Archive for Februar, 2012

Life is abroad – On the dismissal of Sreten Ugričić

Posted on: Februar 20th, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

Life is abroad

On the dismissal of Sreten Ugričić

by Melinda Nadj Abonji

The Chief Executive of the National Library of Serbia, Sreten Ugričić, signed a public letter as a member of the Belgrade Writers‘ Forum criticizing the public defamation of Montenegrin writer Andrej Nikolaidis. Following this, he was accused by the Serbian government of supporting terrorism and dismissed without notice from his position as Director of the National Library of Serbia.

 

Sreten Ugričić, author, philosopher, astronomer, conceptual artist, and until recently Director of the National Library of Serbia gave a reading last December on Saint Nicholas Day at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich. There, he presented his essay Das Leben ist Ausland (Life is Abroad), which he had written for the 2011 Leipzig Book Fair. When I say “presented”, it sounds dry, or even boring, while quite the opposite is true. It was a witty, inspirational evening. The Zurich audience reacted in an uncharacteristic manner, became actively involved and did not show any signs of tiredness although the evening’s event ultimately lasted two and a half hours. Following Sreten’s visit, I promptly decided to call to life a new series of events titled “Life is Abroad”. I wrote to Sreten and told him that, as his work had inspired this name, I would like to invite him as a guest, this time to present his novel To the Unknown Hero.

 

He answered me with the following mail: “Last few days I am in all media here, main news, because my Government wants to kick me out from the library. Minister of Police (who was in nineties among the closest assistants of Slobodan Milošević) yesterday told to journalist that I must be put in prison immediately because I support the assassination on our president Tadić. What can I tell you.”

 

Of course, I didn’t know what was going on. And there was no way I could write back and ask for more details. The fever and urgency expressed in these few lines revealed that Sreten had other things to worry about than me and my concern, or my questions about exactly what had happened. I started searching like crazy on the Internet, looking for his name, and it didn’t take long for something to turn up. A few hours after I had received Sreten’s mail, I read on a website that he had already been dismissed as the Director of the National Library. It said that the decision had been reached following an urgent government teleconference. It wasn’t until later that I found out the Minister of Culture, who had apparently stood up for Sreten, was the only one who had not taken part.

 

So how could Sreten have been removed from his position, despite the fact that the National Library had come to enjoy an international reputation during the years in which he was its Director? Despite the fact that the employees said of him, he was not only responsible for introducing technical innovations, but also placed a great deal of value on and encouraged cooperation and dialogue?

 

On 9 January, there were celebrations in Banja Luka in honour of the twenty-year anniversary of the foundation of “Republika Sprska”, a political entity of Bosnia. Political representatives from the Republic of Serbia, President Boris Tadić, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković and Minister of the Interior Ivica Daĉić came to Banja Luka to take part in the celebrations. On the evening before, police discovered an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and explosives in the basement of the sports hall where the event was to take place. In response, the Montenegrin parliamentarian and author Andrej Nikolaidis wrote a polemic commentary in an online medium on 11 January which one could refer to as ironic in tone, in some places even unreflected. Keeping in mind the fact that the Republika Srpska came into being on the basis of murder and expulsion, Nikolaidis asked whether it would not have been a “civilisational step forward”, if the explosives had gone off. The Belgrade press, and above all the government-friendly “Politika” quoted exactly this sentence from Nikolaidis’ text (which can be read at www.e-novine.com) in the full knowledge that the readers would be shocked, even hysterical in their reaction to it. The expected happened - the headlines vied to outdo one another in their venom and Nikolaidis was treated as a terrorist.

 

In response to this witch-hunt, the Forum of Writers felt obliged to issue a public plea clearly supporting freedom of expression and urging for the personal protection of Nikolaidis. It demanded that the media “Fatwa” against Nikolaidis be lifted and called for his speech to be published in full, so that the readers could reach their own conclusions about it. Sreten Ugriĉić signed this petition thus attracting the media witch-hunt in another direction. The tabloid newspaper “Press” headlined with: “That could only happen in Serbia: National Librarian supports the murder of President Tadić”.

 

The reaction of some members of the Serbian government did not take long and calls were issued for Sreten to step down immediately as Director of the National Library. That wasn’t enough for Minister of the Interior Ivica Daĉić, who argued in favour of throwing Sreten into prison as a supporter of terrorism. Ivica Daĉić, let it be known, was chairman of the Socialist Party during Milošević’ last years in power and a man who has never distanced himself, either publicly or explicitly, from the decisions taken by Serbia’s political elite during that time; nor has he ever accepted any responsibility for the role he played.

 

Why, one might ask, has the Director become the focus of so much hostile attention?

 

Sreten was appointed Director of the National Library ten years ago by Zoran Djindjic. He remained in office even after the latter was murdered, went on to modernise the library and, as already mentioned above, transformed it into a respected and much-frequented cultural institution.

 

He was constantly the object of hostility, incessantly, which almost certainly had to do with the fact that his speeches and literary texts had an electrifying effect, the words glowing with energy – the same energy that the audience in Zurich felt immediately in his presence. Before them, they perceived, was a man of sharp intellect, who is critical of every form of power, is capable of seeing things in a different and, in this case, a new light.

 

Sreten’s poetic sensibility is dedicated to a profound humaneness by declaring people capable of reaching their own conclusions and making their own decisions in life. And that, of course, is the greatest danger for all cynical authoritarian thinkers, who abuse words like democracy, constitution and freedom and, at the same time, accuse a person of being a terrorist who has done nothing else in his work and in his thinking than to advocate a free and open Serbia.

 

In a public speech at Belgrade’s Cultural Centre, Sreten said: “A warning to the police from a library terrorist: in the hall of the CCB there will be an explosion – not of a bomb, but of all of us present. And we shall win. Because, as you know: whoever attacks writers with a nightstick is defeated and hated from the start; while the one who reads – wins!”

 

www.pescanik.net

www.e-novine.com

 

Translated by Lindsay-Jane Munro

 

This text was provided by Istituto Svizzero di Roma, who is collaborating in solidarity to the 7th Berlin Berlin for Contemporary Art.

Public guided tours

Posted on: Februar 18th, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

Public guided tours

 

1-hour public tours in German take place in two exhibition sites and can be attended without advance reservation.

 

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Auguststrasse 69, 10117 Berlin-Mitte

every Thursday at 6pm, every Saturday at 2 and 4 pm

4 Euro, concessions 3 Euro

 

Meeting

In addition regular meetings will be held every Thursday at 7pm which will adress different issues of the exhibition

Regularly the meetings will take place at KW. Current information can be found on our website.

4 Euro, concessions 3 Euro

 

Combined ticket

Tour and meeting on Thursday or Saturday at KW

6 Euro, concessions: 5 Euro

Guided tours for groups and school classes

Posted on: Februar 18th, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

Guided tours for groups and school classes

art:berlin, in cooperation, offers guided tours for groups not larger than 20 persons upon registration. The tours are available in German, English, French, Polish, Italian and Turkish. An individual version of the guided tours can also be arranged.

 

Guided tours in German, English

Guided tours (1 hour): 95 Euro

Guided tours (2 hours): 185 Euro

Every additional hour: 90 Euro

 

For every other languages there will an additional charge of 15 Euro.

 

Guided tours for higher education seminars and courses

Guided tours (1 hour): 85 Euro

Guided tours (2 hours): 155 Euro

 

Guided tour for school classes

Guided tours (1 hour): 65 Euro

 

Bus tours for groups

For groups art:berlin offers guided bus tours which visit all exhibition venues: cost 32 Euro per person (minimum number of participants: 12).

 

Groups with individual guides

Please note that groups which bring their own guide have to register at art:berlin, info@artberlin-online.de or phone: 0049 (0)30–28096390, and need to pay a license fee of 25 Euro (max. 20 persons incl. guide).

 

FORGET FEAR

Posted on: Februar 13th, 2012 by Denhart von Harling 1 Comment

FORGET FEAR

The first publication of the 7th Berlin Biennale

edited by Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza.

 

“The first publication of the 7th Berlin Biennale—Forget Fear—is a report on real action within culture, on the uses of artistic pragmatism. It is about concrete dealings by artists, curators, and politicians that lead to visible effects. We’re interested in finding answers, not asking questions. We’re interested in situations where art acts for real and solutions are proposed and implemented responsibly. We are interested neither in preserving artistic immunity nor in distancing ourselves from society. We consider politics to be among the most complex and difficult of human activities. We sought out people—artists, activists, politicians—who engage in substantive politics through art.

 

Forget Fear includes texts and conversations with political leaders such as Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, who has significantly contributed to social change with a political theory stemming from art; theater-maker Árpád Schilling, who abandoned bourgeois theater to act directly within the political context of right-wing Hungary; Voina Group, who doesn’t believe in art without engagement; Tímea Junghaus, who uses art in a struggle against the oppression of the Roma people in Europe; the Brazilian underclass tagger groups Pixadores, who attacked the Sao Paolo Biennale; and the Icelandic Best Party, which came to power after the financial crash in 2008. All these actors use performative tools in order to make their cases, and to reveal the social and political forces and interests lurking in the background. With this first publication, we present leftist engagement not only as a critical, self-referential condition, but also as a proposition for empowerment and a productive set of political practices.”

 

 

With contributions (amongst others) by Paweł Althamer, Gábor Bakos, Yael Bartana, Einar Örn Benediktsson, Daniel Blatman, Christian Boltanski, Galit Eilat, Olafur Eliasson, Julián García, Jón Gnarr, Jan Tomasz Gross, Jerzy Hausner, Péter Juhász, Gideon Levy, Renzo Martens, Antanas Mockus, Joanna Mytkowska, Luis Ospina, the Pixadores, Srđa Popović, Alison Ramer, Dorota Sajewska, Árpád Schilling, Marcin Śliwa, Igor Stokfiszewski, Hans-Christian Täubrich, Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Fernando Vallejo, the art collective Voina, Zofia Waślicka and Rafał Żurek as well as a CD by Teresa Margolles.

 

English

416 pages

15,4 x 21,5 cm (upright format)

Brochure, linen binding

51 illustrations, including 19 color illustrations

28 Euro, in the exhibition 25 Euro

Date of publication: February 22, 2012

 

ISBN: 978-3-86335-129-8

 

 

7-berlin-biennale-forget-fear

“Forget Fear” – a foreword by Artur Żmijewski

This publication is a report on the process of arriving at real action within culture, at an artistic pragmatism. What interested us were concrete activities leading to visible effects. We were interested in finding answers, not asking questions. We were interested in situations in which solutions are implemented responsibly. [...]More >

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Daniel Miller in conversation with Martin Zet

Posted on: Februar 13th, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

Daniel Miller in conversation with Martin Zet

Daniel Miller: Martin, was it ever your plan to burn these books?

 

Martin Zet: It never was my plan. I must say I am fascinated by the imaginations of the people here. Everyone had this incredible fantasy – of 60,000 books in flames! It shows stranger and more interesting things than I expected...

 

You sent out a call to collect together these books, and it's generated dozens of articles and hundreds of reactions, even a public demonstration. There seems to be some kind of weird machine at work here...

 

You know, I basically love books. I write books, I make books, I collect books. I even have a license that officially enables me to publish books. But there is definitely an irrational, fetishistic moment connected to books, which I think is related to the role of the book in the past. When you had very limited numbers of handwritten manuscripts they were obviously untouchable and precious. But when you have editions of hundreds of thousands, and you have a worldwide information system that can be accessed from everywhere and stores everything for eternity, it is pure fetishism to be so concerned about their physical well-being.

 

The choice of the Sarrazin book is clearly relevant. I don't think that a call to collect, say, 60,000 copies of Oliver Kahn's autobiography would have produced the same effect...

 

No. Sarrazin’s book deeply touches topics of German society, and so by touching it, I entered this domain. And I think that in this kind of situation, the words or the ideas are not the most important thing; what's decisive are the things it represents among the people. The crucial question is: what is the desire of this book. What does it want to create? Does it just want to be sold? Or does it want to function somehow?

 

You read the book in Czech?

 

Yes, it was published in 2011 by a company called Academia in a series called 21. stoleti, which is kind of like a popular intellectual series about presenting important social and political positions. But things happened differently to how they happened in Germany. There was an interview with Mr. Sarrazin in the newspaper Lidové noviny which came out before the book was published, and a few reflections in the media which came afterwards, but there wasn't really a serious discussion. The book was presented as somehow already legitimized.

 

On January 21 there was a demonstration against you on Bebelplatz that was called in support of free speech. You can understand why, if you want to make provocative claims, it makes sense to publicly support free speech. But the truth is that this doctrine is a myth. There is no such thing as free speech, just like there is no such thing as a free markets. There are competitive markets, and there are competitive speech acts...

 

We were always dreaming about democracy in communist times. But, of course, good slogans can be made to serve strange purposes. The same democracy that means power in the hands of people also means power in the hands of the majority. It can easily happen that the power will get into the hands of the guy who knows how to manipulate public opinion. What he wants is maybe a disaster. But he is able to persuade the public to desire the disaster too...

 

Probably the most notorious statement associated with the book appeared in an interview that Sarrazin gave to Lettre International in 2009: "I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls. This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin.'' It's an extremely strange statement, because it is really not clear how you quantify this kind of description...

 

People want to believe, and the best way is through numbers. Once you see numbers, it is already somehow objective...

 

And then the other side of the story is the very aggressive design of the books’s cover.

 

Yes... the black dissolves in red, and the white is shining, which creates the feeling of the Turkish flag. I ask myself if it was made this way intentionally. But of course, red, white and black are the most efficient colors in any propaganda, used in many different discourses and contexts whenever someone wants to be strict, simple and attractive.

Did you know that the Czech title of this book is Germany Commits Suicide?

 

It really doesn't seem to me that Germany is currently committing suicide. Quite the reverse. Economically and politically Germany at the moment is the strongest country in Europe. But I think there's something in the German soul is attracted to this kind of pathos...

 

You mean the romantic tradition? The suffering of Young Werther...?

 

Exactly. To the extent that I wonder if this book which appears at first glance to be a sociological book, is really something else, something more spiritual, employing the language and discourse of politics to express something deeper, namely, a yearning for annihilation.

 

You mean it is not really about waking people up to solve the problem, and more about somehow enjoying the suffering?

 

Yes, I think it's about enjoying the suffering...

 

But then... if you are right, why don't they celebrate me making the suffering even bigger?

 

I think that's what been happening.

 

Perhaps this is an issue related to the lack of rituals in this country. Do they have any functioning rituals in this country, besides football?

 

They watch Tatort every Sunday in communal public spaces. And there is a riot every year on May 1. But I think there is a major fear of rituals, anchored in the social consensus of post-war German society. There is a certain way ideas can be discussed, certain channels, forms and processes, and we have to stick to them, or something terrible might happen.

 

I understand. Proposing something with a certain ritualistic character could activate some dangerous powers...

 

Yes. But the massive success of this book suggests that they have already been activated. The book itself is somehow ritualistic...

 

I think that we are dealing with a form of magic...

 

Perhaps, thinking about the logo for the project, we could talk about the idea of recycling, and the question of what is being recycled. Plainly, this book contains a lot of surplus energy. Do you think it is possible to recycle this energy? To recycle this power, and use it to deepen and shift the discussion?

 

It was originally my dream that this could happen. But it seems to me that the wishes of the people are leading things in a different direction, away from the important questions, and towards generating this kind of self-approval for militant groups, which they can use to show the people that they fight the real evil, who is me, and they are good guys. But I shouldn't say this, because I should be optimistic.

 

I don't know. I somehow agree with Mao Zedong: it's good when the enemy attacks you, because then you know where you stand.

 

Well, I admit I am actually enjoying attack. I mean, there are some unpleasant aspects, like all of the nasty e-mails I am getting, telling me to go back to my country, Czech-Nazi swine, and so on, but in the end it's not so bad...

 

You put out a call to collect together these books, and Germany answered by sending you all of these messages. It seems to me that these messages are made from the same kind of inflammatory psychic material which composes and surrounds the book.

 

The problem is to understand how to responsibly treat this material. One idea was to find some kind of spell to neutralize the book and send it back, somehow drain away the magic power. And I thought in this moment, not about the ghosts of 1933, but the ghost of Wilhelm Reich, whose books were also burned, in 1956. I dreamed Reich came and whispered in my ear: ''Use the cloudbuster. You can use the cloudbuster to drain the sexual energy from the books!'' And then I think, the books, once they don't have this sexual energy anymore, they can again be in circulation on the shelves, but kind of neutral.

 

Perhaps the spell hasn't yet finished working?

 

We have perhaps three ways to face this. Either, we try to beat it with a stronger spell. Or we try and build immunization on the other side. Or we try to make the process faster. But here we face the problem of what the process really is. Maybe by accelerating it we'd produce something terrible.

 

Maybe we could try for a controlled explosion? Like a bomb disposal...

 

I think you somehow have this kind of magic sphere around the book, and that perhaps you could succeed, not by force, but by just... taking a little particle away, so that the power would drain out through this little hole... just leak away. If the time of the popularity of fractals wasn't over, then I would say something like, if you change the edge of the fractal, then it influences the whole structure.

 

It's an interesting problem. What is the edge of a book? It's somewhere between the book and the discourse about the book and the marketing of the book and the culture that the book enters...

 

I have been using the term resonance... the resonance of the book. I feel it like a sound, really... and the more copies there are, the stronger the sound. So what do I want to do with this sound? What could be done with it? Maybe it is just a tone, and if I succeed maybe some other tones are added, and it's getting richer, harmonic, or maybe disharmonic. I am not sure which would be better...

 

I am thinking of this song by Billy Joel: We didn't start the fire.

 

No... in a way I stepped into it. But here we are, from fire, though magic, then music, and now back to the fire department. I think I will need to talk to my psychoanalyst, who I don't have, and ask him whether all this hysteria about me making a fire is not really a wish for me to do so.

7-berlin-biennale-Martin-Zet-poster

More Comments

Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

The first time I heard about Martin Zet’s project was when a staff member... More >
Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

Who abolishes it? – The freedom of thought?

On the debate around the campaign “Germany abolishes it“ by Martin Zet as part... More >
Who abolishes it? – The freedom of thought?

Flames in their Heads

by Igor Stokfiszewski More >
Flames in their Heads

Statement by Stéphane Bauer, Director, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien

Or why Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien will continue to be a collecting point for the campaign... More >
Statement by Stéphane Bauer, Director, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien

Statement by Artur Żmijewski

The campaign by Czech artist Martin Zet to collect as many copies of Thilo... More >
Statement by Artur Żmijewski

Comment by Chantal Mouffe

I think Martin Zet’s project is a legitimate initiative. He is curious to know... More >
Comment by Chantal Mouffe

“Deutschland schafft es ab” (Germany gets rid of it) – book collection campaign

The Czech artist Martin Zet calls to collect as many copies of the book... More >
“Deutschland schafft es ab” (Germany gets rid of it) – book collection campaign

Accreditation

Posted on: Februar 3rd, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

ACCREDITATION

Accreditation for the preview days of the 7th Berlin Biennale is now possible via an online form on the Berlin Biennale’s website:

 

www.berlinbiennale.de/blog/en/7th-biennale/service

 

Press Conference: 25.4.2012, 11 am

Press Preview: 25.4.2012, 9 am – 8 pm

 

Professional Preview: 25.4.2012, 5 – 8 pm, 26.4.2012, 9 am – 6 pm

Opening: 26.4.2012, 7 – 10 pm

Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

Posted on: Februar 3rd, 2012 by Denhart von Harling

Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

The first time I heard about Martin Zet’s project was when a staff member of the Berlin Biennale asked me whether I thought this idea could be realized. Despite its many open questions I liked the proposal for two reasons: on the one hand because of its discursive understanding of how Thilo Sarrazin’s book operates and on the other hand particularly because of its particular openness.

 

Firstly, of course the book is awful, both from a political and from a theoretical perspective. But what I find even worse is the fact that it has sold so well. It has caused a public debate in which observations and theses are simplified in a kind of negligent way. Instead of grasping the social dynamic in its complexity, it offers short-term solutions that perpetuate injustices while seemingly being based on scientific facts. Sarrazin’s book provokes a simplistic position and basically a shrinking of knowledge. This is also the reason why biologic arguments play such an important role for Sarrazin, even though the book is actually about political questions and which is how they should really be negotiated as. This is what Zet’s project is targeting, instead of focusing on the details – which this isn’t about anyway; not even for the defendants of the book, who merely use it to underpin their political attitude.

 

Secondly, as part of the 7th Berlin Biennale, the project is embedded in a conceptual framework that is important for the campaign. So far, there is not yet much to be seen of Martin Zet’s project. It’s really only starting now: what is going to happen after the call? How will the obviously brittle areas of the call be problematized? The curators of the 7th Berlin Biennale explicitly investigate the reciprocity of art and reality, granting the artistic field a larger, possibly activist scope of action. With “brittle areas” I’m not even particularly thinking of the stale taste that the extinction of books might provoke in our enlightened minds. While it’s probably not meant as a call for censorship, what is surprising is the precarious and probably consciously controversial intrusion on the high status we attribute to the idea of information. Furthermore, the project addresses the relation of populism and counter-populism, the scope of art and – through a kind of grandiose experiment – it also questions which processes can emerge from an artistic proposal that has to be conceptualized rather openly in order to achieve far-reaching results.

 

With the bookstore Pro qm we are now one of the places where the books can be returned to. I am not entirely sure, however, whether this makes us participate more or less in the project than any other critical observer. For us it was at first a gesture of solidarity towards the theoretically interesting and favorable exhibition project of the forthcoming Berlin Biennale, paired with a curiosity about what were to emerge from the exhibition proposal. After the massive protests – which we could also sense in our store – a political process has begun. Some institutions have issued statements calling the campaign a dangerous polarization, which in my opinion is not correct. For the art institutions it is particularly about an attitude: how can one position oneself politically? What is possible in relation to the funding institutions one depends on? And how does one want to be seen in the public discussion? These are the kind of processes, which the project makes visible in a – as I believe – very conscious manner.

7-berlin-biennale-sarazzin

More comments

Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

The first time I heard about Martin Zet’s project was when a staff member... More >
Statement by Axel Wieder, Pro qm

Who abolishes it? – The freedom of thought?

On the debate around the campaign “Germany abolishes it“ by Martin Zet as part... More >
Who abolishes it? – The freedom of thought?

Flames in their Heads

by Igor Stokfiszewski More >
Flames in their Heads

Statement by Stéphane Bauer, Director, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien

Or why Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien will continue to be a collecting point for the campaign... More >
Statement by Stéphane Bauer, Director, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien

Statement by Artur Żmijewski

The campaign by Czech artist Martin Zet to collect as many copies of Thilo... More >
Statement by Artur Żmijewski

Comment by Chantal Mouffe

I think Martin Zet’s project is a legitimate initiative. He is curious to know... More >
Comment by Chantal Mouffe

“Deutschland schafft es ab” (Germany gets rid of it) – book collection campaign

“Deutschland schafft es ab” (Germany gets rid of it) – book collection campaignWith over 1.3 million copies sold “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany gets rid of itself) by Thilo Sarrazin is the most successful political non-fiction publication of a German author of the post-war period. [...]More >

7-berlin-biennale-martin-zet
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