Katarina Sevic

17.05.-18.06.2003. Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade


In the late '50's a vehicle emerged from the Eastern part of Germany and became the symbol of Eastern transportation. This car, which originally wasn't destined to be a car at all, is the now notorious Trabant. It was easy to live with, easy to repair. Sure, it soon became outdated, old design but who cared? Everyone had a joke about the Trabant, but it was still the basic means of transportation. The epitome of socialism: imperfect, not capable of doing too many things, not too efficient, but still managing to move somehow….. (source: http://www.team.net/www/ktud/trabi.html)

The Trabant still appears: on the cover of the catalogue, on the TV advertisement and in the email invitation as the logo of the 'Last East European Show' and in the foyer of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Belgrade as one of the exhibited works. ( http://www.msub.org.yu)

The concept of LEES was made, developed and realized in the framework of the second seminar/workshop program 'Professional Standards in Curatorial Practice', held in 2002 in MCA, Belgrade and under the title 'Curating in Transition'. The participants, young curators, from 17 countries of the 'geopolitical' region of 'East Europe' gathered for the series of presentations, lectures and discussions on the given context (the lecturers included Bojana Pejic, Lorand Hegyi, Igor Zabel, Henry Meyrick Hughes,…). 'Historical heritage of the communist era and the process of political, economic, cultural and identity transition' were ground issues for questioning the position of contemporary art practices coming from the 'marginal position in relation to the dominant art system, being far from the centres of economic power and kritika promotion' (source: LEES catalogue). Separate groups of curators worked on different themes which are presented on LEES as:
1. 'city@org' - public representability of art, 2. 'Remote without Control' - kritikation of all visual experiences, 3. 'Difficult Body' - the body as an index of cultural changes, 4. 'Reinterpretation of Symbols' - role of art in reconsidering symbols and shifting their meaning.

Katalin Timár was the Hungarian curator participating, while the chosen artists from Hungary were János Fodor, Endre Koronczi and PPgroup (Majoros Zita and Katarina Sevic).

As an exhibitor, I was pleasantly surprised with the organisation of the whole manifestation - something that normally should be considered as a most normal thing was a surprise in a country which still has many other priorities to meet: the complete production costs of the works, travelling costs and three day allowance were provided for all exhibitors. Media coverage attracted many visitors for the opening of the exhibition. But what about the works? The range of the exhibited art pieces was, or it should have been, very diverse: 57 artists of the youngest generation from 17 countries* exhibited their works. (*Serbia & Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, The Russian Federation, The Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Poland, Moldova).

Once again we had a chance to see one more metro (tube) map, a few more mouse traps, a couple of 'aggressive female' video works, more 'Elimination Games' interactive computer installations, another naked body in blood, recordings of a grandmother telling stories from her youth,.... [pic01] [pic02] [pic03] [pic04] [pic05] [pic06] [pic07] Most of the works were situated between the walls of the museum, few works around the town - occupying billboard places and shop windows, some performances...

A few lucky EU members were selected for the 'Trabant Residency Program'. This annual manifestation started in 2002 when three Belgrade artists (Vladimir Nikolic, Vera Vecanski and Zolt Kovac) spent 24 hours in the car discussing art, producing artworks and reading art theory. Apparently, on their open contest for the 'residency' this year, all the applications that came were from Western Europe. [pic08] [pic09]

LEES was guarded by Cristian Alexa, an artist of Romanian origin now living in New York. An artist dressed as a museum guardian, equipped with a pistol, was an invisible performer protecting the show - from whom? [pic10] [pic11]

The performance of two men kissing, in a city where the organisation of the gay parade failed because the participants were beaten up on the street, intended to provoke something completely opposite. 'Kissing the Serb' was a performance of a Croatian artist (Boris Sincek) who gave a French kiss to his childhood friend, a Serb. Forced love for a renewed friendship.

Often discussed 'political awareness' stayed on the level of engagement with common places. 'Creative eastern soul/spirit' everybody believes in so much, lacked innovation and maybe even courage.

After all, what does 'Last East European Show' mean? Is the next show in Belgrade supposed to be the 'First European Union Show' or the 'First New East Europe Show'? Do we really think the label East Europe will disappear so soon?

6. June 2003.