Summit in Skopje 2019 – Reflections by Marijana Cvetkovic

Reflections

 

For the occasion of the Summit that took place in November 2019 in Skopje, I presented the model of cultural and social center in Belgrade, Magacin. With the focus of the Summit on new thinking about the residency programs and what a residency could be, I wanted to stress the importance of the context in which any residency, and therefore any creative work can take place. With such an approach, it becomes clear that residencies can be looked at as conditions that are given to artists, cultural workers, researchers to make their work, research, writing, reflection… The context in which these kinds of work are possible does matter for the work (its form, content, size and scope, distribution, impact etc.), but it also materializes the working conditions for the artists and cultural workers and speaks about our understanding of the artistic/cultural production: it makes visible our care and sensitivity for the people, the working processes and their social impact. In my understanding, producing the awareness about these relations, conditions and references should precede each institution and residency. In other words, what matters is how we see the role of arts and culture in society.

About experiences: Magacin

Cultural center Magacin is an independent cultural and social center in Belgrade where my organization, Station Service for contemporary dance is based (as one of its co-initiators in 2007) is situated and where it established its dance and choreography related residency program.  Magacin is a shared space where dozens of organizations, initiatives and hundreds of individual artists, researchers and activists work, while being exposed, included, engaged and intrigued by practices of visual arts, theater, dance, circus, music, poetry, research projects, cultural policy debates and many other forms and formats of knowledge production. The center is unique in Belgrade (with almost 2 millions inhabitants) because it is the rare place that gives its full resources for free (space, technical equipment, technical support, photo and video documentation, PR and promotion, professional feedback etc.) to the artistic community to produce the art works. As such it is the production support for various institutions, academic and research programs, festivals and other places with different production regimes.

In the same time, this place is about activism and active role of arts and culture in Serbian society, a critical, vigilant and sleepless presence in the turbulent changing political context of Serbia and the Balkan Region. Therefore, the bottom line of all the programs produced and presented in Magacin is a clear social and political engagement rooted in the shared and proclaimed values of the Magacin community: antidiscrimination, anti-harassment behaviors, not welcoming religious programs, programs of political parties, against privatization of the space and profitable programs. All Magacin’s programs are free of charge for all audiences.

Why Magacin and its specific self-management model are relevant to the topic of residency? In my experience and professional path, Magacin is the place and time that belongs to the line of communities, platforms and initiatives around which I have developed my own cultural practice as cultural producer, curator and activist. In this line there are also the initiative Druga scena (Other scene) in Belgrade, the Balkan platform Nomad Dance Academy and Station Service for contemporary dance.  My current modes of working, communicating and producing come from dynamic relations with those communities of people through our common practice of criticality, political activation, solidarity, mutual support and sharing the vision about arts and culture in the society. All these examples and their respective practices rely, directly or indirectly, to the Yugoslav and socialist heritage. Self-organization (self-management in Yugoslav case) as the dominant principle of organization has been a challenging frame in each of these platforms, but it has also been the fantastic learning environment because there are no simple rules to follow, but rather each single actor/member/participant has to reinvent herself in order to learn and help all the others learn what it means and how it can be practically done. The self-investment into such processes is the pinnacle of the learning process and most powerful emancipatory tool. Self-organization asks for time, listening to the others, asking questions, experimenting, failing and learning from failures, fighting against own and others’ egoism, against cutting corners and power games… It proposes a different instituting frame and opposes to the hegemonic nature of the neoliberal hierarchy and top-down decision making. One of its aspects is self-criticism, the ability to look at one self from a critical position and to change one’s attitudes and acting in favor of collective goals and values, or, as Miško Šuvaković puts it: “attempt to develop direct democracy by permanent self-analysis and evaluation of interpersonal, structural and educational relations”, (Šuvaković, 2012: 314).

Creating a residency program and opening an opportunity for the artists and cultural workers to access such a context is a huge advantage.

★★★★★

Why should all these examples and experiences relate to our specific meeting in Skopje, the one we had earlier in 2017 in Manheim and all the meetings that enhance the sense of belonging to a certain community of cultural workers and a shared resolution to keep doing things together, jointly, solitarily, with an urge to change the current conditions? I recognize there certain affective alliances that have been discussed in the theory of affect and that are based on feminist theories and practices[1]. These alliances are specifically interesting in the field of arts and culture because they engage minds and bodies more often (especially in music, dance, theater, poetry and other group practices). It is a specific “affective sociality” (Raffles, 2002), a form of collective political engagement through sensible experience of anticipation of a future community (Rancière 2013:m155-156).  Magacin as a community of artists, cultural workers, political activists has been developed a model of self-management of this cultural center in which every body is responsible for the functioning of the model by taking responsibilities for own participation or by temporary taking over tasks (of coordination, specific working tasks, maintenance, supplies etc.). What makes them connect with each other (around 150 regular users annually) and with the place (the sense of belonging) is the openness of the programs and different forms of sharing practices, invitations to participation and regular meetings and debates about current issues (organizational, program related, political, economic, community related…). This kind of practice of commoning where every one is welcome to act and each contribution is valuable makes this a sound and fruitful ground for community building through the sensible (Rancière, 2000) mediated by arts practices. These practices are based on the belief that different knowledge is allowed and welcome in the art field (“radical amateurism”, Hofman, 2016, 177) while artistic practice can provide affective economy within the group. Once established, such a group or community, connected by affects, senses of sharing, belonging and togetherness, becomes a strong political actor and is able to think its own political potential. It becomes affective alliance.

I believe that such instituting principle will take us to the new models of institutions, especially after the current global crisis of pandemic and after the probable collapse of the dominant model of cultural institutions (with mechanisms of control of their political impact such as market, partocracy, bureaucracy etc.). The affective quality of the above given example, the one that we witness very often at different cultural events, such as our Summit, cannot be neglected in cultural sphere. Even more, it should be instituted as a principle that enhances community building around each arts space or cultural institution. The affective alliance with its feminist basis that gets created in the situations (such as our Summit, Magacin, Kino Kultura, Nomad Dance Academy and many other cases we know) in which a genuine creative and intellectual exchange takes place is the ideal environment in which produced artistic and cultural knowledge and practice become socially relevant while generating individual and social change.

 

References:

Hofman, Ana (2016). Novi život partizanskih pesama, Beograd: XX vek.

Magacin. A model for a self-organized cultural center (2019). Iva Čukić et al. (eds.), Belgrade: Association Independent Cultural Scene of Serbia.

Raffles, Hugh (2002). “Intimate Knowledge”, International Social Science Jounal 54 (3): 325-335.

Rancière, Jacques (2000). Le partage du sensible. Estétique et politique, Paris: La Fabrique editions.

Šuvaković, Miško (2012). Umetnost i politika. Savremena estetika, filozofija, teorija i umetnost u vremenu globalne tranzicije, Beograd: Službeni glasnik

[1]The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (2007), Patricia Ticineto Clough and Jean Halley (eds.), Durham: Duke University Press

 

Marijana Cvetković

Graduated in art history (Belgrade). Completed MA in management in culture and cultural policy (Belgrade and Lyon). Currently PhD candidate at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. Co-founder of Station Service for contemporary dance and the Balkan Platform Nomad Dance Academy. Cultural activist at the independent cultural scenes of Belgrade and Serbia, co-founder of associations other scene and Association of Independent Cultural Scene of Serbia.  Actively participate in the initiatives Cultural Center Magacin, zajedničko.org (platform for theory and practice of the commons) and independent dance scene in Belgrade. Writer, researcher, curator, producer, teacher in the field of culture and cultural policy.

 

Art Spaces and Residencies Summit is organised by Lokomotiva – Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture in the framework of the yearly program “Contemporary culture and public policies” 2019, developed as part of the project “Program of Lokomotiva in Kino Kultura – project space for contemporary performing arts and contemporary culture” supported by the City of Skopje, Ministry of Culture of North Macedonia and Centar Municipality and Life Long Burning, programme line Performance situation room supported by Creative Europe.