On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Cultural Center Rex (Belgrade), STEALTH and Ana Vilenica have prominently placed the question Šta će se (za)desiti? – What is to (be)come? – on the floor of Rex’s main hall in bright red letters. The somewhat puzzling statement marked the start of what was to be an investigation into the possible, probable but equally into the yet unexpected futures of the Center we have been collaborating with for a long time. The resulting publication is a fiction story bringing forward conversations between Rex’s crew, including stowaway passengers, on stormy waters.
Two decades before, Rex was born when the venue (a former Jewish community center) was spotted while scouting for a possible TV studio for the then “dissident” media house B92. While the TV studio never took off in this building, the making of an audience spurred B92 to set up its own cultural center instead. Fast forward to today, where dissident has become mainstream, the B92 media house sold to Greek and Norwegian investors, and meanwhile even the rebel radio B92 has been erased from the airwaves. For Cultural Center Rex then, the intermediate 20 years have been a roller coaster of events, now surviving beyond the organization that initiated it, and beyond the very mission for which it once had been created. What is to (be)come? therefore signifies the necessity to respond to this reality, as much as it embodies the uncertainty of times ahead.
While the work started from the premise to peek into the future along a line of scenario’s for the cultural center – based on talks and discussions with people directly involved in running the everyday activities of Rex, but also close collaborators, comrades or long-time followers – the endeavour quickly became a puzzling task. In these conversations, those asked to recall the trajectory of Rex, report back with seemingly parallel versions of the past and of what the future could possibly hold, according to their often deeply emotionally charged opinions. After an agonizing time of being not quite sure of what to make out of this reality – a clash of ideologies, expectations, the impossibility to speak about the future (or even package its past and close the venue), financial struggle and the loss of role in a changed cultural and media landscape – we have opted to put these accounts to paper in a story.
Using metaphor of a boat in stormy waters (inspired by the logo designed by Škart on the occasions of the 20th anniversary of Rex’s survival), the narrative is loosely set on the structure of a diary, or a ships log, brought to us by the ship’s cat and accompanied by anonymized maritime (navigation) charts. The real-time conversations and discussions inspired dialogues of Rex’s boat crew, its permanent, temporary and stowaway passengers, those with a wrong ticket, as well as those without it – lending their voice to the text.
… The crew examines the loudspeakers, as if something has gone foul with them. Then, the voice breaks through again: “You found me, and think that I am the stowaway. You are all stowaways. My ticket is more faithful than yours. You occupied this fluid terminology like freedom of expression, freedom of creativity, critical thinking, but I say – yeah, I got these tickets.”
Putting this narrative together, in hindsight we noticed a curiosity that emerged during the actual making of the interviews. Quite a few of the people we spoke with seemed to just be aware of their own voice, not being receptive to what others are trying to convey. That reality also has made it implausible for us to delve into credible future projections for Rex, amidst people that increasingly remain isolated, speak to themselves, perceiving just themselves. Plotting a future between those directly involved is something still to come as by 2016. Possibly, the ship’s cat still holds an epilogue in stock for sometime in the near future.
What is to (be)come? is available in a limited number of hard-copies (on request, Serbian language only) or can be downloaded as pdf.
- [download ] Šta će se (za)desiti? (pdf, in Serbian)
- [hardcopy ] ISBN 978-86-89891-13-3 / CIP 821.163.41-3
- [research and text ] Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen (STEALTH.unlimited), Ana Vilenica
- [design ] Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen (STEALTH.unlimited)
- [proofreading ] Dejan Čančarević
- [publisher ] Fund B92
- [support ] Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia
- [print ] Standard 2, Belgrade – 150 copies, CC BY-NC-SA
- [thanks to ] Marko Aksentijević, Maja Čečen, Milena Dragićević-Šešić, Zoe Gudović, Tadej Kurepa, Marko Miletić, Nebojša Milikić, Dušica Parezanović, Dragan Protić, Marko Radenković and Vahida Ramujkić for the conversations that allowed this narrative to develop. Additional thanks go to Olga Dimitrijević for her suggestions and comments on the narrative.
- [background ] What is to (be)come? is part of the project and exhibition Looking back held on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Cultural Centre “Rex” (2014), on the invitation of Nebojša Milikić and Dušica Parezanović.
- [timeline ] September 2014 – July 2016