Four Acts and The Pair of Socks

Let’s start with a little quiz.
Why would a politician open an exhibition?

A. Because he thinks he paid for it.
A. Because he thinks he gains from it.
A. Because he can.

And, the correct answer is… A!


“Yes, we can” maybe could have been the preferred position of Bojan Kostreš, at the time the President of the Assembly of the Autonomous Serbian Province of Vojvodina, when deciding to personally open in Novi Sad, the capital of this northern Serbian province, the exhibition of young artists from Pristina (Kosovo), titled “Exception.” Maybe he was invited to do so by the organisers and producers of the show – as far as I know, it is perfectly possible, and here I have in mind particularly the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Živko Grozdanić Gera, and his apparent belief in engineering public ‘scandals’ and ‘upsets’ as a publicity tool for different projects. Or maybe Mr Kostreš decided for himself or was consulted or instructed that this is something to be done; but it does not really matter to what is of interest here. It is the very fact that he did it, along with the (quite) predictable consequences… Being an active local politician he must have known that on this occasion he could not represent himself and his personal political convictions, or his taste in contemporary art, he could not even represent (in any but the strictly bureaucratic sense) the Assembly of Vojvodina (being its current president), as the Assembly was being torn apart at the time by fights between opposing political blocks, and (as always) was pretty close to becoming dysfunctional; so it could be only his political party (LSV – League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina) and its biggest strategic ally, the Democratic Party (DS), one ‘concrete’ political block, that he could possibly stand for when opening this exhibition. Considering the timing, all of this happened in January 2008, in the midst of the (as usually) quite desperate and ‘dirty’ electoral campaign, in between the first (undecided) and the second (at the time perceived as very uncertain regarding its outcome) ballot of voting for the president of Serbia. The “Pro-EU” political block Kostreš represented here was faced in the previous round with an almost completely equal (hence the ‘second ballot’) number of votes for the nationalistic right-wing political block, heralded by the Radical Party. And the ‘renegade province’ of Kosovo, through its current ‘representatives’ (of whom there is no reason to think they are any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ or more or less ‘legitimate’ then the average Serbian politicians, or the majority of any politicians for that matter), had just announced that it was about to declare ‘independence’ in two weeks time. The media were already programming that ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ – some issuing calls to arms again, as they did so many times in the recent past, some already cursing the 100th generation of the offspring of any Serbian politician who even thinks of recognizing Kosovo, and the vast majority exploring in a very creative manner all the different ways you can call someone ‘a traitor’…

Face behind the face – presidential candidates Tomislav Nikolić (SRS, nationalistic block, upper corner) and Boris Tadić (DS, pro-EU block, lower corner)

The very word ‘Kosovo,’ representing the symbolic (and only possibly factual) ’cause’ for the NATO “air campaign” (read: the bombing of Serbia on a daily basis for a period of three months) just 9 years ago, proved to be the most successful detonator of national sentiment around here for ages. Now, obviously, ‘the situation’ was charged, on a countdown to inevitable detonation… This kind of social (dis)balance had its ups and downs, but in this period it seemed that critical mass was almost there and that anything connected with this issue, however ‘tiny’ or ‘marginal,’ may trigger the chain reaction.

We know now that ‘the unspeakable’ happened, and that the enactment of the independence of Kosovo was announced some weeks later, on February 17th. Just to give a brief insight into the media situation surrounding the issue, here are the news headlines as archived by for this date, as they are paradigmatic of the whole media sphere during the period:

“Over 60 injured, Slovenian embassy ransacked – at least 30 policemen and 30 civilians were injured as protesters demonstrated against U.S. and EU Kosovo policy.

Serbia annuls Kosovo independence declaration – PM Vojislav Koštunica addressed the nation today as ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared Kosovo’s independence.

Ethnic Albanians declare Kosovo’s independence – ethnic Albanians have today at 15:00 CET unilaterally declared independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

U.S. takes note, Russia wants declaration scrapped – the United States took note of the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s Albanians.

UN SC meets tomorrow in emergency session – the United Nations Security Council will hold emergency Kosovo session tomorrow.

No violence in Kosovo, says Bush – U.S. President George Bush says he will work with his allies to avoid violence in Kosovo.

Albania, Saudi Arabia first to recognize Kosovo? Beta News Agency says an analysis shows Kosovo’s unilateral declaration will first be recognized by some Islamic countries.

Czech lawmakers ask intl. community to support Serbia – a group of Czech lawmakers today reacted to the announced unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence.

U.S. analysts paint grim, bright Kosovo picture – Kosovo’s declaration of independence will deteriorate the stability of the Balkans, John Bolton says.”

Face to face – a work by Dren Maliqi exhibited in Novi Sad
Media campaign
Media campaign

But, let us go back to the period several weeks before all this happened, and to the Novi Sad opening of the exhibition of young artists from Pristine. Regardless of whether he was invited or instructed to open the exhibition, if he was aware of his own position, the ‘sensitivity’ of ‘the situation’ and the possible consequences, why would Bojan Kostreš do it? Whatever the possible reasons for Kostreš to open the exhibition, there is a clear advantage, or self-interest, for himself or his political block, which is connected to the act. Not to enter into an elaboration of each possibility, be it the verification of investment (after all, MCAV is funded from the state and province’s budget), the advertising of certain values (it is so EUropean to do it, right?) or demonstrating the strength of the political block he represents (whatever the right-wing opposition says, just look at us – ‘yes, we can’), his involvement would not happen if a clear interest of some kind was not outlined.

Which leads to what appears to be the complementary question: why was it in the interests of the ‘authors,’ producers and organisers of the exhibition, for this (or any other) politician to open the show?

Let the games begin [Image:]


Here comes the moment to (once again) discuss what happened on the evening of 7th of February 2008 in the Kontekst gallery and the streets around, the evening which will be remembered by the unsuccessful attempt to open the exhibition ‘Exception: YKA’ in Belgrade, and by the deliberate destruction of one specific artwork. Actually, this story could be rather short – it may even fit into a single sentence, like: “after the Novi Sad part, this exhibition was supposed to open in Belgrade; but a fascist lynch-mob disrupted the attempt, destroyed the one work considered to be the most provocative, and the rest of the exhibition was packed up and removed, never to be opened again.” And, more or less, all these ‘facts’ would be ‘correct.’ But here we are not only interested in exactly what happened – this information would not mean much and there would not be much use to it if we do not try to understand why it happened, and what constellation of powers brought this event into being… What I am about to offer here is one personal account. You can maybe consider it as, for what it is, a story. Not what is often called a critique or comment or, in the word mostly used nowadays, ‘the text,’ but really – a story…

Let the games begin 2 – it says: Kosovo is Serbia:
for the cross of honour and the freedom of gold.
The sword is pierced through the emblem of KLA
. Image:
A photo from the pro-Serbian rally. Image source unknow. If you are the copyright holder or know about the source, plese contact Red Thread.

After numerous re-tellings and interpretations, this particular story became the commonplace of contemporary art history for some local social circles, namely those involved with ‘critical art’ or ‘civil society activism,’ while the vast majority of other social circles on the very same locale couldn’t care less; for those involved in it, this story became one of fascism and violence, or the one about the absence of the rule of law and of denying the institution of the autonomy of art. For the rest of society, those who just followed the headlines of the period, it flashed briefly as a piece of news, never to re-emerge again. Many would claim the situation is self-explanatory – pictures of rallies and demonstrations, Kosovo celebrating independence, unrest and looting on Belgrade streets, trashing and burning of shops and foreign embassies, politicians trembling about possible coalitions after the elections and similar imagery was beaming out 24/7 from all the papers and screens available. One modest exhibition in an independent gallery, however unusual and provoking it may have been at the time and however paradigmatic its outcome may have been for the situation on a wider social scale, couldn’t survive in the media for more then a few days.

I was one of those who decided to support the exhibition, without entering into too much details about its conception and articulation, and however flawed I may find it in certain aspects to be; one of the obvious flaws of this way of representing is the matter of identification within the framework of ‘the politics of identity,’ where it was not possible for the Prishtina artists to escape the identification with ‘being Albanians’ and therefore ‘separatists,’ while the audience had only but two choices: you are coming to this exhibition to either support ‘the Albanian cause,’ or ‘to defend the integrity of Serbian territory’… [1]“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in … Continue reading But, after all, the exhibition was made by a certain ‘professional’ circle of friends and acquaintances for more-or-less the members and supporters of this same circle, and the ‘provocativeness’ surrounding it may only help to give the show some more focus of public attention and some additional media space, which is usually, considering contemporary critical art, right there below zero. Yes, I did expect a strong reaction from different right-wing youth sects and hooligan gangs, and the activity on fascist forums and web sites indicated that the ultra-nationalistic block will once again instrumentalize the usual crowd of violent football supporters and fans of war criminals and famous gangsters from the recent past, so I was prepared for a very tense atmosphere and significant police presence; well then, around here we got used to ‘rough’ conditions of working in public – the exhibition was opened in Novi Sad, and somehow survived, so the similar could be expected in Belgrade – or so I thought.

Obraz supporters trying to reach Kontekst gallery in front of police cordon

But, I never made it to the actual ‘opening.’ For the chronology of the event from the perspective of where Jelena and I were at certain moments of the evening and what we could see or hear, you may read here, in the blogpost we wrote right after everything happened. Also, from there you can follow some links which could help a foreign reader to be introduced to certain characters and insignia which were part of this public performance. Once I eventually made it to the gallery, navigating around the police cordons, different raging gangs and other ‘obstacles,’ I conducted my own little forensic investigation and, based on that, constructed the following drama, involving three actors and a pair of Walter Benjamin’s socks. So now we start with the script…

Act two

The image of Adem Jashari, as it appears in the work of Dren Maliqi

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. The third ‘icon’ was brought outside the gallery to confront Jashari – it was Legija, the famous war and civilian criminal, who was eventually found guilty and is serving a prison sentence for the assassination of the then Serbian prime minister Zoran Đinđic. His life-size image was brought by the usual lynch mob of fascists and ultra-nationalists to defend them from what they perceived as the “armed invasion” of the image of Jashari – no doubt they really believed that the image of this dead Albanian rebel, whose known history tells that he was not much more different then Legija in terms of his ruthlessness, use of violence and conducting of cold-blooded murders, was the ‘Jashari himself,’ who rose from the grave to haunt ‘the Serbs’ once again. Apparently for them this horror of dealing with Kosovo insurgency was happening in the very center of Belgrade this time, not in some remote hills down south – the place they pathetically recognise as ‘the holy land of Kosovo,’ but which most of them never actually seen for themselves, so for them it exists only in the space of contemporary mythology – behind TV screens and on the pages of the yellow press. Therefore they brought a life-size image of Legija, dressed in his military uniform, sprinkled with medals and decorations, believing that this powerful criminal/war hero himself will lead the ‘exorcism campaign’ and chase the menace out, both from the gallery and from ‘our society’ at large. They might have believed that the image of the dead Adem Jashari was there to herald an attempt to invade Serbia, announced by the Kosovo politicians intended aim to formally claim independence for their province. The ‘situation’ couldn’t be more serious: Serbia is under siege, and the first enemy commando units have just started to position themselves in, no less, the very heart of Belgrade. They sent the best they got – we need to answer by mobilizing our finest… So, send for Legija!

Act three

Supersized image of Legija arrived at the showdown with enemy images / Screenshot from FOX TV report
Supersized Adem Jashari image standing above the entrance of the Center of Youth and Sport of Priština (Image: Ferran Cornellà, Wikipedia)

As for the dispositions within this drama, the starting positions of these actors-images were as follows: Jashari and Elvis standing in the gallery facing each other and Legija on the street outside, facing towards the gallery. The dialogue between the images in the gallery, one presenting what is among some, quite possibly the majority of Kosovo Albanians, dubiously perceived as the hero of the armed liberation struggle, and the other presenting fast-paced consumerism and the smoke screen of nihilism of contemporary capitalism, was very tense. They were facing each other, Elvis pulled out the gun first and had an obvious advantage over the still unaware and unprepared Jashari, so the outcome implied is obvious – Jashari goes down. Maybe he is ‘down’ already, if we take the Warhollesque style of rendering the images as an indicator of ‘whose aesthetics/politics rule’ – Jashari, rendered like this, goes straight to t-shirts and coffee mugs and postcards and whatnot, becoming the commodified image for mass consumption of pop-nationalism, with hysterical consumerism embedded – so not only is he down and out as such, but his remains, his image, only serve to further feed the dominance of ‘the principle of Elvis.’ Whatever search and struggle for ‘distinctiveness’ and ‘identity’ Kosovo Albanians have tried to achieve, presented in this unfortunate but (apparently) unavoidable image of Jashari, it is already doomed to fail and to become part of the ‘One world, one dream’ of consumerist culture and politics as conceived by Hollywood or ‘Viva Las Vegas’…

Act one

If that was the intended problematic of Dren Maliqi when he contemplated the work in Prishtine, the one of capitalism and cultural hegemony and contemporary societies-in-transition and their dilemmas and positions, then it could be read as such in all places but Serbia – this is where this image would mean something else. It is only in Serbia that Jashari could overshadow Elvis in their mutual confrontation, and come out as a temporary winner, as the one whose ‘meaning’ weighs more. But it was only in Serbia that his ‘meaning’ could be different from what Maliqi could have possibly meant by facing the two – here, Elvis had to resort to the tactics of acting from ‘behind,’ appearing in the local context as a silent and almost invisible escort to Jashari, but arranging in advance that Legija will wait in ambush, so that Jashari will be taken in the cross-fire at the very spot. But, how Elvis did it? What is this strange alliance between Elvis and Legija, and how did it come into being? Did he call Legija in advance, saying: “Listen, Elvis here. I know you don’t really like me and that you prefer some local chetniks or at least some Rambo characters as your pop icons; but never mind that now, (now singing in his deep and smooth voice):

Soon I’ll be visiting with the one you really hate, and I can deliver him to you on a plate, so here’s the place and the date

(Now, getting serious again:) I’ll keep this Jashari guy entertained and watching at me, so you can sneak in from the back and do your thing. Just pretend I am not there and that I never called, OK?” Here we can imagine Legija listening with a grin on his face, but, being experienced in the business as he is, asking, just in case: “What do I owe you for this?”, and Elvis answering: “Nothing. My pleasure. Just forget that I called.” before he hangs up.

Opening & closing within three minutes: happenings inside the gallery

If we read the images so that they tell us that Jashari was not aware of what Elvis was plotting from the very beginning, being caught by surprise by Elvis pulling out the gun first, then in a similar manner Jashari couldn’t be less prepared to face Legija on Legija’s own terrain – after all, in this story he had his eye on Elvis, trying to understand this threatening gun-pulling move by what he thought was his ally. So we could conclude that only in Serbia Jashari may be tricked into believing that it is he, and not Elvis, who is of significance, just to find himself in the very next moment under ferocious attack by Legija from behind, with Elvis laughing in the ‘audience’… In this play, it seems that Jashari had no choice really, but to go down – the very nature of his static and two-dimensional image made him look in just one direction at the time – and that was towards Elvis. He could not do anything against Legija at his back; if he turned to face Legija, he would expose his back to Elvis and his cocked gun…

It seems that Dren Maliqi had in mind just one story, the one of dialogue (or rather a two-fold dramatic monologue) between Jashari and Presley, between the new subjected subjectivities whose production is being outsourced to Prishtine, and the ‘headquarters,’ the ‘source code’ of it; that is, the one about the (im)possibilities of radically new subjectivities within the hyper-capitalism of the global scale of today, and about ‘the market of identities’ as the borders of the contemporary ‘world-as-we-know-it.’ But to this other, entirely different story, involving Legija in ambush, the images of Jashari accompanied by the stealth presence of Elvis were invited by the organisers and producers of the show. To them, and to Maliqi at the end, it should have been obvious that it is precisely in Serbia that the historical/materialistic aspects of the work and the ‘original’ position of the author would be rendered in a different meaning, the one in which the work questions the idea of a nation, and not a class, and where the target of the critique is not placed in the headquarters of a corporation or a bank or at the other side of a TV screen, but behind the closest national border. They should have known that Elvis had Legija’s’ number set on fast dial in his comprehensive phonebook. Allow me for some therapeutical paranoia here: sometimes it seems that Elvis has a phonebook with all the numbers out there, even the ones which we think do not have any subscribers yet…

Demolition of the work Face to Face by Dren Maliqi, Kontekst Gallery, 7th of February 2008

This kind of ‘misreading’ could have been avoided only if the exhibition was not realized in the form of national cultural representation, as it was articulated; if that was not the case, the intended position of Jashari’s image would not so easily become the victim of Presley’s plot. But within this ‘national selection’ scenario, the only one who could benefit was Elvis, and so it happened: the quick outcome of this staged encounter of the three was that Jashari was left lying on the floor, torn to pieces by Legijas people, and that Legija himself was easily handled and chased away by the police, exactly like the convict he is. A while ago he had his moment in which this kind of disgrace would have been unimaginable, but now ‘the real bosses’ see no purpose in having him around, except for a low-level dirty jobs such as street mobbing. And just a short remark here: we shouldn’t assume that in this text it is Jashari who is of concern to us at all, and that in this script the writer sees him as ‘the victim’ of some kind; what is of interest here is this dialogue itself, the dialogue which renders some important relations visible, of which we always should try to learn more, even if it is only Jashari echoing in a distorted manner whatever Elvis says (like when an adult is trying to learn a difficult foreign language). It is this dialogue which is missing now, broken and silenced by the sudden disappearance of Jashari, or any similar counterpart or twisted mirror image of Elvis – but, you know, Elvis doesn’t like to be mocked with. Nor does he want his business practices to be revealed for everybody to see and discuss – his relations to Jashari or his calls to Legija is no public affair. In public, he wants to be taken seriously, at all times. He does not need or even like any spotlight on him anymore, as these days he is in training and teaching business, like the old primadonna of the Russian ballet mentoring the new generation – his wrinkles are not for showing, really. But catching headlines and being in the spotlight and generally projecting a huge image is what he teaches his students to be good at. By any means necessary.

Act four

The last man standing

So, as so many times before: Elvis successfully disappeared at the beginning of the story, only to emerge as the last man standing at the end… It does remind of the story of Walter Benjamin and his childhood fascination with socks. According to his own memories (Berlin Childhood Around 1900), the socks in Benjamin household were put away in the closet and wrapped up in a way that little Walter always thought that they were actually a ‘present,’ contained in what he proclaimed to be ‘the pocket.’ After each careful intervention to get to the present hidden in the pocket, he had to unfold the thing, and it turned out that there was not much of a present inside, the ‘pocket’ itself disappeared, and the third thing suddenly emerged as ‘true’ – a sock. There are different interpretations of what this story actually means, including a few from Benjamin himself. The most common is the one in which he says that “It taught me that form and content, veil and what is veiled, are the same.” Then, some years later, he added: “They (the present and the pocket) were one – and, to be sure, a third thing too: the sock into which they had been transformed.” This may have been the reason why, in some of Benjamin’s’ stories, there is often something (like a dwarf) hiding in something else (like a ball, or automaton). In a similar manner, in what most people may have seen as ‘the battle of icons,’ the one between Jashari and Legija, when trying to determine what is the essence of it, and who may have won – as victory has to be the outcome of the battle – all of a sudden we discover that both Jashari and Legija vanished into thin air, and that there is only the image of Elvis, appearing ‘out of nowhere’ to answer our inquiry…

But it seems that the ‘sock story’ doesn’t end here.

The Applause

The same may actually have happened with the whole event around the ‘Exception.’ It was supposed to be the exhibition of young artists from Prishtine; but, eventually, there was no exhibition (it was never opened), and there were none of the artists from Prishtina around (this is a different affair altogether, which also seems very important to be analyzed on a different occassion) – anyhow, what emerged as ‘existing’ at the end was RUK!, an ad-hoc initiative of self-proclaimed ‘workers in culture’ of Belgrade’s’ contemporary critical art scene (and, for the record, of which I was a sort of the auxillary part of). RUK! felt that the attack on the autonomy of the institution of art from the side of fascists and ultra-nationalists had to be countered by the organized response of the united actors of what is perceived as ‘the field of culture.’

Artwork, protected by police

And, truly enough, there was no attempt, not even a symbolic one, to ‘protect’ the exhibition and its producers by any formal institution – the police did the legal minimum of keeping ‘the situation’ under control, in a way they have seen ‘appropriate.’ Their tactics point to the possibility that they allowed for ‘controlled detonation’ through  allowing the destruction of Maliqis work to happen inside the gallery, in order to prevent a wider escalation of such an overcharged atmosphere onto the streets outside. This clearly demonstrates that they related to the works in the gallery as to a ‘non-art,’ denying themselves their own policing function, which in this discourse would be to protect the art by all means, both in a symbolical and historical/material sense. But, in this order of things, the first instance has to be the place from where the canonization is being conducted; an instance of power, walking around and pointing the finger at whatever, saying “This is art. And this. This is not. This is also not…” Police walk behind, taking notes, making lists of orders, and then delegating forces around the things marked as ‘art,’ so as to police them. Regarding this particular event, the very place from where such canonization should arrive was perceived as powerless, or wrong, or plainly ‘outside the system’; so the police decided on their own that it is not ‘the art’ but ‘public order’ which they are in charge of protecting in this case – in other words, the police refused to take down notes in which the image of Jashari, or the other images and objects encompassed by this exhibition, could be designated as ‘art.’ This denial of function continued with the police insisting that the exhibition can not be opened and that the rest of the ‘objects’ should be removed from the space as soon as possible, as they can not ‘guarantee the safety’ of the organisers, visitors and works – a decision really, to which the Kontekst gallery had to comply with. Again, the police refused to accept that this event could be canonized into ‘the exhibition,’ and that those ‘things’ could be verified as ‘art.’ So RUK! decided that through their wider joint initiative, involving some ‘more established’ and perceived-as-powerful ‘workers in culture,’ another and more successful attempt should be made towards achieving the position of power necessary to execute this canonization.

But the vast majority of the official ‘institutions’ did not bother to fulfill even their ‘functional minimum,’ not even in at least a form of communiqué, a statement, a condemnation of violence and/or a call for the exhibition to be open and accessible. This may appear as odd, as the unofficial leadership of RUK! itself consisted of people who were in prominent positions at the Ministry of Culture, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the University, powerful NGO’s… Why all those high-profile public figures decided that they will not act from the position of their official functions, but from the position of their personal names is, again, something which seems to be very important to keep in mind and analyze further in attempt to understand both the previous social constellation, the conditions of the emergence and the consequences of RUK!’s actions. Also, there is the moment of ‘self-marginalization,’ which is characteristic of not only this particular initiative, but of many others; however, on this occasion we will not explore that route. To continue: what followed, whatever RUK! contemplated at its several subsequent (and quite vivid) joint meetings and in numerous smaller-group/private exchanges, was a complete institutional silence. Yes there was a newspaper issued and the public conference organized at the end, but the final outcome clearly demonstrated that this group of people had no power to re-canonize what was once already rejected as ‘a work of art.’ This seemed to come as a bit of a surprise for some of the actors involved, as it appeared that they believed that their personal names had more power in the ‘public discourse’ on all things art; and there may be certain reasons for why they might have believed so, but which is a topic of separate analysis. Of course, it is so easy to be analytical post-festum, from the distance of historical perspective, once ‘everything is over’ – to be analytical in the contemporaneity of the event is where the kung-fu is…

Face to face, back to back

Vladimir Jerić Vlidi


1The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge – unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.”

Walter Benjamin: Theses on the Philosophy of History (Spring 1940), translation by Harry Zohn []

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.

Jelena Vesić, Dušan Grlja, Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

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.

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.