Proyectos Curatoriales / Curatorial Projects
09/2018 / Hestia, Belgrade, Serbia.
We are living in a beautiful wOURld
In 2007 diSTRUKTURA, formed by Milica Milićević (1979) and Milan Bosnić (1969), started an artistic project titled We are living in a beautiful wOURld. Through it they gathered documents and photographs tied to their closest emotional context: that of their friends in exile. A large number of young people was departing in search of opportunities and a better life, leaving Serbia, a country which since the beginnings of the Yugoslav Wars in 1991 found itself in a situation of not only political and economic but also existential crisis.
Between 2013 and 2016 their work continued in Austria, trailing the paths of immigrants from Ex-Yugoslavia in the cities in which they had established themselves. In this process, their friends´ photographs and the emails they exchanged telling their experience of adaptation, became a research about specific contexts of immigrants that worked in the context of culture in this country. The documentary work extended to encompass interviews as well. Collected in a series of videos, testimonies altered with pathways of the most significant places of their lives in the new cities.
The visual drifts by which the artists formalised this project showed not only this series of subjective cartographies but also a map of their departure and arrival reflecting on identity, integrity and making of the relationship with others. Following the model of the situationist psychographies, the drawings of these places, the films and their access through QR codes were exhibited for the first time in 2013 in Akademie Graz, in Graz, extending the show in public space by placing the aforementioned codes at the locations they were referring to. In late 2016 the project was extended and showcased as an indoor installation at the solo exhibition organised by the KunstHalle, also in Graz. In April 2015 a version of that installation was part of the group show Wander Lab at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vojvodina in the city of Novi Sad, Serbia. Finally, We are living in a beautiful wOURld was presented in May 2018 at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Subotica, Serbia.
Upon Hestia Belgrade´s invitation diSTRUKTURA has followed up on their research in a different context: the migration of artists, intellectuals and other agents of the Latin American cognitive capital in the cities of Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. This change of direction, from East to West -from Ex-Yugoslavia to Austria – has now become a transit from West to East – from South America to Spain-, and it allows us to think alongside these paths, in these lines of drifts relating to our identities and emotions and mostly about the processes of establishments of life models in the context of the globalisation of post industrial capitalism (1). These transits are not casual. They refer to a colonial and imperialist past but also to a post-colonial reality in which the territories of the so called Global South are found. A geopolitical concept which reflects the realities and similarities, but also the opportunities and challenges which unite the regions of Latin America and East Europe – a relationship that is the primary focus for Hestia and the projects it develops – together with Asia and the Middle East.
Historic cartographies: colonial and neo-colonial migratory movements
We are not so far away. The 12.620 km which physically separate Santiago de Chile, the furthest city of origin of this project, and Belgrade could be linked in time by conquests which are not so distant. From a materialist point of view, they are united by movements and strategies of power which seek the same purpose: territorial control and its productive and consumer capacity, as well as its strategic geography in order to preserve the economic control.
In Modernity there was a last name which brought together this power: the Habsburgs. It is the same lineage of the kings of the Spanish Empire who organised the control of the recently conquered America (since Carlos V). It is also the name of the regents of the initial Sacred Roman Germanic Empire and later Austro-Hungarian Empire, key figures of the many difficulties of Europe´s centre and its fight for the East. Its history, under the flag of progress cannot be dissociated from the battles, massacres and movements of people in the world since the 16th century. The romantic processes of emancipation and nationalism which took place in the 19th century rose up against the structures that they themselves had made (in Spain´s case against the structure that the Bourbons inherited since 1700).
In this way we can trace a chronology of the economic interests of control over the sources of wealth, production and consumption -disguised with different masks of independence, nationalism, religion or the expansion of democratic models- as a motivation for the states, old and new, the revolutions of the elite until the Soviet expansion, the different ways of European migration produced around the First and Second World War, the colonial economic control of Europe and the United States of America, the politics of pro-European pacification in the Balkans or the arrival of Spanish corporations in Latin America.
Nowadays it can be argued that we are still moving alongside colonial transits, despite the apparent sensation of mobility and freedom that the immaterial work could offer, where the metropolis, now deterritorialised, is the capital. It is the transits that begin in order to conquer new worlds (markets) from the centres to the peripheries. Or like in the cases of this project, the ones produced in search of opportunities from the peripheral and/or colonial regions, historically beaten up and with dissimilar and violent life conditions. In this way the flux of people towards the ancient metropolises does not stop, still privileged in their politico-economic structures.
The city as stage
If there is a common stage to all the protagonists of this large history it would have the morphology of the Modern city.
Belgrade with its inheritance of the French illustrated model and Austrian palaces, mixed with the traces of the Ottoman model and Communist progress, is now testimony of the rise of skyscrapers built by Middle Eastern investors while there are still remains from the NATO bombings in 1999. It is estimated that around 12.000 youngsters leave the country every year, positioning itself as the second to last on the list that measures the ‘capacity of retaining talent’(2). According to the United Nations, in 2011 Serbia´s migration was 313.411, 22% of that residing in Austria (3).
Graz was the Habsburg´s residence between the 14th and 17th centuries. Occupied by Napoleon and bombed during the Second World War, it still preserves the baroque stamp of its palaces and churches. Nowadays it is known for its university and cultural festivals, which have provided new structures for the city such as the Murisenl, an auditorium situated in the middle of the Mur river. About 7% of its population comes from countries of ex-Yugoslavia (4).
Madrid, the kingdom´s capital and headquarter of the political power, colonising metropolis. Its condition of court and/or capital has made it receptive of people from all over the world. Its institutional and economic growth can be traced in the historic centre of palaces, squares and churches. It has been reformed since the beginning of the last century, extending itself onto successive avenues in which big corporations and banks have settled. Since the middle of the 20th century a number of anodyne neighbourhoods have risen in its surroundings to receive the different waves of migration. In 2018, 43% of the immigrant population in the city is of Latin American origin (5).
Barcelona is the symbol of the brand city, spectacular in its image and in the growth of the tourist industry, which has converted its centre in a big park of cultural entertainment. Many of the big emblems of this situation are found in the Modernist architecture from the beginning of the 20th century. Buildings which have risen thanks to the industrial growth and the commerce developed with the ancient colonies. In the second half of the 20th century it continued its development, growing thanks to the flood of internal migration and the urban and real estate plans developed around the 1922 Olympic Games in. Today, more than 92.000 people of Latin American origin are registered in its census (6).
Spain implemented a specific model of urbanism in its American colonies. Many of its historic centres preserve the same orthogonal reticle distribution with a main central square where the church and the government headquarters are located. In the 19th century, with the consecutive proclamation of independence between 1811 and 1898, most of the new illustrated governments constructed governmental palaces in the capital cities and following the modernising tendencies they opened up new avenues and facilitated ministries, hospitals, academies, theatres and museums. If we focus on the cities of origin of the people interviewees in diSTRUKTURA´s project, we can see this evolution in Santiago de Chile, Bogotá, Quito, San José, and specially in Buenos Aires, which until the 1940s lived a grand opulence which reverted the magnificence of the city. In the following decades of the 20th century, a series of developmental projects stood out which realised themselves in an international rationally styled architecture. Brasilia is the most significant case since it has been risen form zero, but this idea of progress is also present in the architecture of the city of Caracas.
At the present time the same problems of violence, class difference and marginality of different degrees can be recognised in all of them, inherited from the colonial and post-colonial economic systems and its influence on the local government and economy, be it for opposition or intrusion. According to the study Latin American city: theories, actors and conflicts: “The phenomenon of marginality will be pointed out as the principal obstacle for development. On one hand, for bearing witness to the incapacity of the economic systems of the region to incorporate to the productive process those groups which engage in areas of limited qualification and productivity (Rosenblüth, 1968). On the other hand, because of the political threat that represented the popular avalanche on the cities in the different precarious living formats (barriadas en Lima, callampas en Santiago de Chile, favelas en Río de Janeiro, villas miseria en Buenos Aires, etc.) (Rios, 1960)”(7). An idea of development which has left no trace of vernacular architecture or of inclusion of other models of living from the original villages.
Processes of hospitality, hostility and deterritorialisation
The movements of this artistic research started in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela towards Barcelona and Madrid; the motives span from the search of new work opportunities to love relationships. But in all of them, bureaucracy and the limits for obtaining the status of legal citizenship and to be able to live and practice a productive lucrative activity are similar.
In 1995 and 1996 French philosopher Jacques Derrida imparted the “Seminar on Hospitality” at the Institute Mémoires de l´Édition Contemporaine, close to Caen, France (8). In these sessions he differentiated between “the law of the hospitality” and the “laws of hospitality”. The first refers to a universal concept of unconditional acceptance of the other in one own´s space. The laws, in plural, on the other hand, refer to the specific political measures defined by the law and the culture of a society and the state. Derrida identifies in both a condition and ambiguity in the power relation of the one who is accepting and the one being accepted, reflecting always in a structure of dominance and subordination. The host always perceives the guest as a being in temporal transit, someone who arrives and at a certain point will leave. Biopolitics, and specially migratory regulations reflect this condition of temporality and incapacity in the establishing of a harmonius relationship with the Other, creating thus a situation of hostility.
Historically, the relationships between host and guest (invited or imposed) were founded in the different examples of colonialism in an implicit and explicit violence. Today hostility is not only practiced by the control of states and their politics. Nowadays, it affects the being in its condition of transit, not only physical, favoured and perpetuated by globalisation and the capitalist cognitive system which does not cease to be a sort of neo-colonisation. Berardo Bifo, Italian theorist, reflects in his latest book: “Cultural nomadism has become in a sickness generalised in the era of globalisation of the labour markets and media communications. Nomadism, the process of cultural deterritorialisation and its subsequent psychological exile, affects profoundly the perception of the ‘I’, causing psychological suffering at the same time as it opens new perspectives of imagination and identification” (9). That is where the challenge lies: in our capacity to re-imagine ourselves and construct new forms of relationships with the Other and therefore new forms of living.
Drift as resistance
Milica Milićević and Milan Bosnić propose to Patricio, Francisco, Andrea, Roy, Dayana and Aymara to show us their paths, their movements. They speak to us about concepts of adaptation and translation, but we also trace together with them a route through the emotional places which constitute the being. The six protagonist elaborate a cartography of desire (10), of those micro-politics which unite in a mix of compromise, resistance, refuge, escape, leisure and/or work, and which are the reflex of the characteristics and different ways of life of each one of them. In identifying of their power to resist is the first step to create “new perspectives of imagination and identification” which Bifo proposes.
In order to achieve this, diSTRUKTURA adopts from the situationists the strategies of drift and psycho-geographic maps. Among the experiences developed by the Situationist International between 1957 and 1972 (11) the situationists proposed processes of decontextualisation and re-contextualisation of the urban thread through discontinuous situations and subjective experiences in the city. In this way, in the psycho-geographic maps, such as the Guide psycogéographique de Paris. Discours sur les passions de l´amour and The naked city realized by Guy Debord in 1957, the plan of the city is reconstructed in autonomous zones linked by arrows or vectors of desire. This diagram expresses the drifts realised in each occasion: a free exercise of wandering without a direction and without a productive goal in the city. This action aimed at escaping the transits imposed by the bourgeois life model and its politic and economic capitalist structure and mediated the autonomy around the individual (12).
In the maps of WE from in betWEen we would walk from the Parque del Oeste (West Park) in Madrid to the beaches situated East of the city of Barcelona. The stories, descriptions, photographs, the drawings and the frottages (rubbing) of the city´s surface document in a qualitative way the possibilities of escaping, the attempts of adaptation and the survival modes in the global cognitive capitalism, be it from the takeover of the model to its frontal opposition. They do it in a way that accentuates the materiality of the practice in the traces drawn by the artists and the images captured during their walks. Together with the words of immigrants landscape is constructed, not a rational one but one that refers to the memory and emotional experience. A collage which, as Julio Cortazar´s novel Rayuela (13), could be divided into chapters to be read in two different ways: in a traditional order -which the Argentine writer called “From the other side”- and in the proposal of a drift lecture, jumping from one fragment onto another- which he called “From diverse sides”.
Thought for action
A distinct sign which repeats itself in all the stories of WE from in betWEen is the allusion to the different ways of speech. Even if the common language for everyone is Spanish, each one of them tell their own experience of differentiation because of the accent and the use of words and expressions which are not common on the Iberian Peninsula. This ‘speech’ is defined as the “linguistic system of a region, locality or community, with its own features within another more extensive system” and also as the “individual act of the exercise of language, produced by choosing determined signs among the ones the language offers, through its oral and written realisation”(14). It is thus produced by difference.
Pancho is the affectionate nickname given to Francisco in America. It is the name of Chilean curator and researcher interviewed in Madrid. In his video he points out how ‘pancho’ is also used as a contemptuous name for South Americans. This fact and other aspects of his skin, his accent, his sexual identity, make him declare himself from a marginalised place. In this sense, Francisco refers to a theoretical text, How to live together? (15) by Roland Barthes in which there is an analysis of the concept of “idiorythmic community”. In the text, ‘idiorythm’ is defined as marginality, which is precisely where a new way of common life could take place. Barthes proposes to think of a community which inhabits emotionally the spaces, an emotion based on singularity, subjectivity, in the nuances or the different degrees. Therefore an opposition to any power structure. It is precisely in this concept that a possibility for action could be opened up for a new way of life together: a new active union in the inclusion of all differences.
(1) Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachussets, 2000.
(2) The World Economic Forum’s 2016/17 Global Competitiveness Report. https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-competitiveness-report-2016-2017-1 (last accessed 21/08/2018).
(3) Mirjana Bobić, Milica Vesković Anđelković, Vlasta Kokotović Kanazir, STUDY ON EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL MIGRATION OF SERBIA’S CITIZENS With Particular Focus On Youth, International Organization for Migration, Belgrade, 2016. https://serbia.iom.int/sites/default/files/publications/documents/Study%20on%20external%20and%20internal%20migration%20of%20Serbia%27s%20citizens%20with%20particular%20focus%20on%20Youth.pdf (last accessed 21/08/2018).
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(13) Julio Cortazar, Rayuela, Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires,1963.
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(15) Roland Barthes, Comment vivre ensemble. Simulations romanesques de quelques espaces quotidiens, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 2002.