URBANFESTIVAL 12: Between Worlds

The twelfth edition of UrbanFestival focuses on the policies of remembrance, and besides interventions on four localities in the city, it includes exhibition programmes at Bačva Gallery and PM Gallery of the Croatian Artists’ Association (HDLU). The newly produced interventions in public space reflect this year’s circumstances of production: owing to the radical cuts in public (municipal and state) financing, and in order to ensure adequate conditions for curatorial and artistic research, as well as retain the established practice of paying the artists and all other participants who contribute to the festival, we have decided to reduce the means of production and the total number of new productions. The inclusion of the exhibition format into the festival resulted from the fact that our project participated in a public competition of HDLU’s annual programme, which gave us some space, both physical and financial, for working at the gallery venue and for yet another exploration of the possible mutations of our festival.

Between Worlds has had two starting points, the first being the notion of transition, which has become a notorious mantra accompanying the attempts at understanding and interpreting political and economic processes in which we have found ourselves in the post-socialist era. This in-between situation has imposed itself as the first stage on the only possible path of evolution, the one that leads towards the liberal democratic society. According to Boris Buden, this way of seeing things is a consequence of the historical master narrative in which the world of developed capitalism and Western democracy is presented as the universal norm of historical development in general, while the transition is understood as the process of normalization. However, the problem is that the transition process can turn into a real disaster[1] – an eternal waiting room in which the concept of public good and the notion of sociability not only no longer exist, but are also reduced to a bad reminiscence of the totalitarian regime.

The second starting point is that mobility has become an imperative, which underlines the reverse of the idyllic view on general mobility as the state of freedom, where travel is an adventure of discovering new worlds. In fact, calling travel adventure may seem as utter cynicism if we think of all those aspects of immigration that are more or less openly forced. Immigrants, who are often considered illegal (although there is no such thing as illegal immigrants, only illegal governments[2]) are more than obviously forced to leave for a better somewhere, which often ends with getting stuck in between, and contemporary artists are examples of a less obviously forced mobility. Owing to the system of artistic residences and the international exhibition practice, a mechanism has come to be seen as normal in which they have no steady income, no social rights, and no legal protection that would ensure fair treatment of their work. For us, who are active in the field of contemporary art determined by such practice, the forced mobility of workers (in this case artists) and the forced mobility of immigrants are two facets of the same problem, where the produced in-between states are by no means unconnected.

Retaining our common focus on the public space of the city, we are exploring the ways in which the abovementioned aspects of the in-between state can become visible and tangible in the contemporary urban environment and public discourse. We are interested in those specific localities in which the abuse of historical myths, often nationalistically based, is intertwined with the misappropriation of public space and with pacts based on political power and private financial profit. Following Althusser’s claim that ideology has a material existence, and that it is a silent means of reproducing the order of exploitation,[3] the project Between  Worlds problematizes memory through the occurrences of collective memory construction from the dominant positions of power, together with the sharp turns in its formation and the processes of its erasure, and through the re-politicization of progressive (artistic) strategies that fuse collective and individual memory by using non-objective, performative, and participative formats. Policies of remembrance can be viewed as processes that can both perpetuate and break the paralyzing in-between; and we need continued debate if we want to achieve the latter.

Ana Kutleša and Ivana Hanaček


[1]              Boris Buden (2007), “The post-Yugoslavian Condition of Institutional Critique: An Introduction,” http://eipcp.net/transversal/0208/buden/en.

[2]              Asian Dub Foundation (2000), “Colour Line,” from the album Community Music released by Ffrr Records.

[3] Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (1969) in Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (London: New Left Books, 1971), p. 165.