Lexicon for the Provisional Future(s)

Project-based forever

May 15th, 2008

I am personally interested in hypothetical scenarios. “Doing something” in Skopje despite the fact that it seems way to peripheral when comparing to other capitals in Europe, seemed at first a strange decision for an emerging artists. I wondered with whom and how I could work and maybe the interest into the hypothetical can be exercised from a safe distance, let say Berlin. But with time I understood that the main motivation for my involvement in the cultural discourse in Macedonia comes from the conviction that a change of the preconceived and outmoded definitions of what is artistic, social and political involvement in our cultural context is actually more provocative here, in a place that is somehow left out from the wider international discourse.

Since 2004, together with artist Hristina Ivanoska, we have tried to address two main issues concerning cultural production in Macedonia. First, we wanted to encourage critical thinking and instigate collaborations among local and international curators and artists by establishing press to exit project space, our program-oriented platform in Skopje. Second, we strived to contribute in the effort to put the artistic and curatorial production from Skopje on the international map.

Considering the fact that progressive cultural input in Macedonia is resting primarily on initiatives established and promoted by the independent non-governmental sector, we feel we are not working in a cultural void. On the contrary, while the opportunity to merge experience and contemporary urgency is still eluding state-established institutions, the independent sector is not wasting any time to join in more constructive alternative networks that influence and sustain further growth and development of ideas. And although these networks give a sense of belonging in a wide-reaching framework and inspire greater and more critical cultural productions, in a state of incoherent local dialogue, a negative trend of isolationism prevails. The “independents” are seen as “internationalists” representing some form of “western” values that are inconclusive with the state-idealized ideas of cultural identity. Therefore, instead of discussing contemporary culture with greater interest, we leave it somewhat marginalized, and by doing so, we miss out on recognizing the potential of our young cultural practitioners as a valuable force towards our pending European integration.

The seeds that we have planted are universal and have to do with purpose, sacrifice and camaraderie. In order to fight the deeply rooted inertia in our society when it comes to change and action in the way cultural politics are being discussed, we learned how to solidify energies and work together not against each other. Patience is a difficult proposition to a generation that has seen the process of social, political and economic transition take way to long, or 17 years to be precise since the brake up of Yugoslavia. But we hope that by encouraging ourselves to continue our work despite the lack of support from the state, we are allowing those that are still reluctant to embrace social and cultural change. And that is a very positive characteristic of my generation: do not forget the ones that need your support. It is a reverse logic, while we are the ones needing their support, our actions and programs make it seems that they are doing a good job in providing opportunities.

By analyzing what we have to offer, we have to be careful not to fall in the trap of sounding ironic: we need a faster integration in the European framework. So far that is not happening, or at least, not fast enough. Maybe the theory that “you are your own worst enemy” is relevant when speaking about the Balkans: we have been dealt a though draw to continually compete with our own insecurities and legacies of recent (and not so recent) history of conflicts and hate. In a state of constant reexamination, I wonder how long it will take before we bridge the gap with Western Europe and move away from the status of candidate into member. The status of “ongoing temporality” to everything we do originates in the sense of not having feasible ways to experience the western concept of “pragmatic ideology.”  At the end, it is maybe a combination of hunger and anger that things don’t move fast enough, that make us consider a provisional future. For only when we begin to experience on our turf what our western colleagues have known all along, we could “graduate” from the contradictory state of temporal enthusiasm toward a more sustainable and enriched cultural discourse.

Yane Calovski

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