On art, education, social values, economics, another Serbia…
photo : Rade Kovač www.radekovac.com
Slogan of the company LG is „life is good“, which is not exactly the same, if we look at the structure of the sentence. And whether art can survive without advertising? Uh, that’s a hard question for start… It depends on how we define advertising. I think art is a part of the society which should be and which is the most progressive. Sometimes it may be commercial, it may be recognized as commercial, so advertising attaches to it. There are examples of good artists who are commercial. Marina Abramovic is one of them. But, there is a long way to make art interesting to the advertisers. And whether can art survive here? I think that’s not an issue. Art will always survive. It’s just that quantity brings quality, meaning that the richer is scene where people don’t compete, but – inspire each other, the better works are created. Also, the more art is there, the scene is richer. When market is built like that, then advertisements stick, so money goes back to art itself and a cycle is closed. So, whether it’ll survive – it will, but whether it can live as an important part of the society, I don’t think it is going to happen for a long time…
Yes, I think we’ve unfortunately chosen ourselves not to have any progress and to go backwards for a long time now. And regardless the results of these elections have shown this, I’m afraid that even during the last 12 years of so-called democratic government there wasn’t enough progress in many fields, but many things went backwards. Many things were taken for granted, and now we see nothing was supposed to be taken for granted, but we should have worked in every segment, all the time.
And whether this Serbia needs art? What I see as art – no. That’s because we are a very small part of the society. When I say we, I mean group of people I belong to, who have the kind of cultural need I have… I sound as a resentful cultural worker more and more, but in fact I’m much more resentful as a human being. Art and culture are parts of my life and somehow it looks like it is a mirror for all the other stuff, in my case, at least. To other people the mirror is something else. I think there is no anymore humanism in Serbia. All I believe in is a margin, not a margin, but margin of a margin. And not that we are doomed to fail, but we’ve already failed!
No, I don’t think it’s generationally. I meet a lot of people who manage well in all of this. I don’t mean about economy level. There is a survive gene in this group of mine as well. You do not die of hunger so often in Serbia yet. But, that sense of being „on my own“ – I’ve lost it.
I think culture is country’s identity and that’s why it is very important. And I don’t know if it is older. I think a country can have economy, and not to have culture, just like it can have culture, and not to be economically developed. But the question is what is more important to us as a society? If we are constantly so proud of it and we cheer to that Serbia, which is so terribly important, then we should be more focused on culture, than on the economy, because all we are proud of is actually culture: the Cyrillic, and monasteries, and history tradition, fork…
The first what’s needed to understand is the fact that the culture is important. Media can make culture important and that’s why I think the great responsibility of the previous government is missed opportunity that media shape cultural need of the people, because they do that mostly. Instead of need to watch Turkish series, for example, people could have some other need.
It’s not my field. There are probably some economic reasons. There is public service, but I think private televisions could have played their role much differently. If B92 kept what 92 really was when became a television, we would have different society today.
Well, the same as „Prva“ or „Pink“, there aren’t many differences.
Yes, commercial television. But, I think there are different levels of commercial and different, how to say, value systems inside the commercial. You and I are consumers as well. I also like to have, I don’t know, good boots or nice bag, for example. I am also some kind of a consumer. But, I’m not a consumer of Turkish series. But something else. There is a group of people who consume the same thing as I do. That group could be bigger if you have educated someone for 10 years and if you have chosen those English series we have watched on B92, I don’t know „Cold feet“, you remember, it has shown the same time with „Sex and the City“, so „Sex and the City“ won. I remember it was completely uninteresting to me then, and now it’s a better thing from the offer… BBC works on education seriously. After 10 years, the result is that average English home, thanks to stubborn repeating of series as „how to decorate your apartment“ looks better than average Serbian one.
Education. Education and cultural policy. Cultural policy has to make cultural strategy.
I think the previous government has made space for this one, to win the elections. If they had fought for annual gay parade, we wouldn’t have had that as one of basic topics during last few years. And we wouldn’t talk about family values now, and Suleiman with a harem wouldn’t be OK pattern while Serbia is, if I’m not wrong, the second country in the number of abused women in Europe…
OK, that thing with homosexuals is a delicate subject. I’ve had few conversations on that topic through life and I’ve never succeeded to find right measure how that should look like, and not to jeopardize the majority… We could discuss that all day long, so it’s better to skip…
There isn’t much to talk about, things are terribly simple. How and when something jeopardizes you? If I don’t jeopardize you, why wouldn’t I have all the possible freedom? Why would anyone care who am I sleeping with, except „yellow press“?
You see, I’m not a believer, but I think it’s the easiest way to explain: love doesn’t choose a form. We should see the essence, not the form. Just like when I fall in love with someone who is ugly because I fall in love with something what’s inside. Why couldn’t you fall in love with something what’s inside, no matter what manifest image of him is? I don’t understand… I’ve just returned from Israel, a country which on one hand doesn’t have secular marriage at all, and on the other gays not only express their rights freely, but they are completely socially accepted. My brother in law’s sister is a lesbian, she has a wife, their parents hang out, no one is hiding anything from each other, they are trying to get a baby… I think it’s just normal.
Perhaps because of this last name of mine which has always made me seen as a minority, that’s probably why, I am strongly sensible towards all the minorities. It seems like as long as we don’t set this as a subject, homosexuals, Gypsies, and all other nationalities, to provide absolutely equal rights for them as for „regular“ Serbs, I don’t think we can get out of that medieval myth about the battle which is lost already in 1389.
I don’t agree. I mean – I also agree and I don’t. When I speak about education, I do not speak about educational system. I think on society’s education with the system, social organization… I think on country which gives opportunity to all social classes to be informed about various subjects, to learn different things. You can’t force someone who is 30 years old and has never visited theater or gallery to feel that need. And I remember visits to the Museum of Modern Art from my early age. I remember pictures I saw there. I remember something that impressed me when I was a child. Something that had developed interests in me, some cultural beginning. I don’t think everyone should become PhD. That’s absurd. I think on general rising of the law education level for everyone. Thereby, we talk about Serbia which is functionally illiterate. First of all, you have to teach someone to read and write. We have lost 25 years and there is no cultural need anymore. It’s something that has to be developed. And this can’t be done overnight. It is a process of 20, 30 years. That’s why this situation is so hard. Not because of money, but because we are at the point where we ask whether all that has any point? Is it better to give up completely and to say: „OK, we don’t have any cultural need, lets drop culture entirely!“ Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of those who would support this. Like: „Lets use even that budget of 0,62% for something else“. I mean, when you have uneducated and illiterate people, it’s much easier to rule.
This is a question. Democratic government has lost elections because it outsmarted itself in this field. They needed more educated voters than existing ones. They simply fell on some values. They fell because between center and right Serbia chose right. That’s because poorness, either material or spiritual always attaches to big words: justice, nation, family…
I agree… The problem is that for all these years it didn’t get serious alternative in value corpus we talk about now.
Of course. But even those who deal with culture don’t see it sometimes. For example, New Year’s celebration is in culture’s budget, and it’s completely clear that in the present system it is only fun. If we switch that to culture, and have classical music concerts instead of Tap 011, Bajone or Galija, it would be interesting to see how do hordes of young people who go out on streets to celebrate react to that.
The problem is in people who make decisions about that. The budget of 0,62% is not the biggest problem, but the fact this don’t bother almost anyone. Except one really small group of people in Parliament, which represents people after all, there isn’t any consciousness how important this really is. I mean, if Parliament, either city or republic, votes there isn’t money for buying books for libraries, this means that neither they nor their children are libraries’ clients. If they were, they would fight.
People who are young today were born in the worst time. These are „missed generations“. We are now taking a trench fight for every man. I’m not joking, I’m serious. This is not the resentment of cultural worker. It has to be and it is an issue of state policy. If country doesn’t set cultural model, strategy, if it doesn’t start to invest in education, we’ll then fight to recruit one by one young man and to take them to the side of something that was normal to us when we were young. Cultural offer in the city and the culture we stand for isn’t pointless or small. Last week we had concerts of Dusko Gojkovic, KC Grad has some program every day, Author film festival… All these events are very well attended. October salon had 12000 visitors this year. This is great number even on global scale, for this kind of exhibition. We are not MOMA.
This is same in every profession, in the architecture, in the art. There are interest groups which belong to various aesthetic-moral-value systems. They palm off and push away each other… this is a part of work and when you are in it, you follow, and you see three names on one and three names on the other side, and that’s all. I think every reaction is good. For me, as organizer of October salon, it’s important to have as more visitors as possible. It’s entirely legitimate for someone to say it is entirely lame to him. It’s only important to reach the level where we explain it: „It is lame because of this, this and this, or it’s great because of this and this“. Visual art is language which is learnt as any other language. I’m an architect, I don’t have formal education, but I love art and I went, I go to exhibitions, so I learn to read this language. For example, I can’t read music language. I can recognize something what’s extraordinary, what you react intuitively to. That’s why I say it’s necessary to visit events, it’s how one learns.
To go back to your question about education – no matter this school system is old-fashioned and produces officers, it taught us to think. And however those information like „how many kilograms of peanuts Macedonia produces“ are completely unimportant, that system taught us where to search for data and we taught how to use them. Now you can type something in Google and you think you got something. What did you get? What kind of information is that? How relevant those data are? Who writes them? Who checked them? I spent two years in teaching and when students write that „www“ in references… Cool… But, did you read a book? There is certain devaluation of everything. I think the most important thing is to build attitudes, in fact. We may not agree, but let’s talk. Let’s make step forward. It’s completely legitimate to be on different sides, just to be able to explain arguments of both sides.
I don’t know how this will sound. To ones as a communist, to others as a capitalist, but I believe in work. I think we need to work a lot. And to set some achievable goals, small goals, so you could celebrate your successes once in a while. And to valorize your failures. I keep asking myself: is there any sense in all this? I mean on my engagement in the institution by that. I would do the same also out of the institution. The question is where I can do more. And, I ask this myself every day. I don’t know, I really don’t… When I look back, it looks like I did something. But, on the other hand, I step away and realize that in a wider context it means absolutely nothing. If the country or the city cannot make reform, nothing can redirect this train.
Hardly. I think it’s very hard. Reform is not in government’s interest, because the one who makes them will lose elections. Reform has to include reduction of employees, it has to include new model of labor law. It is completely abnormal to get one job and stay there forever. In Cultural center, which is one of the best institutions, with quality people, I often feel like I went into the series „Better life“. Literally… Unions have great responsibility, but I think they abuse their positions terribly. They protect danglers, instead of fighting for workers’ rights. When unions take responsibility, it means they fight for protection of workers in transition process, and do not block changes.
As I’ve already said, art is language, no matter which kind of art we’re talking about. It is a language that is taught. Is prior knowledge necessary? It is desirable. Although, when I look art, when I consume it, my first reaction is intuitive. When something attracts me, then I return to it, I read, explore…
I believe that art is the most progressive part of one society. That’s why you cannot limit it and you cannot direct its way. It will always find its way. Some directions will find their way, some parts will find way. Some of them will be commercial, some will be accepted by general public better than others, and some will be that today, some in six years. I think art quality is exactly in progressivity you cannot trace like some state policy. And that may be why it is not important to them. That’s why it is one of rare fields, like all the intellectuals… It is the small part which reacts to society, and then gives it back. But prudently, critically.
I had such conversation with Nebojsa Babic. He makes campaigns for Philharmonics. And I understand all that. It works, obviously. But, personally, I wouldn’t like to participate in that. Sex is very important for art, but from entirely different angle. Generally, more sex will make people from all spheres happier. More sex would help all individuals to feel and express themselves better. There would be less frustration. But, again, it is related to politics. Wars and poorness made many men non-functional. And then you are in a circle. Sex is potency, and each potency creates another. Sex is healthy thing. And about using it for advertising purposes? How would I say it, it’s not working for me.
I think neither can exclude. People are different. Some work with head more, others with stomach. It’s the case in art and other areas. Someone chooses to deal with art, so he could send messages which are politically important to him through it, others cannot deal with anything else, because they have need. I think this kind of separation cannot be made.
I didn’t say young people, but people. If we return to what is „good life“ again, to the beginning, „good life“ is personal satisfaction. And various segments of life affect personal satisfaction. Job is one of important segments, because we spend a lot of time at it. And we transfer that frustration or happiness to home. I think it’s very important to work something you’re interested in, because it will affect different levels – if you are pleased with it, if you have a satisfaction it makes you more potent in other fields. And vice versa. I will fight for one model and for what I believe in. But, I’m not fascist about that and I think everyone should fight for what he believes in. It is a market. I’m not exclusive about other options. I think, as a principle, it is terribly important that people start fighting for themselves.
I think „intellectual elite“ is an overrated term, because intellectual elite is reducing. We miss education in on fields, in all levels. Other thing is – intellectual elite can’t change things essentially, if it is not dealing with politics. Politics is such thing that honest man doesn’t want to participate in it, because you are forced to give up yourself immediately. When you enter politics and when you enter a party, there are game rules. If we are playing democracy, majority makes decisions and regardless if you agree or not, you should stand behind it. You accept to be a soldier. That’s why I don’t want to enter a party. I cannot support something, if I don’t agree with it. I cannot promote what I disagree. It’s easier for me to get away. And this is a problem. Intellectuals are thinking beings by definition, they are individuals somehow, and not a group. It is very hard to find consensus about what we need, or which way we should take. In the end, people choose to deal with their little lives. Like: „Why would I invest myself?“ Djindjic gave his life for changes. Now, it is more absurd than ever.
I hope so this is not last question? I wouldn’t like to end up with Kusturica… It is a successful model, but I’d say it is mostly corruption model. I have respect for the author, like I have respect for every work, and Emir Kusturica is great worker. And I respect the fact he succeeded to round up his personal and politic and all other agenda in a way that brings money which enables him to produce his doctrine. It is a real example of creative industry. It is not the one I’d choose, but it is a successful example. There are such examples also on this side of scene, most artists in fact work something more. This is good for the country, culture, creative industries, but not art. When you have daily job, no matter how much related to art it is, you cannot give your maximum. Other things simply waste you. I personally miss creative work the most and I’m not sure it was smart decision for me to be a manager, because I’ve lost many things which were important to me in personal field.
Magazine is one of the most beautiful phases of my life, really… Especially when it was printed, in paper edition. It was important to me that what’s inside is quality enough to be worth of cutting forests.
Intuitively. You have a brain – ratio and you have heart – emotions… But, I always make decisions according to my stomach – intuitively. The most often I can’t explain in that moment, but I always infallible feel what is right even when it is harder… I have both happiness and misery to be interested in many things. The misery they usually don’t hold me for long, I’m superficial in many things, but in personal field this makes my life more interesting, because I’m not afraid, I like to try various things… My only fear is of fear itself. That I’ll start to fear for anything, existence, to remain alone. When I feel it, I usually destroy what I have. I don’t know if I’d suggest that. But, on the other hand, freedom is really priceless.
Of course! It was always like that. Always. There is that „second“ and „third“ Serbia… and „fifth“ Belgrade… It is all there. They just need space!