[-empyre-] Prime Minister George Papandreou steps down

Isak Berbic isakberbic at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 8 07:52:20 EST 2011

The Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina "UGBiH" (A seminal art space in the country's capital city of Sarajevo: founded in 1946, with 6,000 works in it's collection representing 'national' and regional artists - especially works by artists from former Yugoslavia) has recently closed it's doors to the public. This space has been one of the most important cultural institutions in Sarajevo in the past.

With the process of "transition" and the denationalization/privatization, the coming to terms with peacetime, capitalism, redrawing of the political system and the subsequent implications that entails — UGBiH found itself uncared for by the interest motivated political structure of ethnic representation. 

The gallery, being a space without declared ethnic boundaries, and not in the service of either Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks (the three "legitimate entities" imposed by the current system after the regulations set fort at the Dayton Peace Accords) it did not fit into any funding category. 

The funding (which there is next to none anyway) according to the recent way of working would require a clear delineation of affirmative action for the groups. Moreover, a clearer delineation of which one of the groups / peoples' interests to be represented. This could bring it to the table of one of the entities' funding programs; such is the case with the "Museum of Contemporary Art Republic of Srpska" in northern Bosnia. A museum in whose name the entity is clearly detonated. Moreover the name of that entity (Srpska) is linguistically written in possessive tense: Srpska meaning "to be of Serbian, or to belong to Serbian". But this is a whole other problematic. In the case of the The Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina the Bosnian NATION at large could not find any interested fractions to authorize funding, promote the value of such a space, leaving UGBiH with a minuscule budget (from what I heard 35,000USD per year / but this is unconfirmed
 information) to run it's operation. 

This has produced number of consequences such as: no funds to have a comprehensive staff, to protect and conserve the collection, to put on good programming, to fund contemporary artists working in the city/region today, etc.... to pay the electricity bill, the cleaning staff, to have a guard. 
The public and the artists began not rely on the space in any possible way. The public stopped visiting the more and more rare activity at UGBiH. An animosity developed.

The outcome being an institution  that was shut down by money and political interest—making a troubled city even one light dimmer. 

Recently, (and coincidently just previous to Occupy Wall-street) artists broke into the gallery and occupied it. To name as perhaps one the most motivated is Damir Niksic, who has galvanized a number of artists, and cultural workers to join him. In the past couple of months they have staged a number of activities in the space including broadcasts in various media such as a do-it-yourself TV shows, performances, etc. Here is a reference link but unfortunately there is no material out there in English, which is one of my motivations for writing this post.

Here is the 53rd day of occupation of UGBiH

and some on blogs:

One of the intriguing things was that no one bothered to come and evict them. As if there was no regulation broken. The orphaned UGBiH has no guards, the police no mandate. Shortly after, artists declared themselves to be the ministry of culture, and Damir Niksic the: Mini Star of Culture BiH — in the begging referring to themselves as the parallel ministry. Lately, simply as the Mini Star. 

Thank you for reading,
Isak Berbic

From: NeMe <nemeorg at gmail.com>
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent: Monday, November 7, 2011 6:27 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] Prime Minister George Papandreou steps down

> I hate to interrupt the flow of your discussion right now but I'd love
> to hear about what you think the effects of  Greece's Prime Minister
> George Papandreou stepping down and how that may affect funding in
> your part of the world? I realize that you are writing from Cyprus but
> I'm curious about the news and how this announcement may network out
> in terms of economic flow, culture, and art to the area?  Just heard
> the news and wanted to take advantage of your being online.  Renate

Both the Cypriot government and private banks have invested heavily in
Greece in order to help bolster the Greek economy so there does exist
a great risk of our own economy collapsing should Greece default. We
share this risk however  with all  other countries in the eurozone.
The virtually total funding cuts to the arts in Greece do not directly
affect or influence what is happening in Cyprus except for the
positive fact that quite a few NGO's here are collaborating with their
Greek equivalents as the funding support in Cyprus is healthier in

The main 'blow' to the Cyprus economy occurred last July when 10
containers of Iranian ammunitions from a Russian cargo vessel heading
for Syria exploded and destroyed the main power station of the country
which was responsible for 65% of our power grid. The Cyprus government
confiscated the cargo responding to UN request.

The problem for arts funding in Cyprus (which is the same for this
region if not absolutely every where else) is that, despite
unemployment, there is an acute under staffing in the cultural
department of the Ministry of Education & Culture. This situation has
existed for many years which indicates clearly the attitude of all
political parties toward the arts in this country. Also most
overworked and overwhelmed government employees assessing cultural
proposals are not professionally familiar with the content they are
assessing so this situation allows for ingratiating favouritism and
political nepotism to be the deciding factor.

Nevertheless, for the Greek speaking community, the  announcement of
Papandreou's resignation has been anticipated for a few weeks now so
it comes as no shock.  According to many, if Greece defaults it might
signal the end of Euro(pe). But as Zizek asked in a lecture he gave in
Athens  late last year, “the end of which Europe?”

Helene Black & Yiannis Colakides
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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