context is not unique, but there are significant similarities between us. Moreover there is certain replicability of experience from the similarity of our respective social contexts. Because of this, the countries will continue striving exchanges with the EU, but there is more and more obvious need for them to strive exchanges with countries with whom we share post-socialist or post-Yugoslav social context.
- We need to create the structures of exchange between East-East on two levels. We should re-consider impact over exchanges East-East by the funds from North and North-West. Also, we have to urge governments in the region to fund exchanges and activities in the very region.
- If there is a past that we are willing to bring with us in future, it is a past of the socialist society whose legacy has never been seriously reconsidered. It already designed and experienced many of the concepts that are just becoming relevant for the European cultural field: self-management, direct democracy, participation, five-year planning, associated labour, and different kinds of self-organization. So it’s not about one more returning to the past, but more about remembering the future.
- It will change the image of the region from always late part of the Europe to the part with an efficient particular contribution to the new and plural European context.
- Independent cultural-artistic scene gave – at least in the last 15 years – a lot of proofs that it is “advanced” comparing with institutional culture. There is a structural capacity of independent culture to critically reflect and contest social changes / opposing to the large and inert institutions’ inability to reflect and deal with fast shifts of the contemporary society. It is evident on the level of education and knowledge production, theoretical and critical discourse, working conditions, and distribution. For that reason it is benefitial for the whole society the independent cultural-artistic scene to be sustained and developed.
In order to empower it to carry out its social role, two steps are necessary.
- First, the local cultural policy makers should be emancipated to recognize the relevance, the status, the function, and their own benefits from the independent cultural-artistic practices. Second, we need to create stable structures for exchange of knowledge and production between independent actors of the regional scenes, and not only project based initiatives.
- I’ll finish our message at the practical level of what is needed to achieve all this:
1. Easier access to the EU funds
2. Free movement of the actors of the scenes through the region and especially through Europe
3. An influence on the cultural policy in the respective countries
4. The players of the regional scene in the European decision making processes
5. To be asked by the European and international foundations about what should be done in the regional scene
Many attempts have shown: art doesn’t resolve social problems. It can draw the attention to them, remind us on them, discuss them, analyse them etc, but cannot resolve them. What art can in the most advanced cases, such as independent contemporary artistic practice, is to investigate the future. It can do it for its own sake or for the sake of a projected, improved and maybe better society. It will continue the investigation of the future in any case. But just because of that its actors should be considered relevant partners in the negotiation processes between the EU and the region.