The ethnically unstable Balkan territory, constant migrations of the population from rural to urban, from urban to more urban, that is to politically and economically more stable areas especially in Serbia, have left their trace on a social climate.
A sense of not belonging to now and here was particularly accentuated at the end of the 20 th century and the beginning of the 21 st. Consequences of instability, separation of the political-economic establishment from the real needs of citizens had a deep impact on the culture as well. The absence of feeling of belonging to one recognizable contemporary cultural identity led to separation in small interest groups of people embittered because of the lack of self-fulfilment, and to the increase in number of unsatisfied individuals. A stay or leave dilemma is still present among young people and the middle generation thinks that things are better some place else. Is it really so? Is it better somewhere else or we simply do not know how to overcome the chosen autism, to turn to a better side of reality, our own creativity and respect for others? What does it take for us to understand that the social conspiracy against creativity and innovation does not exist and that we have to change our own environment?
Facts based on the cultural offer in the last few years and longer prove differently, at least in Belgrade. Great events like the BITEF, BEMUS, FEST, have maintained with few declines, the level of quality and continuity with world trends. Ever since 2004, the October Salon has become a prestigious international exhibition owing to enormous personal dedication. The quality of organization of the festivals of Documentary and Short Film and the festival in Sopot was improved. Numerous personal initiatives in different areas have brought Serbia back to the map of contemporary international cultural production.
What is our problem? Why do we always look "over the fence" unable to look around us and find our own HERE?
The key words in our case are unity, communication, education, respect for different opinions and good will that we lost somewhere. Everything depends on us and mutual support regardless of individual differences.
The BELEF 07 called HERE AND THERE IS OVER HERE is dedicated to this problem.
A team gathered around the project tries to enter somewhat deeper in the essence of the problem, think about the causes, offer a solution or at least hope that even here it is possible to see, to express oneself, to learn, to connect, to take part and to change at least our own surroundings.
Some of the key questions are:
Is it possible to make a suitable environment here?
Yes, with greater effort and work.
What can be offered in Belgrade that would make us feel a part of the world?
Variety and opulence of cultural offer.
How can we activate our potential and make them visible?
Set it in official context and present it to broader public.
How to make an international scene?
With good atmosphere and open communication that is a natural part of our sensibility.
The concept of this year’s BELEF is extraordinary only at first glance. Introducing new segments, concentrating on a limited period of time and space and numerous small projects are the consequence of the intention to gather the multitude of individual qualities and make them visible. They are also a result of the wish for mapping the existing production, which has naturally changed in time. Many things have changed during the first decade of the 21 st century.
In theatre a new generation of authors appeared that is unburdened by tradition, well informed and included in world developments. They have a different approach to the scene, they are open, communicative and they do not need a rich production in order to express themselves. A part of them (Vlatko Ilić Marko Manojlović Ana Tomović) is included in the programme "Making Off" that is the base for changes in a theatrical presentation of the new production. Naturally, the problem of continuity in our environment is always present. A new play directed by Ivana Vujić proves that the continuity of different approach exists. A generation between these two options is also presented through this, for us somewhat atypical theatre piece – the rap opera "Zemlja sreće" ( Land of Happiness). It is based on the libretto of the actress Dušanka Stojanović, directed by Đurđa Tešić. It shows an interesting interweaving of subculture and the mainstream through a mutual relationship, a discontent with the absence of communication and different interpretations of the ethics of political-economic establishment and population. Two more plays are a part of the rich offer. They are the results of the workshop with local authors led by the Bulgarian choreographer Ivo Dimchev (organized by Stanica – the service for contemporary dance) and special, traditional guests, the winners of the last year’s Festival of Theatrical Miniatures, Rosana Hribar and Grego Lustek from Slovenia.
Like never before, the summer of 2007 in Serbia was marked by commercial guest appearances of world music stars. Apart from the EXIT, which is getting richer and richer, we were the hosts of the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and the ROLLING STONES at the beginning of the summer. Because of that and in order to encourage the local potential, the music programme decided for calmer and without any doubt quality offer of guests and domestic authors, who are turned to music connoisseurs, specific tastes, presented through concerts and different performances for audience that is not satisfied only by media supported universal values. The BELEF 07 offers something else: from the legendary Peruvian afro-diva Susana Baca, American dance idioms with the unrestrained Balkan in combination with Lajkó Félix + Brooklyn Funk Essentials, experimental ethno performed by Studio Aclectic (Novi Sad) and Vrelo (Ruma), an experiment on the Music Boat by Andrija Pavlović and Sonja Lon čar, or tango music of Quintecho (Belgrade) and Richard Galliano & Tangaria Quintet (France), electronic sound in joint performance of Soundscapes Belgrade Yard Soundsystem Session and Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu (Finland) and fado by Antonio Chainho Trio (Portugal) to the cult Chicago soul-jazz singer Terry Callier.
It is interesting that the visual programme has a new form. Projections of the international project –network UPGRADE are held in shop-windows, in the central street of Belgrade Knez Mihajlova, including the newest video releases from world capitals, with a special guest – selection of the works from Shanghai. Nine domestic and foreign artists, including Aleksandra Croitoru, Dan Perjovschi, Erwin Wurm, Aleksandar Zograf and Dragan Papić, present their works on the subject of stay or leave dilemma on billboards in key places of city’s arrivals and departures – railway and bus station, highways, Ibar highway, airport. The visual programme is based on the outdoor exhibition on Kalemegdan and its walls. Belgrade audience will see about twenty works of foreign and domestic authors by the name of AREAS OF NEGOTIATIONS. Great majority of works is based on a live and active communication with audience and level of interest and provocation of the last part will depend mostly on them. This is probably the biggest visual art exhibition here, almost without any part of a classical setup. It is not an exhibition in a classical sense, there is no opening, everything is here, in public space, ready for communication and negotiation. Let us mention the names of some of the participants: Clair Fontaine, Le buro, Janos Sugar, Dejan Anđelković and Jelica Radovanović, Škart + prrrob:a, Vladimir Perić, Era Milivojević, Milena Putnk, Dragan Đorđević and Irena Kele čević.
Introduction of a new method of cultural production, named NEW INITIATIVES, coming from the independent sector, is a programme innovation of the BELEF. This phenomenon has been present in Serbia ever since the year 2000. Self-organizing began in mid nineties with great support of foreign foundations. Some organizations and initiatives, formed during that period, have ceased to exist, but the most honest ones have remained. New ones joined them after 2000. A whole new movement of small productions with strong influence was formed. New people who think internationally, follow contemporary technologies have connected with the like-minded from all over the world, and like a small but serious virus they erode old and rusty elements, thus changing the image of Serbia in a positive context. The examples and directions of such a cultural production are offered in the programme by presentation of the work of fifteen completely different groups – from activism, publishing, dance theatre/performance, to concerts of demo bands, mapping the activity of this sector.
Another programme innovation is the educational part. It develops on three levels. The first one is completely open for public and it consists of five lectures of domestic and foreign artists, theoreticians, curators and authors with rich individual practice. Each social, in this case cultural change of climate and way of thinking is based on strong and aware individuals. Regarding the other two programmes Master Class (specialty courses directed by Jovan Čekić, Stevan Vuković, Miroslav Savić and Dušan Makavejev) and the workshop of creative writing and graffiti making, the attention is focused on younger population and directed towards personal initiative, creativity and cooperation, with the help of experienced and independent older authors, who have fought for their own personal space despite all problems.
A special programme, directly based on cooperation with citizens is the Festival of 8mm or Super 8mm films. It is called "Svi smo mi bili deca" (All of us were children) and it is dedicated to the precious period of the seventies and early eighties, when the civic society was the base of our daily lives. Larger number of urban households had in a closet/cupboard/commode a camera and a projector, mostly made in Russia. Important family events were recorded, and main actors were mainly children. Some of them are famous today.
This small turn in the concept of the official festival should be understood as a necessary disturbance of the former model, in order to keep up with the trends.
Naturally, there is a lot of resistance when changing a decades-long structure. When the change becomes necessary, the loudest opponents are those who were enjoying privilege. This is understandable, but the question remains why we have reached the state of such discontent, dissolution of system of values and problematic morality during their era. The most radical bearers of change come from the area that was not completely embraced by commercialization, visual art, independent scene, author music and honest theatrical initiatives criticise the existing system called the transition, by antiglobalism, creating what would seem a subversion at first glance, but in fact offering a possible way out from the subordinate position by preservation of our own identity and diversity (what is considered formally but not practically important in the new social order for the preservation of a whole community).
BELEF 07 is based on a small-gesture strategy, diversity and experiment. It consciously avoids spectacle, basing a larger portion of the programme on a direct communication with the audience. The decision for all the events to interweave during 23 days in the Belgrade Fortress, to engage several hundreds of authors and to "mix" natives and foreigners on the same project, fulfil a goal of choosing HERE in the dilemma between There and Here.
Belgrade , July 2007