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GALLERY 2010/2011

critical writing

Belgrade 2020 – the city of wonders

About work

Our concern in this essay is critical analysis of the concept New cultural policy, currently implemented in Serbia. This cultural policy belongs to a wider framework of developments taking place in Europe since the early 1990s. Additionally, it is part of the policy of European integrations and introduction of the neo-liberal capitalism in Serbia (i.e. entire Eastern Europe), facilitating establishment of new colonial relations. Analyzing the program document Nove kulturne politike, the project Beograd 2020 and ‘Parobrod’'s initiatives in terms of such developments, we may clearly perceive the measure of their dependence on the neo-liberal logic, which apprehends culture merely as a realm of profit. We start from the political-economic concept of monopoly rent applied by David Harvey on the logic of contemporary cultural production, and his analysis of cities as urban machines. Subsequently, we resume Matteo Pasquinelli’s claim according to which relations between collective symbolic capital and the post-Fordist economy are indeed parasitic exploitation of the immaterial sector by the material: we use this claim to assess the current relations of production within the cultural sphere in Serbia. We suggest that existing potential for re-politization of the contemporary cultural production takes place within the system, and is based on challenging the urban machine.

critique, cultural politics, collective symbolic capital, urban machines, EU, cultural production, repoliticization, creative class, immaterial labor

works/6ca98c0272b98acceb2cb4296f1eadca/thumbnail/!final_beograd 2020_grad cuda_eng.doc

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This paper poses some strong challenges to the Capital of Culture concept. Basing their critique on the work of David Harvey, the authors argue that in a neoliberal political atmosphere that emphasizes universal norms of political behavior, cultural specificity is used to answer economic imperatives to differentiate products – in this case, actual cities seeking tourism and development resources. The interaction between political transnationalism, national identities, and various forms of culture is a crucial area of study and action today, and the authors use Harvey’s insights in a very useful way in their discussion of Belgrade’s mix of internationalism and hype, the increasing political liberty and the merchandising of its identity. The essay ends up being pretty depressing, in seeing cooptation by global capitalism as virtually inevitable in any effort to increase the interaction between Serbia and the rest of Europe in substantive political and cultural terms. This cooptation would appear to be inevitable in any cultural expression in a schema in which celebration of difference must be channeled into apolitical activities and commercial branding.

It is always easier to identify problems than offer alternatives, which does not lessen the power of the critique. But I wonder if the authors can offer some specifics of how they would escape this dynamic in encouraging cultural development of Belgrade in the new political environment, as they hoped to do in their original involvement with the project. Have any other cities involved in the Cultural Capital project managed to do so? I have a colleague who is studying the long-term effect of the designation in Avignon, France – how it helped some on-the-ground social and cultural projects, and how it failed to do so for others. What might the goals in Belgrade be? And are there ways to achieve them in an “Alternative Capital” project? Is that worth pursuing?

View other works commented by Daniel Marcus  ››

This is a very interesting and highly academic piece of critical writing. In some places the arguments are very sophisticated and productive for a better understanding of some of the conditions of cultural production in Belgrade and function well in the way they combine contemporary theoretical analysis with practical examples.
A number of concepts used (creative zombies, urban machines, despots of enlightenment, fascist terminology deployed within neoliberal discourse, etc.) would have benefited from some more detailed discussion of the ideas that inform them, however. In addition, and so as to avoid the condition in which the essay remains a more particular discussion of a specific case study, and the immediate connection between the subject of its discussion and the theme of Memefest is lost, an introduction framing the essay into the some of the more general questions raised by the concepts of love, conflict, and imagination would have been helpful as would have been a longer conclusion along much some the same lines. The essay would also have benefited from a detailed review and correction of its use of the English language as this, as it currently stands, occasionally made the essay quite hard to follow and give it the full attention its ideas deserve.
One of the questions future work on this essay, or other work arising out of it, could answer in more detail pertains to the possibilities of resistance. This could be followed by an enumeration of a broad range of specific and practical examples of such resistance, the dangers they face, and their cultural, intellectual and even pedagogic use value. All this could be presented in such a way that it would be meaningful for those living outside Belgrade but concerned with implementing change in their own environments, too.

View other works commented by Nikolai Jeffs  ››

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Entry details


Belgrade 2020 – the city of wonders

Concept author(s)

Vida Knežević; Marko Miletić

Concept author year(s) of birth

1980; 1983.



Competition category

critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

Mi smo deo Kontekst kolektiva, autonomne organizacije koja je od 2006. godine vodila Kontekst galeriju u kojoj smo bili angažovani na svim poslovima (kustosi, organizatori, menadžeri...). Krajem prošle godine Kontekst galerija je zatvorena našom političkom odlukom i tekst koji prilažemo je nastao kao kritički osvrt na situaciju u kojoj je došlo do zatvaranja tog prostora. Od tada naš rad se nastavlja u okviru Kontekst- prostora za umetnost, kritiku i politiku. Pored ovoga oboje (Vida Knežević, Marko Miletić) smo bili autori ili učestvovali u više projekata koji se bave kritičkom i političkom akcijom u polju savremene kulture i umetnosti. Više o našem radu možete naći na našem web sajtu (koji se trenutno rekonstruiše): www.kontekstgalerija.org - - - - Napomena: tekst koji šaljemo je još uvek u fazi prevođenja. Razmatramo neke terminološke nedoumice sa prevodiocem. Nadamo se da ćemo imati priliko da dostavimo u konačan prevod teksta.