Lexicon for the Provisional Future(s)

Hijacked Referendum

May 12th, 2008

The plan for hijacking a referendum (and deliver a Stockholm Syndrome to its beneficiaries) is being plotted for very concrete reasons that Serbian society dealt with in the last and will deal with in the next ten-year period. Nevertheless, the rationale and reasoning of this plot could be of a broader interest elsewhere. As it is the case with any cultural or political plot, it has its politics and its policy. The politics of this referendum is founded on the belief that it is necessary to overcome the situation in which the state apparatus is incapable of articulating common interest. The policy is based partly on the experience of recent referendums in Serbia (which substantially twisted and manipulated the possibility of free choice) and partly on the experiences of a few art-projects and works I participated in.

As for the experience of recent referendums in Serbia, it is enough to mention only the last one, organized to confirm the new constitution. It lasted two days during which public sphere and thus voters opinion was heavily influenced by television appearances of YES lobbyists. The weak control of voting was obvious. Some citizens could vote on two places, or in the name of other persons. While such a background gives a site-specific aura to the project of hijacking it also recalls some paranoid doubts about more sophisticated manipulations. Thus, in political terms, the hijacking of a referendum is an utmost renovation of the idea for public interest to be haunted and introduced.

The policy of this project could rely on experiences of provoking and articulating the interest or opinion of the community or a group.  Thus the mapping and tracing the interstices and voids in ruling ideology and in the ideology of those who rule could enable the realization of a referendum in ten years. It could include peer-to-peer referendums, street ballot-boxes, e-mail voting, secret voting, influenced voting etc. The goal is to locate and present the supposedly existing but suppressed will of the majority of citizens. I am equally interested in the artistic potential of hijacking this favorite tool of state manipulation in politics and in the political perspectives of such a project/process.

In short, concept is to start the realization of the first referendum via kind of peer-to-peer inquiry in Belgrade. The idea is that in the course of time everybody asks and answers the same question.

In that period citizens of Serbia and Kosovo can consider Kosovo both as an independent state and as the autonomic region of Serbia. After realizing the first referendum for which an estimated period is five years, we could start with the follow-up referendum in Kosovo. After the supposed acting-out of the good will of two neighbouring peoples, the plan is to: make two more referendums, a bit less artistic in form because the state administrations would be in charge for their realization.

After the reconciliation period of ten years, citizens of Kosovo should vote on referendum to continue to be an independent state or to continue to be an autonomic region in Serbia. At present, the participation in this referendum I see as more a formal or solidarity gesture by Kosovo community. It would give Serbia the opportunity to legally recognize and accept its results, legitimizing for its own sake the necessity of fulfilling the citizen’s will. In the reconciliation period, the Serbian authorities would have every opportunity to lobby for the will of Kosovo people to rejoin Serbia. Besides of considering how to deal with all the atrocities and discrimination that were happening in Kosovo, Serbia would have a serious chance to think through its present notions of political citizenship in the light of its territorial, economic and legislative inherencies. Given the fact how neuralgic are the problems that burden relations of Kosovo and Serbia, neuralgic also on the European scope and the global level (collisions of “developed” – “underdeveloped”, “Christian” – “Muslim”, “western” – “oriental” meaning colonial and anticolonial societies and cultures etc) the creative involvement of everyone’s thought and interest in this process is to be expected.

The benefit that Serbians would have for a prior acceptance of the referendum results is the formation of an autonomic region in the north of Kosovo. This region – in turn – would also have the opportunity to realize it’s own referendum ten years after the referendum in Kosovo. The government of Kosovo will be obliged to respect the results of this referendum but also would have a ten years period to lobby for the decision it is interested in.

It is easy to realize that the initiative for inventing possibilities and advantages of emancipatory politics on the level of the contemporary and future state would be at the beginning on the side of Serbia and in the end on the side of Kosovo that supposedly would emerge after the first referendum. It is also obvious that all the reasoning of “Serbia’s argumentation” in the first ten years would be reflected and competed by the of Kosova’s argumentation in the period that follows.

I believe that this systematic process would yield opportunities that present situation cannot offer – the establishing of peaceful and friendly relations between Kosovo and Serbia, Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo and Serbia and Serbs and Albanians in general. That is to say between “developed” and “underdeveloped”, “Christian” and “Muslim”, “western” and “oriental”, “colonial” and “anticolonial” of the world.

Nebojsa Milikic

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