Aleksandar Gubas on 9 Nov 99 14:07:34 MET

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Syndicate: the myth of culture in conflict resolution


This text is my reply to Mr Andreas Broeckmann's message, posted on the
Syndicate mailing list.
With the deepest respect.

-------Andreas Broeckmann wrote:
I guess that most of you will agree that Europe, and the world, are in a
chronic mess these days. Whether this has to do with The Big Conspiracy, with
the so-called end of the so-called Millennium, or with some natural,
barbarian pre-determination of a continent's inhabitants - I don't know.
* Yeah, I agree. The world is really in great mess.

I obviously have no answers, but only reformulations of questions, plus some
utopian ideas which embittered Balkanians can only laugh about.
* As an 'embittered Balkanian', I will criticize here some of your words.
Please forgive me, and take it only as the dialogue, not as the attack to your

Sister Katarina of CyberRex recently gave me a copy of a text that she had
been given at a seminar in Ireland about Cultures, Art and Conflict. The
seminar is part of the long-term Phoenix Project that tries to formulate an
active role for culture in conflict resolution, and from what Katarina told me
about the meetings in Dublin and about a trip that they made to Belfast, it
must be a very interesting and strong initiative.
* I don't think so. I don't believe in the active role of culture in the
conflict resolution. The most important question here is:
'Sister Katarina of Cyberrex' was running the Cinema Rex cultural centre in
Belgrade, with art programmes which were gathering 30 people per evening at
average - in the city with 2,000,000 inhabitants. I have nothing against these
programmes - I myself was running one of them in Cinema Rex! - but I want to
say that it's absurdly to consider those elite-oriented programmes as
something that can make any influence on the conflicts. Even when Kosovo
Albanians came to Cinema Rex, it meant nothing at all in the practical sense,
and it would be extremely stupid to hope it meant.
I believe those art programmes with 20 or 30 visitors make very deep sense -
but only taken as the ART ITSELF, not as a political act. I don't want to deny
that some kinds of art and art products and events can be political, even
influence the things, but I will always argue with everyone trying to tell me
that 20 students paying the visit to an exhibition can change the world and
stop the war.
There are so much delusions about the role of the culture and intellectuals in
conflicts. I wonder why is it so. Do the people really believe that the elite
art and culture can stop the war? Or they know it can't, but love to pretend
they believe it can?
The whole efficacious infrastructure has been built upon these delusions.
Various 'sisters Katarinas' travel around the world and live pretty well by
getting money for supporting these delusions.
I have nothing against the elite culture - and let's be honest and admit that
the most of the Syndicate members' area of activity is pretty elitistic
culture - I believe it has its own true reasons to exist, and I enjoy it. And
it HAS to get money to survive. But I reject the conflict resolution as that
culture's purpose. Its purpose can be only enlightening our souls, and
strenghtening a few of us to endure. But millions of common people living in
troublesome regions won't have any benefit from the meeting of, say, web
artists from conflicted nations.

The main point here is that people working in art and culture are neither
naturally opposed, nor necessarily opportunistic in the face of
narrow-mindedness, stupidity and madness.
* That's true.

it doesn't matter greatly whether artists are good or bad people. If they are
to be good artists, they are forced to make things new, to alter the angle of
vision, to deal in complexities, ambiguities and contradictions.
* Yes, that's true too. But please don't equalize someone's art with his/her
everyday behaviour, especially political behaviour. I may be excellent, brave,
inventive, curious and experiment-oriented as the artist, but it doesn't mean
that I wouldn't believe in TV propaganda. This world is very difficult to
understand, especially now when it's, as we have agreed, in great mess - and
everyone needs to get some easy understandable explanations of the world
around. It's very natural and deeply human need - but it's also an excellent
basis for the manipulation, no matter how great artist you are. Artists are
humans too, therefore they can be biased and manipulated.

In doing so, they bear witness to the fact that reality is not as simple as
the propagandist would have us believe.
* In some cases, it's true. But not in general. Don't overestimate the
artists' immunity to the manipulation. An embittered Balkanian warns you so.

The very decision to make art, particularly in a situation of conflict, is a
perverse one.
* Yeah, I know that.:-)

Based on this initiative, a working group was created during the Syndicate
meeting in Budapest in April, that is currently working on the preparations
for the Future State of Balkania.
* Well, could someone please explain me the true sense of that Balkania stuff?
I mean, how this initiative can REALLY change the things in the region?
Unnumbered mass protests couldn't do that, and several kind-hearted
intellectuals and one Web site will do?
Should that Balkania be some kind of art network, OK. But should it claim to
create peace and prosperity, I can nothing but bitterly laugh.

Let us reject the untruth and hatred.
* Who? You and me and Mr Pandilovski, and people like us? OK. But if the
people like us were asked anything about, the war would never begin. And do we
have any practical and realistic idea how to make millions of people 'reject
the untruth and hatred'?
And what we're talking about at all: religion, art or politics?

32 tunnels which link up all of Europe's capital cities with one another' -
creating an alternative, underground, networked reality, deep in the belly of
the continent.
* Well, that's nice, and maybe then we'll feel better. But what's happening on
the ground while we are in our cosy underground? Has our underground reality
any truly usable response to the political reality above?
Come on, please be sober. I love to be underground, but considering the
conflict resolution, I prefer to be ON the ground. With both feet firmly.

The Lord be with you.
* Don't hate me for saying that, but I think the Lord is obsolete and
compromised. The wars here were all lead by the people declaring themselves
Being religious, I prefer to salute people with 'May the Force be with you' -
no one ever was slaughtering the neighbours in the name of the Jedi knights.

brother Aleksandar of the Jedi Brotherhood

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