Kathy Rae Huffman on Wed, 22 Jan 1997 15:08:02 +0100


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Novi Sad - VideoMedeja, Dec.1996, 4/4


B  We started  three years ago.  It was just when the embargo was
established, and it was very difficult for us to communicate with anybody in
any way.

K   It is amazing to start something new, an enterprise, at that time.  What
was your idea?

B  (laughing)  Our idea was simply to survive.   At this time, it was
completely dark and culturally dead.  We saw ourselves as a kind of virus. It
is difficult to accomplish anything in a country that has sanctions imposed,
and where any collaborative from outside is suspicious.  We found that to
survive mentally the sanctions was possible only by working for the future,
for new projects, even though at the time they were only ideas.  Nobody knew
if they could ever succeed.  But, the alternative was to become braindead and
paranoid.

K  Was there any kind of cultural scene here, like art galleries or museums?

B   Yes, there is a very important gallery here in Novi Sad, but most of the
contemporary art is taking place in Belgrade.  Right now, we are preparing an
exhibition of women authors called The Mirror of the Soul, to take place here
[in Novi Sad] in January.   It will try to bring awareness to the work of
these women authors.

K  Back to VideoMedeja, when will the next festival be?

B   Well, (laughing) it will be a bit earlier in the year, this is too close
to Christmas for everybody.

K   Will you travel to any festivals to see work?.

B   Yes, we have some connections in Frankfurt.  They offered to make a
presentation of VideoMedeja.  We shall try to plan our travel time well in
order to make other festival.

A table discussion took place, about women, video and media in general and
what position video has attained in relation to contemporary art the new
media art scene.  In Yugoslavia, I was told, womens groups in general are
interested in video, especially as a tool for documentation, and of course as
an expressive medium.  There is little new media art scene in Yugoslavia at
the moment and what is, is mostly male work leaning more towards multimedia,
CD ROM and computer generated (commercially viable) works.

K   Lets get back to VideoMedeja, OK?.  You had the idea for the festival
last year, tell me a little more how it started, and why?

B   The first idea was a program that deals with *Womens Creativity* and to
bring together lots of women, of all kinds, into a large program (only one
part would be video - VideoMedeja).  We searched for money and the major part
of our current money came from OSI.

You know that there is a tradition here with video and short films. From
1979, there has been a media studio at the Academy of Fine Art, and women
were active in that program from the beginning (in fact, Marina Abramovic was
an assistant in that program). One of the reasons to work with video is to
make art.  At the end of the 1960s, the Academy was quite well known as a
documentary film school, and some of the most important movies at that time
were made by filmmakers from Novi Sad.  It was a center for media production.
 Even though the tradition exists here for time based art, the film industry
here (even for short films) is dead.  Video is cheaper and thats why more
people are making it.

(note)  The film industry is suffering in most Eastern countries, largely
because it was formerly state supported.  Now governments have little money
for this, and expect it will go private.  But it is a different business to
produce a film in private, rather than with a subsidy.  Most of the former
film industry now gives service to foreign production companies using
locations in Eastern countries, rather than making their own.

K   Why the theme for the symposium: female narcissism?

B   This was what has happened for us in the past years and what can happen
to all women in the Eastern European situation.  And, video is a medium which
can easily express these emotions.

K  Are there not some more young Yugoslav women working in video?

B   Video is much more developed in Slovenia, it has a longer tradition
there.

K   Well, actually, it started much later there than in this part of
Yugoslavia.  I expected to see more new work from Belgrade, for example.

B   It is not that here was no production at all, it was just very difficult
for us to see it.  To find it, that was the big problem. Nothing has happened
at the National TV in several years.  In the first months after the war,
nobody could do anything, they just sat there.  We still can not always make
a phone call to Belgrade, for example.

K  Now that the festival is over, what are your goals for the next
VideoMedeja?

B  We want to create a festival where we can exchange our experiences as
artists and producers, and to foster new productions.

Conclusion:

We had an early morning breakfast of omelet and toast, meeting with Biljana
Tomic, who has been active in International contemporary art culture for the
past decade.  She was responsible for my first visit to Belgrade in 1987, to
participate in the Spring Video Week there.   She quietly explained how
everything had to be new , now.   That the past was dead and they all needed
to go back to the beginning and start fresh again.  As she talked, we could
see snow starting to fall on the other side of the bronze framed picture
windows of the immense and empty hotel dining room, early Sunday morning.
For the entire way back to Budapest, the landscape was covered with fresh
snow.  I reflected on the fresh energy of the organizers, and the open and
sincere attitude of the authors, curators and theoreticians who attended
VideoMedeja.  I felt that this program would indeed, be a fresh start, and a
real chance for artists to start working together again with their (former)
colleagues in the Balkans, East Europe and Internationally.  We will all
benefit from that development.

Kathy Rae Huffman



photos:

#1 - Sarita Matijevic, Program Coordinator - Novi Sad, Fund for an Open
Society

#2 - Student demonstration in Novi Sad - 2000 gather to watch the film of
their fellow demonstrators in Belgrade by Zelimir Zilnik.  They have one
monitor, and pile up desks to raise it above the heads of the viewers.  The
mood is cheerful and playful as they wait in sub-zero temperature for almost
one hour to see the videotape.

#3  (two photos can be put together) overview of the town square, facing the
City Hall (McDonalds is in the rear right passageway)

#4  l. Vera Kopicl (festival curator) r. Branka Milicic-Davic (festival
organizer)

#5  Saturday morning seminar gathering in the lounge of the Ben Akiba Club.

#6  Installation of Marina Abramovics work, The Onion, in which she verbally
peels away layers of her life, while eating raw onions and crying.  She
confesses shame and sorrow over her failures and the failures of her country,
Yugoslavia.  She created this work on the occasion of her 50th birthday.

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