Under the Bridge Beograd
Under the Bridge [various locations, Belgrade, 10-14/12/2004]
v3.0, issue #5, 19 January 2005
Under the Bridge brought together around 20 people both locals as well as from around Europe with the goal to walk around Belgrade by using artistic methods and to visit locations in the city and open these from another perspective for its inhabitants and visitors. The last day involved a manifestation under the Gazela-bridge in New Belgrade. Under the Bridge was the first in a series of meetings in the region and was organized and hosted by Biro – an artist collective that comprises Rena & Vladan Jeremic and Alexander Nikolic.
The participants were mostly artists working in the field of the visual arts: Nenad Andric, Anna Balint, Sezgin Boynik, Maja Ciric, Thom Crane, Dragan Ignjatov, Peter Jap Lim, Zorica Jovanovic, Stephan Kurr, Karin Laansoo, Milica Lapcevic, Erika Margelyte, Sasa Markovic, Mikrob, Predrag Miladinovic, Tanja Ostojic, Dragan Papic, Ivana Rankovic, Matthias Roth, David Rych, Selena Savic, Hanno Soans, Aleksandar Stanojlovic, Ricarda Wallhäuser and myself.
The aims of the meeting were very loose. As Biro stated: There exists neither an aim in the sense, that it would be known already, nor a product, for which a user could be found already in advance. The great thing about this meeting was precisely this: it did not even pretend to serve any big ideas, but instead kept the structure open and undefined and left it to us to give it a shape. There was not even any pressure to produce anything, merely to participate. Such a free programme is in itself a radical stance against those projects in the region that always demand some kind of end result whether it be an exhibition or publication in order to justify the importance and value of the cultural exchange regardless of the superficiality of the gained knowledge of the place and the artificiality of the contribution to and involvement in it.
The program of the first three days involved walks and visits to places in the city hosted by some of the participants. Most of them were open to everyone; others were private. The Situationists mapping of the city influenced some of the walks and others were a direct continuation of art projects in which the participants were involved in their own cities. I took part in Nenad Andric’s project “Strictly Baltic”, which was only for people from around the Baltic Sea region. It was both a critique of the policies of many recent exhibition projects that focused on the Balkans and of the geo-politics that define the region. Andric’s definition of the Baltic region was “suspicious” in including Iceland and Greenland as special guests. Another unusual aspect of Andric’s project was that he as a Serb from the Balkans, usually the one who is categorized by the centre ? turned the hierarchies around and set the rules and defined us. In his project it was not important where we as Baltic people went and what we did, but that we had a good time and were included when everyone else was excluded. He took us on guided walks to different locations in Belgrade either as a group or as individuals – gave us catalogues of exhibitions and arranged meetings with directors of art institutions (using the word “exclusive” in a double sense).
Under the Bridge culminated in the last day’s event under the Gazela-bridge in the heart of Belgrade. It is on the riverbank next to the Intercontinental and Hyatt hotels, facing the historical areas and the shopping streets. The international highway that runs from Germany all the way to Istanbul is located above it. Regardless of this splendid location, there are approximately three thousand gypsies living in the area in small self-built fragile looking houses, which are made of pieces of cardboard, wood and aluminium sheets. On a cold winter’s day from each hut, next to the satellite antenna, a little chimney sticks out of the roof and joyfully puffs smoke in the air, which makes the huts look deceivingly idyllic, while the kids are running around outside on land covered with mud and garbage. Their living conditions are, however, very basic. There is no running water in the area, most of them live by collecting sellable or usable items from the garbage and decent medical care and education is out of reach for most.
We spent an afternoon there with series of performances, brought along some musical instruments (which the kids immediately started playing), cooked Thai noodle soup and drank heated wine, were invited to people’s houses and communicated in various languages. Our main fear was to engage in a form of exoticism and hierarchical positioning as we went about with our digital cameras and artistic ideas. But it soon changed into something different as we were in fact very positively received by the inhabitants. It became an evening of singing, eating and being cold together. Nobody was in control of the situation or knew what to expect. Although it was widely advertised, not many people except for the gypsies joined us. It is a place not discussed nor visited, a sort of blind spot in the middle of Belgrade. Through this action we hope to have given some attention to the area and to have momentarily overcome the gap between them and us. Some of us want to continue working with representatives of this area and to raise funds. Biro itself will be moving to another location in the region. The next meeting should be somewhere in 2005.
By: Minna Henriksson