Culture is future » Territorial attractiveness and social cohesion

09.17.2012

Article - Serbia: Where is culture going?

TKH -Walking theory- group: forerunner of “Artivism” in Serbia 

TKH Walking Theory - Teorija koja Hoda - is an artistic Serbian association and plateform from Belgrade. TKH organizes cultural projects in the public area and also conducts theorical and artistic researches. Since its creation in 2000, the group operates as an independent organization. In 2002 TKH creates “TKH Center for performing arts theory and practice.” TKH does not claim any political membership even if it receives some funds from the state. All the projects of TKH walking Theory work for a realization of the culture's critical condition in Serbia 

TKH’s activities are a theoretical praxis in the fields of contemporary performing arts. They are realized through several programs: an online platform (www.tkh-generator.net),  “TKH- Journal for Performing Art Theory” (downloadable on the Website) which is talking about activities of the group; Educational programs (PATS, Dramaturgical training, Deschooling classroom, Knowledge Smuggling); theoretical and practical events (Protools, choregraphic performance, conferences and laboratory.); conferences organized by foreign artists and theorists; programs dedicated to a critical reflection of the local scene (Forum for the Performing Arts Criticism, Walking critic) [1].

TKH seems to be forerunner of “Artivist” movement in Belgrade. “Artivism” is a neologism constructed from “Activism” and “Art”, it translates action into art. The first aim is to communicate, transmit opportunities to speak, act, create, feel and share this art philosophy in a crisis-struck Serbia.

Culture, poor relative government priority

Many complaints are made to the government including the apparent indifference to culture. The Serbian government spends a small part of the general budget on culture (0,83%). This result comes probably from the non-lucrative image of this field. 30% of the budget allocated to culture is for State workers salaries. Some of those employees, influential figures close to the president, would organize gigantic cultural events in order to get funds for the government thanks to their fame. Events are more like blockbuster production, art and culture are no longer highlighted and they receive no promotion. We can take for example the "Belgrade Design Week", which took place from May twenty ninth to June 15th 2012. On the website [2] introducing the event, we notice that the President of the Republic is the head of the event made to regroup the most creative minds of the XXI century. One can also see a program designed to highlight the "Smart Stars". The government made ​​from this cultural event a political and fashionable one.

It also criticizes the government's incomprehensibility and lack of transparency in budget allocation. Indeed, the question remains: How is information managed, structured and distributed? In Serbia, there is an absence of mediators or of agents specialized in the field of culture. The most explicit data in terms of budget distribution are in the economic, demographic and financial fields. Data on the budget allocated to culture are incomprehensible to the majority and are not suitable to be released freely to public access. “Funding mechanisms do not reveal anything, the data are not available and even if they were, it would not be understandable” [3]. In front of this disorganization, a group of artists, designers, sociologists and art students commonly mounted Visible Data Project Financing Culture, and seek by themselves hidden informations in order to make them public. This action shows the problem of transparency of public funding in culture at local, regional and national level in the Republic of Serbia

A shift in culture's budgetary allocations

The distribution of the budget seems random, as it was denounced in the document Visible Data Financing Culture which was made to make the budget understandable to all citizens. Marko Rakić, Igor Zaro, Fedor Blaščák, three participants to the project take the example of a television channel based in Novi Sad, in the north of the country, which accounts for 8.92% of the culture's budget given to the city. Furthermore they say that this channel is very close to the government. The budget for culture is frozen, and members of the government promote the restoration of old buildings and the organization of traditional festivals. Politics seem unfavorable to contemporary creation, Marko Radić regrets: "Small guys with great ideas do not get much of a chance to shine" [4].

This action born from a social impulse highlights the degree of involvement of civil society and the artists in the creation of a fulfilling artistic life. According to Tables Project Visible Data Financing Culture, with figures from 2010, the budget for culture represents 6 317 268 000 Serbian dinars or 58 809 048 euros. From the total culture's budget of the Republic of Serbia, only 2.98% are distributed to non-governmental organizations. It represents 188 400 000 DIN (1 753 863 34 €). TKH collective actions or projects like Visible Data Financing Culture are a sign of a social and political post-war crisis which, because of cultural inertia of the State, promotes spontaneous initiatives of independent organisms aspiring to the cultural reconstruction of an entire country through culture.

Creativity and openness to the public are being undermined by politics but actively taken up by these groups and artists, actors from the cultural and artistic scene of Belgrade. Beyond financial resources, current cultural policies according to the actors of the cultural scene in Belgrade, lack of organization and above all transparency. A phenomenon that leads to a questioned culture in Belgrade and Serbia in general.

 

A contribution of the University of Avignon, by Méghann Fouéré.

 

[1]  http://www.tkh-generator.net/platform