Exception – The case of the exhibition of Young Kosovo Artists in Serbia

This section deals with ‘the case’ of the exhibition Exception – Contemporary art scene of Prishtina and its violent (non)opening in Belgrade, happened during February of 2008. This event, overshadowed by the massive political turmoil before and after the local political leadership of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia around the same time, in the circles of what could be described as ‘critical art and activist scene’ of Belgrade gained somewhat mythical connotations. The aim of the following three texts is to examine the conditions and constellations which were contributing to the emergence of such an event, to try to understand what it was exactly about, and to analyze its consequences. It is our opinion that this video clip, viewed quarter of a million of times right after it was posted, tells a lot about the condition of contemporary societies in the region known as former Yugoslavia (you can find it re-posted here, with somewhat apologetic description of the author translated in English – click on ‘more info’ to read it). The scarce conversation is in Serbian, but we do believe that the pictures are sufficient enough to portray the social tensions and desperate position of the ‘small individual’ caught in the unsolvable puzzle of ‘the society in transition’ and the vicissitudes of ‘politics of identity’ as the tool to ‘normalize’ what is perceived as the ‘periphery’ of today’s global capitalism.

Below you can find a chronology of the events surrounding the exhibition, and some links we managed to gather where some additional information could be found, together with discussions and reactions following ‘the case of Exception’.

Jelena Vesić, Dušan Grlja, Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

The first published versions @Archive.org

Politics of Display and Troubles with National Representation in Contemporary Art by Jelena Vesić
Four Acts and a Pair of Socks
by Vladimir Jerić
The Exception and State of Exception
by Dušan Grlja

Chronology of Events by Marko Miletić (Kontekst Gallery)

January 22nd 2008

The opening of the exhibition Exception: The Contemporary Art Scene of Prishtina in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, organized by NGOs Kontekst from Belgrade and Napon from Novi Sad.

January 25th 2008

The municipal committees of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) as well as the Association of Evicted and Displaced Serbs form Kosovo demand the official Municipal authorities to close down the exhibition or they will do it themselves, as it was stated by them in the media. On the same day Dren Maliqi’s artwork Face to Face becomes the object of various media manipulations.

February 3rd 2008

The second round of presidential elections was held. Boris Tadić, the candidate of Democratic Party (DS), was elected.

February 6th 2008

The exhibition Exception was moved to the Kontekst gallery in Belgrade. The call for gathering of all patriots in order to stop the opening of this exhibition was published at the web-site of the extreme right Patriotic Movement Honor [Otečestveni pokret Obraz] and in various daily newspapers.

February 7th 2008

3 pm: The police notifies the organizers that several extremist groups announced that they will come and stop the opening of the exhibition.

6 pm: A couple of dozens of policemen in civilian clothes is in the gallery and in surrounding streets.

6.15 pm: Police cordons were set up in the surrounding streets preventing the extremists to approach and enter the gallery.

6.40 pm: Unidentified person succeeds to enter the gallery and tear down a part of Dren Maliqi’s artwork depicting Adem Jashari. His accomplice finished the deed by destroying it completely.

6.50 pm: The organizers decide to proceed with the opening, leaving the dismembered artwork as a pert of the exhibition.

7.05 pm: The introductory speeches have begun. After few sentences by the curators, one of the present “patriots”, a painter and a member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, wielding a stone in his hand, interrupts the speech insulting the organizers. Couple more people joins in, among which a woman who brought her two kids to spit on the “terrorist Shiptar art”.

7.15 pm: The organizers demand police’s action to enable the opening to be continued. Police officer in charge responded that they cannot deprive people of their freedom of speech.

7.20 pm: The police order the organizers to stop the opening, since they cannot guarantee the security of the event any more.

Afterward until 11 pm: The organizers and a part of the attendants, inspired by this incident gathered at the Center for Cultural decontamination and decide to publicly fight for the (re)opening of exhibition by forming a group Workers in Culture [RUK].

February 8th 2008

6 pm: The glass door of the Kontekst gallery was smashed, as well as the gallery sign.

The police advised the organizers, because of security reasons, to remove the artworks from the gallery during the night.

February 11th 2008

3 pm: The students of the University of Belgrade organize a protest entitled Europe has No Alternative. They demand the resignation of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica if the government does not ratify the agreement with the EU.

February 13th 2008

12 am: The press conference of RUK was held in the Belgrade’s Media Center about the violent incidents that prevented the opening of the Exception exhibition.

February 17th 2008

12 am: The Declaration of Independence was declared at special session of the Parliament of Kosovo.

7 pm: Hooligan groups made havoc in Belgrade, demolishing the embassies of the US, Slovenia, and the offices of the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), as well as the McDonalds restaurants. The press correspondents were attacked and several of them beaten up. Over 30 people were injured. The police reacted belatedly.

February 20th 2008

The panel entitled Europe has No Alternative was held at the Media Center in Belgrade. The proponents of clero-fascist organizations verbally assaulted the speakers which were mostly the professors of the Belgrade University.

February 21st 2008

The demonstrations entitled Kosovo is Serbia were held in Belgrade. During the course and after the demonstrations extreme right and hooligan groups set the US embassy and one of the McDonalds restaurants on fire, demolished Croatian, Turkish and German embassies, as well as some of the offices of foreign banks. Several news reporters were beaten up and some shops were looted. Over 200 people were injured. One casualty confirmed. The police reacted belatedly.

February 28th 2008

Police bans the meeting entitled A Window to Europe of the student’s movement Europe has No Alternative. After this ban, some members of this movement together with the Slovenian ambassador, replaced together the smashed window on the embassy of Slovenia.

March 7th 2008

Police bans the action In Search of Prime Minister organized by the student’s movement Europe has No Alternative.

March 8th 2008

Police bans the public celebration of the International Women’s Day in the organization of the Women in Black NGO.

4 pm: Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica on a government press conference announces that there is no more agreement within the coalition in power on the question of Kosovo and European integrations, and that the premature elections for the government will be held on May the 5th 2008.

Translated from the 7th of February newspaper, p 9,
7. februar – Glasilo Radnika u kulturi.pdf


The catalogue of the exhibition “Exception – Contemporary art scene of Prishtina”:

RUK! statement:

RUK! newspaper (Serbo-Croatian):
7. februar – Glasilo Radnika u kulturi.pdf

Reactions to the closing of the exhibition in Reartikulacija journal:


Kontekst arhiva 06/07/08

The interruption of the exhibition ‘Exception: Contemporary Art Scene of Prishtina’ – Two eyewitness account – blog post by Jelena and Vlidi.


The discussion in the Alkatraz Gallery:

“Force of trauma,” a text by Sezgin Boynik

About the 12 meters tall image of Adem Jashari in Prishtina:

Exhibition Reviews







More from this issue
Erden Kosova

Slow Bullet II

The relation of contemporary art in Turkey with the political has been the focal point of some recent heated debates. The political tone which characterised and shaped the art practice from the second half of the nineties forward has become difficult to be sustained, or at least problematic due to some recent structural changes in the scene.

Dušan Grlja

The Exception and State of Exception

Calling the exhibition of young Albanian artists from Prishtinë (the capital of Kosovo) "Exception" and showing it in the two biggest cities in Serbia, Belgrade and Novi Sad, may seem at first glance quite appropriate. In a highly polarized situation - that of bringing the decades' long conflict to a resolution by unilaterally declaring Kosovo as independent state or by the Serbian government's firm contention that Kosovo remains an integral part of the internationally recognized state of Serbia - organising the kind of exhibition that brings together people from Kosovo and Serbia can undoubtedly be rendered as an exception.

Jelena Vesić

Politics of Display and Troubles With National Representation in Contemporary Art

One of the main motives for this exhibition to happen maybe lies in the local interest of Belgrade's contemporary art circles in the young and vibrant Kosovo art scene, which "officially" emerged after the year 2000. Another interesting aspect is that this sudden ‘flourishing' of local contemporary art scenes in "Western Balkans" was and still is, in most of the cases, connected to the significant influx of money from the various foreign foundations.

Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

Four Acts and The Pair of Socks

The actors in this play appeared as 'icons' - they came embedded in their own images. Two of them were standing inside the gallery, one recognisable as Adem Jashari and the other as Elvis Presley, the first in his combat/tribal uniform, casually holding an automatic rifle, and the latter as represented at the time by Andy Warhol, dressed as a cowboy, pulling out a gun and aiming at whoever is looking. These two came visiting as part of the work "Face to face" by Dren Maliqi.

Zeynep Gambetti

The Opposition of Power / The Power of the Opposition

Since the Enlightenment, discussion has been attributed grand normative meanings in political life. Discussion is not only the alternative to conflict, but it also ensures that the principles which make collective life possible are situated on rational grounds. Both in Kant and in Mill, discussion and debate are the sole paths that lead to public good.

Rastko Močnik

Extravagantia II: Koliko Fašizma? [Extravagantia II: How much fascism?]

There is a definite connection between oblivion and the powerlessness of today. States organise oblivion, conclude pacts with fascism, may fall prey. People remember, resist and persist. Today, there is no anti-fascist front, there are individuals who refuse to resign to the existence of fascism, who know that there may be more to life than hatred, anxiety and war, and who have the strength to demand from the state to behave differently from the way states and powers-that-be behaved half a century ago. I have written these analyses in order to make those demands successful, so that people should know how to formulate them and so be able to bring the nightmare of this century to a close.

Şükrü Argın

Shrinking Public, Politics Melting into Air and Possibilities of a Way-out

Since the late 1970s, we have been living under neo-liberal hegemony. The most obvious aspect of this globally influential hegemony is, inarguably, the constant and violent attack of the "private" on the "public." Moreover, by exploiting the existing overlap between the terms "public" and "state," or in other words, by activating available associations between the two terms, neo-liberal ideology is able to present its attacks on the "public" as if they target "state" and "state intervention."

Balca Ergener

On the Exhibition “Incidents of September 6-7 on their Fiftieth Anniversary” and the Attack on the Exhibition

On September 6-7 1955, a large-scale attack targeted Greek, Armenian and Jewish citizens of Turkey living in Istanbul. Approximately 100,000 people organized in coordinated gangs of twenty-thirty committed acts of violence in neighbourhoods and districts where Istanbul's non-Muslim population was mostly concentrated. On September 6, 2005, an exhibition titled "From the Archives of Rear Admiral Fahri Çoker: the Events of September 6-7 on their Fiftieth Anniversary" was organized at Karşı Sanat Çalışmaları in İstanbul.

Tanıl Bora

The Left, Liberalism and Cynicism

The Ergenekon trial sparked a fiery quarrel unrevealing a resentment almost equivalent to that released by the Ergenekon community, in other words, the irregular war machinery of the state, extra-judicial networks and organized crime gangs.

Siren İdemen, Ferhat Kentel, Meltem Ahıska, Fırat Genç

On Nationalism With Ferhat Kentel, Meltem Ahıska and Fırat Genç

Talking about nationalism from the comfort of an armchair is one thing, but discussing nationalism after having traversed Anatolia and conducted face-to-face interviews is quite another. Let's turn our attention to Ferhat Kentel, Fırat Genç, and Meltem Ahıska, who have conducted a seminal study titled "The Indivisible Unity of the Nation:" Nationalisms That Tear Us Apart in the Democratization Process.

Oksana Shatalova

Resistance in the Asian Way

The romantic word "resistance" is being widely and eagerly circulated in the field of contemporary art, as it encloses in its essence one of the key symbols of faith in contemporary art - its claim and volition of resisting the "natural order" of capitalism.

Vartan Jaloyan

New Political Subjects in Armenia and March 1 Events

The political and social developments in contemporary Armenia share common features with developments in other "third world" countries. However, there are differences in addition to these similarities . The Soviet industrialization in Armenia was accompanied by tendencies of concentration in demography, economy, politics and culture; 30 percent of the nation's population was concentrated in the capital.

Dušan Grlja

Antinomies of Post-Socialist Autonomy

The following essay aims to elucidate the meanings and functions of autonomy within the post-socialist framework of peripheral neo-liberal political economy of "cultural production" in the former Yugoslavia region or, as the contemporary geopolitical agenda terms it, the Western Balkans.

Brian Holmes

Ecstasy, Fear & Number: From the “Man of the Crowd” to the Myths of the Self-Organizing Multitude

What kinds of traces have been left on our personal and political lives by the long history of ecstasy and fear, of anxiety and desire, that structures the relation between the democratic individual and the urban multitude? What kind of traps and dead-ends have been built into the very fabric of the city, and indeed into human skins and psyches, in order to stanch this fear and quell this anxiety?

Red Thread Editorial Board

Issue 1 – Editor’s note

Metaphorical meaning of the expression ‘red thread’ suggests not only way out of labyrinth, but also a fragile, elastic link between different intellectual, social and artistic experimentations that share a desire for social change and the active role of culture and art in this process.