Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

Case Study: B92

Media blackout and censorship in Serbia

We study the state of media by a case study, that has been enhanced through a primary semi-structured expert interview with CEO of B92, Veran Matic : by comparing the past and current situations of the state of media in Serbia. B92 is a radio and television broadcaster in Belgrade, Serbia. “ B92 is the pioneer of independent Yogoslav broadcasting” (BBC, 2000). We have interviewed Mr. Veran Matic, the CEO of B92. He is also the president of Commission for investigating killings of Journalists in Serbia. There are two key soul men in our project. They are Slobodan Milosevic and Alexander Vucic respectively. Slobodan Milosevic became Serbian regional Communist Party President in 1986 and found dead in the jail in 2006. We focus on his dictatorship during his tenure. It is because “During the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, B92 was one of the very few sources for news not controlled by Milošević regime – it became an exemplar of a free media” (Calebonia, 2013). Therefore, B92 become our target to study. However, even B92 is an independent media, it is still in troubles for so many times.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 1

Veran Matic: “Well, I believe you might know that I am in the media and act as editor in Chief B92 since 1989, so for 26 years now, and during Milosevic’s time, all independent media were gathered round Association of independent Electronic media (ANEM). And I was the president of this association back then and during that time, the number of media kept growing and in time of Milosevic’s fall from power, there was over 100 electronic media in ANEM, So, B92 tried to make some kind of parallel system to that of Milosevic and a lot of media campaigns, and we have tried to establish movements and civil society and in the process, B92 was banned for 4 times. But we always managed to somehow find a way to come back on the air. I was under arrest during the bombing, more precisely, I got arrested on the first day of air raids.”

(…)

Bojana: “B92 was closed down and Mr. Veran was taken to prison in 2000. After that ban, we changed the strategy and we placed transmitters around the neighboring countries, so the programme was aired from there and it was… illegal actually. But, It was aired. It couldn’t be banned.

Mandy: What do the citizens know more or less about the truth at that time? How they know the truth at this time? Do they find it easy to get the information at that period?”

Veran Matic: “In Milsevic’s time it was hard to find the truth about the killings that took place on behalf of Serbian people in general. But the citizens were able to find the truth if they followed independent media, although those media were not as powerful as the state media, so many of them were not in position to find out the truth.

If to trace back the history, Slobodan Milosevic was arrested because of the ethnic genocides during his tenure. In 1993, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed the cases that have to interrogate the guilt of Milosevic in Hague Tribunal. B92 at that time did live trial via Satellite that let Serbian know what mistakes they have done. Several televisions broadcast stations at that time, only B92 insist to show the trial to citizens. B92 broadcasted the trial for 2 years continually that make people suspect there is a powerful organization or people supporting them. Where is the funding from B92? Why are they so rich? B92 got the funding from foreign source of donation- USAID. “The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. The organization’s goals include providing economic, developmental and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States” (USAID, 2014). However, why the funding is from America?

From here, we can see during the era of Milosevic, the information is quite free. However, the situations keep changing to be worse. Alexander Vucic is the current prime minster since 2014. “Alexander Vucic is the most important and the only one who has influence and he really makes all the decisions of this country and that is frightened and that everyone knows” (Beckovic, 2015). As Veran (2015) also supported “The state of media in Serbia is rather complex and not so simple to describe because in Milosevic’s era it was all black and white and there was government and authority and the resistance movement and now it is all vague and rather complicated”.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 2

Mandy: From 2008 to 2013, there are around 348 attacks on media professionals happened in Serbia. Do you think communication could be changed to prevent these things?

Veran Matic: So the journalists face plenty of threats on a daily basis here, and we don’t have threats, but also attempts of assassination, I think you may know that assassination was attempted on our colleague Dejan Anastrasijevic, and the other days journalists were severely beaten up and the journalist killers were never found, the one who committed this assault was never found.

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 3

Another interview we have done are from the Journalism students in University of Belgrade found out what students are thinking about B92 and the current status of the state in Serbia.

Student2:        B92 would be one of my favorites.

Esme:             Its got quite a history of er, especially journalists as well.

Student2:        Yes but they change. Also, B92 is from the 90’s they changed a bit.

Student3:        They changed a lot.

Esme:              How did they change?

Student3: They became like fox news.

Esme:              So from the American influence?

Student3:         No! Just unprofessional and bad reporting I think it has to be much better and now they deleted the good shows. Like celebrity shows.

Student1:         And they become more commercial television than Fox! The television B92 was the only one you could say ‘ok they do investigate you’ journalism but todays there nothing.

 

Lena:               They have just done of the most important TV shows, political shows.

Esme:             This is with Olja Beckovic? We are meeting with her on Thursday.

 

Group:            Aww!

 

Student1:   She is really great!

 

Helena:            Lucky you!

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 4

Student 1:       Well, Olja Beckovic was a good journalist.

Esme:              Why did they shut her down?

Lena:              Well, it was ratings or something like that. But I think it was, its our government.

Natalia:           She raised a lot issues and subjects somebody from the government didn’t like that very much.

 

Lena:               The prime minister.

 

Helena:           ‘Alexander the great’. (Laughing)

 

Student3:         The prime minister in the 90’s was like the minster of communications and promotions and he learned how to control.

Student1:         That was the time of the biggest media blackout in Serbia and you can assume why the freedom of media within Serbia is at low rates.

(…)

The show that the students mentioned about is named “Impression of the week”. It is a political show that ran for more than 20 years until last year. Impression of the week is one of the most notable regular TV programmes by B92. To apply the example of panopticon from Bentham, the state of Serbia utilized the media power to ruin the relationship between the state and citizens. The citizens are living in a panopticon that is monitored by the prison administrators (people who have power in the state of Serbia). The prison administrators are located in the centre of a panopticon, so that they can monitor the mode of all prisoners (citizens). The prisoners only know they were monitored, meaning that the citizens could not know what is behind the state of Serbia. However, the state of Serbia government has the power to supervise every citizen. Foucault stated there is resistance where there is power. For example, “Beckovic has begun openly speaking about receiving telephone calls from Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, pressuring her to change guests and topics on her show”. (Radisic, 2014). Beckovic (2015) has indicated ‘ Belgrade is a very small country and Serbia are in different ways corrupted. Like the little newspaper stores, you need to be members of Alexander Vucic’s party’. The little newspaper stores she is talking about named ‘Moj Kiosk’. Our group sees these stores everywhere. Pavlovic (2014) also supported “Serbia is a country devoured by corruption and robbed of its resources through shady privatizations”.

Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)
Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)

Reference:

Pavlovic K. (2014). Living the Serbian dream: a look at Aleksandar Vučić’s election victory.Available:https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/koč-pavlović/living-serbian-dream-look-at-aleksandar-vučićs-election-victory. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

CaledoniaB.(2013).MediaWars.Available:http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/10/06/media-wars/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

PUSHING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE. Available: http://www.usaid.gov/philippines/press-releases/mar-6-2014-pushing-science-and-technology-brighter-future. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

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Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

Spaces & Traces

Irrespective of its size or locale, any space, provided it has been inhabited or maintained by humans, will carry a trace of their values and history. Architecture is an absolute medium, a physical and structural projection of the designer, and as such it will carry the sentiments of the cultures they originate from. Belgrade is no exception to this rule, and its history seemed to be quite literally constructed around us, to the point where it was inescapable. Perhaps the departure from our native spaces played a part in our stark observations, I would argue that our pre-departure research and fixation on Serbia may had also had some effect on our perception, but ultimately traces of history and ideology manifest themselves everywhere: Sometimes it is the more abstract forms of representation, a building or a street for example, that bear the most explicit marks.

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Spaces & Traces

The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)

Reflecting on our collective research, as a starting point, originally began to identify the spectacle of Serbia conflict by acknowledging its historical past and the manipulation of the government. Serbia’s national identity that previously ought to be constructed was described as an: “unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193). This suggests that Serbia’s identity, as a nation is an on going process that is to be identified. This “chapter” will consider the notion of collective responsibility that Serbia as a nation holds from considering previous research and a series of expert interviews that will generate an alternative view of the formalising of identity.

  • Is it possible to define collective identity in an ever –evolving space of multiple and cultural identities?

Leggewie (2013:101) identifies that European memory needs to be changed in order to “achieve full integration and collective identity”, Leggewie continues to suggest that a different memory needs to be reformed in order to completely re construct a new collective self-reflection of the state. Therefore emphasising the importance of memory, particularly within spaces of corruption. Correlating to the brief set, media artefacts are thought of as collective memory that emphasise dates, events and individuals, however we are interested in the experiences these individuals have and how this can shape their knowledge of Belgrade. Additionally, Semprun, prisoner at Buchenwald (1945) claimed that, “European enlargement could only succeed culturally and existentially ‘when our memories have been shared and brought together as one’” cited in Leggewie (2013:102-103). This already perceived perception of the “in limbo” Serbian identity is key to identify, because this generates a degree of uncertainty of what should be considered the ‘norm’ within contemporary society.

Issue no.179: “Belgrade Insight” (2015) presents a juxtaposition of articles that represent the corruption of destroying memory, the sacrifice of history for investment. A sense of erasing a context of an era is highlighted with the merging of uncertain identity.

Belgrade Insight - Belgrade waterfront project set to destroy nazi bunker

Modules of power of the construction of the representation of the narrative are important roles to consider in order to understand that power is the ability to control narrative. A recent expert (semi structured) interview with Olja Beckovic (2015) provided an insight of the current state of media uncertainty that, in extract 1, can be identified as being the government’s power of the media, generating the voice of the people for them. Beckovic demonstrates in this extract her own role as journalist provides a sense of narrative power that was admired by the people:

  • Extract 1:
  • Esme Spurling: “So how would you describe the power of the media against the government of Serbia?”
  • Olja Beckovic: “I think all medias are under the control of government. So the prime minister is really obsessed with medias. And he controls everything, he watches all TV programmes and society networks and he knows everything what everyone wrote about him and he is all the time in problem and in conflict to discuss with journalists, ‘how dare you to ask the question and do your job’, he does not realise that it is possible to be on the other side of him he is sure that he is the best prime minister ever seen in the world.”
  • ES: “But he is surveying what has been said about him? Why do you think that is, that he wants to know about what has been said?”
  • OB: “…er because very very long political history and he, he was seeking for powerful 20 years ago. So he wanted to be someone so many years and now when he is he dosnt want to loose that position. He wants to be there until the end of his life or ours lives. So really, it is something I think it is not political he really needs to be loved of everyone, and he has support covered by researches he has of 70% it is support, which no one ever had. But no he wants 100%, or more.”
  • (…)
  • OB: “[A] journalist is restricted more than they have ever been! So journalists are frightened because they know that if they say anything that he dosnt like (prime minister) such in my case, then they loose job. And er because, when you loose your job you don’t have any other place to find it so what are you going to do? And he knows that, so when you ask journalists is there a control of media they would say, ‘oh I don’t know I don’t know’ and hes just the guy who makes phone calls personally to journalists every day and he said “how did you say that how did you say that” and then when Ive done one, yes he called me a hundred times, when you ask any other journalist they would say ‘oh no he never called me he never called me’. And he really enjoys that situation he says look at that everyone says I never call so…”
  • Beckovic (2015) immediately identifies the position of the Government in relation to the public media. Her identity as journalist and previous television presenter of ‘Impression of the Week’ (1991 until September 2014) should be acknowledged. ‘Impression of the Week’ hosted 3 guests that had the apparent freedom of speech to discuss recent news and provide comical insights, before Beckovic was asked to leave under B92’s instructions. Therefore providing a platform for her audience to actively engage: Hasinoff (2014) points out that there is a certain ‘fear and promise of technology’ (2014:09). This ‘promise’ suggests the freedom of speech through technology that Hasinoff (2014) continues to suggest allows the user to adopt to a more dominant online identity, therefore taking into consideration the younger generation of Belgrade (accessing mobile technology that is more restricted) online technology can offer a ‘utopian democratic promise that users and viewers could become producers’.
  • Considering the ‘new’ identity Belgrade is reconstructing the virtual space online works as an advancement and a sense of escapism, as Boyd et al (2008) note the online space can be used in order to explore identities, which should be considered when its suggested that the identity of Serbia is yet to be reformed and is currently an on going process.
  • I find specifically interesting is the notion of ‘layers’ and the constant reconstruction process of identity, which can be visually shown through the use of self expression of street art:
  • As seen from Mikser House Festival (2014) to recently in 2015 where we documented the same street art. The ‘layer process’ that suggests complete reconstruction because the art is completely different and does not correspond to the 2014.
  • (2014)

street art copy mikser

  • Mikserfest %2c Guitarfest and Mikser Card

(2015)

IMG_0752

  • Power & Redistribution of Values:
  • “The rise of transnational media and globalisation are weakening, in this view, identification with the nation. They are also said to be eroding engagement in national politics since this derives ultimately from a sense of national belonging”. Curran,J. (1981:282)
  • It is interesting to consider the convergence to new media within Serbia and how this might produce offline consequences due to the nature in which media becomes (re)produced interaction occurs.
  • Those already in power are able to redistribute thoughts and values from their economic backgrounds – in regards to technology. The restriction to only one type of voice that is not marginalised, therefore only one version of events can be listened to online whilst the other is only heard.
  • Losonc (60:2014) points out that ‘neoliberalism is projected to manage a complex of freedom and non-freedom’, as previously discussed with Beckovic (2015) who strongly suggested that this was the most restriction journalists in Serbia had ever been in terms of voicing their opinions – despite the advancement of global and public communication online. Influenced by Tellmann’s “Foucault and the Invisiible Economy” (2009:5-24), Losonc (2014) continues to add that the structure of history is always a combination of the ‘visible and the sayable’.
  • Tellmann (2009) continues to describe Foucault’s relationship to the silences of the ‘market based truth’ because of the ‘fractal-panopticon- that ceaselessly produces and co ordinates identity in accordance with the governmental rationality – again acknowledging the ability to purchase a voice ‘online’.
  • Seaton & Curran (307:1997) comment, “The more wealth an entertainment system has, the more it shows programmes made specifically for its own audiences.” Therefore directly relating to B92, despite the audiences engagement with Olja Beckovic on “Impression of the week” (2014), the state-run institution, with purpose to provide state information to the people, decided to provide Beckovic with a difficult decision to choose to have her programme where she would have low ratings (eg daytime) and moved to a separate channel altogether. Resulting in Beckovic appeared to leave upon her own accordance. “A system unable even to understand its own self-interest, but blindly moving forward nonetheless” (Seaton & Curran 1997:311).
The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)

Transformation of journalism in Serbia

Along with social change from socialism to capitalism, Serbian journalism has been transformed. After stage of experiencing ideological liberation and political pluralism, journalism values and communication concept split apart, and gradually closed up with West. Transformation from concept of public opinion’s tool to concept of fourth power, from propagating certer to having masses as its center, from mouthpiece function to concept of entertainment and commercialization, revealed that western liberal concept has had great influence on Serbian journalism. However, having politics of liberal principles and economic reforms constantly failed, and moreover fettering of Serbian traditional culture and deep-routed ideas, mass media swayed in front of complex reality. Actually, giving up traditional and becoming completely westernized, or combining these two with its own national characteristics, is not only a question which Serbian politicians should answer but at the same time is reality that journalism has to face. Liberalism didn’t bring to Serbia Western prosperity, and it didn’t make Serbian media experience development. Old concept and theory have already been broken, new theory has not yet been found. Changing its values, Serbian mass media with great difficulties seeks for ways of development appropriate to itself.

Serbian mass media has undergone great changes in Europe, experiencing from socialism to capitalism, the great social change. Serbian journalists experienced the chaos of emancipation and pluralistic political thought at the beginning of reforms in various suffer psychologically intense impact of social change, their news values and dissemination of ideas through a time of fission, and gradually move closer to the West. But in order to change the principle of liberal political and economic system continues to fail in Serbia, the Serbian community in chaos, the mass media on the one hand continue to reflect the complexity of social reality, on the one hand and continue to be affected. What is the West to abandon the traditional round or a combination of reality and take a path of its own national characteristics, which is not only Serbian politicians need to answer the question, but also the media must face the reality, not the liberal west with Serbia prosperous way, the mass media in Serbia to accept Western liberal press theory influence also constantly reflect on the history of the old concepts and theories have been broken, a new theory has not yet formed, the Serbian mass media concept of suffering in Evolution Bitter finding a path for their own development

After a variety of media and political changes in Serbia, after a tortuous development process, is still in the midst of restructuring, attention to this issue has important theoretical and practical significance. I believe that in the near future, the Serbian media, the new era will be in a new and more relaxed appearance in front of the world, to create a world the clear crystal of news and information, and for the protection of citizens’ right to information, improve information disclosure system to make due contributions

Transformation of journalism in Serbia

3D film

3D technology become a very great trend to develop, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg called the 3D technology is “70 years since the film industry’s greatest innovations”. If we called the first innovation is from silent movie to sound film, and the second innovation is from black and white film to color film, now, we ushered in the third field of innovation that from 2D to 3D.

“Avatar” was released as a milestone in the development of the film, the film marks the world was swept into a wave of 3D movies, the process of 3D movie world and therefore greatly accelerated. It gives the audience an immersive stereoscopic movie experience and become further extended movie dreaming; novel three-dimensional feel the audience is willing to pay a higher price to watch 3D movies; 3D movies more effectively eliminate piracy phenomenon, protect the interests of film investors, producers and cinema.

3D movies has demonstrated its great charm, theoretically the two eyes to see things always stronger than the one eye, 3D movie that should shape the future of mainstream movies. However, there is always a gap between theory and reality, 3D movies biggest drawback is that the viewer must wear glasses to see three-dimensional effect, which greatly hindered the popularity of 3D movies. Many people are very annoying when watching movies so wearing a pair of glasses, especially when there are problems with your eyes, you need to wear glasses, the two pairs of spectacles on a nose, overwhelmed by it when, for a long time the eye will make people tired, dizzy, so much for watching 3D movies myopia over time it becomes a pain than pleasure.

Serbia’s remarkable film in the history of world cinema, the film is now recovering in Serbia, development of the film market still has a huge space, although at a stage of rapid development, but the film industry size is not large, compared to the entire media the state of the industry’s revenue, the economic benefits of the film industry also belong to low-level, to accelerate the pace of reform in terms of the film industry, the Serbian movie will get a substantial prospect.

Enormous economic benefits only appearance, we still need to realize that the film lies in the creation of art, is a collection of scripts, directors, actors and other factors of cultural expressions, we want to fully explore the allocation of resources within the current field of study conduct a deeper inquiry related to camera technology and learning, to create a better visual effect; at the same time, the film’s content image-building is very important. Under the guidance of 3D technology, our senses have been shocking, vibrant artistic expression from the rich artistic connotation; on this basis, in order to fully demonstrate the 3D technology is a means to highlight artistic creation on film.

Serbia’s 3D film industry is still at a basic level, some of the inevitable contradictions and shortcomings, both of these problems also help constrain the future direction of the Serbian movie. An important cornerstone for the development of 3D movies is to develop a filmmaker with a distinctive international outlook and Serbia, only with their wide field of vision to lead Serbia into the world of 3D movies.

In short, today’s rise in visual entertainment, 3D movie inspired the people’s demand for the film, will lead the development of world cinema, there are many in this regard need to work to improve. Continuous learning in order to promote the continuous development of our pace in the emerging film industry, so fast to keep up with the process of Serbia advanced countries develop and strengthen innovative 3D movie career.

However, it will damage our eyes when we watch the 3D movie. With the rapidly growing popularity of 3D technology, many children’s movies begin with “3D” in the form boarded the screen, however, the Italian supreme Healthcare Commission has decided to ban the use of children under 6 years stereoscopic 3D glasses to watch movies, play 3D movies in theaters at the same time The time should be set up break. According to an Italian consumer groups said, Milan, Italy, a 3-year-old girl a few days ago in a theater wearing stereoscopic glasses eye irritation after watching the movie. The group also said to have used a 3D cinema glasses usually are not rigorous disinfection, easily spread skin diseases and eye diseases, and may even lead to the forehead audience Health herpes, but there is not enough evidence to show that they do not affect vision. Second time watching 3D movies may appear headache and blurred vision and so on. When watching 3D movies, people’s eyes will stop automatically adjust to fit the contents of the screen, so it is easy to cause visual fatigue. Because children are still in the developmental stage, the more vulnerable the eye of the structure relative to adults, so the greater the likelihood of discomfort. So when children should not be sitting watching 3D movies too far forward position, after a period of time should be allowed to watch the eyes a rest. Also should teach children to consciously blink while watching a movie, alleviate eye fatigue.

Remove glasses, and is now under a key topic of 3D technology, there are already some appliance manufacturers to develop some do not wear glasses can see three-dimensional images of the TV, the other scientists are also trying to make use of three-dimensional holographic imaging technology to achieve effect, which has been successfully used in a number of large-scale events. In theater, the American Real D announced within 10 years to let the audience off stereoscopic 3D glasses to watch movies directly to that time, the audience will be more convenient to watch 3D movies and comfortable.

3D film

Meeting the Mikser

It was the final stop on our itinerary, having already visited a previous cultural space, as well as the University faculty of political sciences, and Broadway-inspired Terazije theatre, not to mention conducting a number of successful interviews with best-selling Author Uroš Petrović, B92 executive Veran Matić, and the nationally adored journalist/talkshow presenter, Olja Bećković. But for me, the Mikser house had been the one venue I was most excited about, and I had been ever since I made contact with them a month or so prior to our departure. Considering my own personal and professional interests in visual content and creative enterprises, I found myself drawn much closer to the cultural centers than other areas of our research. We had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Maja Lalic, the creative director of Mikser Beograd. We talked politics, arts and the origins of the Mikser House.

The moment we stepped into the Mikser House we were greeted by an eye-catching array of artistic exports, friendly faces and the smell of fresh coffee. As we waited to meet our host I couldn’t help but marvel at the genius of the place. Comparable to a small warehouse in size, but with an interior design much like a studio or venue hall. Stylish and self-sufficient, it could only be described as a modular space which could suitably accommodate for just about anything a cultural centre would have wanted, be it live music and theatrics, to the production and distribution of all things artistic and desirable.

Despite the peaceful atmosphere, I sensed a total lack of stillness, its occupants worked tirelessly from every corner of the room. Groups of people moved from table to table, presumably managing creative projects, whilst others swapped between the bar work and shop keeping. There was a lot of physical work to be done, stage-prepping, camera setting and sound-checking, but all done so quietly, peacefully carried by the familiar sound of Alt-J  in the background.     

In an effort to mobilize the arts as a greater source of cultural, social and economic capital, several spaces have been constructed to serve as central hubs for local creatives. Primarily located across Stari Beograd (The cultural and tourist region of the capital, more commonly referred to as ‘Old Belgrade’), the likes of Mikser House and similar venues are independently funded, having acknowledged the futility of the old state funding. This socialist heritage, which Maja describes as “A badly managed policy” still operates within the Balkans across a range of institutional programs, such as theater and broadcasting media, and as such has been directly challenged by adopting a more rugged individualist approach to business.

“we try to be politically correct but then a new strategy is reinforced… if you try to create money instead of waiting – it’s a hypocritical situation! Not only art but people need to provide for young people of design and we need to pay wages here.”

Considering the financial instability of the region, those responsible for the upkeep and development of the Mikser House have quite literally had to rely on their entrepreneurial smarts, practical skills and an exceptional sense of purpose. As I learned through speaking with Maja Lalic, their enterprise had gone through countless hardships before it became what it is today. But to see the space when I did, and to hear of its stories and undertakings was nothing short of moving.

A handful of Mikser’s promotional materials, designed on site, and kindly provided to us by Maja.

There was a lot I wanted to ask Maja when I finally met her, above all else I had a genuine curiosity for the story of Mikser, to know what they had gone through and where their artistic backgrounds lay. But perhaps most important of all was the question ‘why? What did they hope to achieve in casting their net to rally the artists of Belgrade, and how successful had they been?

Her answers were steeped in Mikser’s history and her own personal experiences. With a political backdrop as tumultuous as Serbia’s, it was evidently clear that one of the most prominent losses to the country (as a result of the late Yugoslavian crisis) was a national identity, a cultural brand if you will. Maja proceeded to talk passionately of the need to reinvigorate the arts as the first step towards reconstitution and recovery, as it fills the void that such a history of warfare and isolation creates. She explained the entrepreneurial prospects of the Mikser House and like minded spaces. The venue itself generates some sort of revenue through the selling and distributing of local artists’ goods, such as clothing and publications, and the system had gone through a rigorous process of trial and error sales to focus on the most profitable and successful goods. She told me candidly that it is necessary not to be too idealistic or ‘utopian’ when trying to generate an income from artistic goods, and that not everything will sell. I saw for myself the benefits of such a black and white approach, the quality of the goods was incredibly high as a result of this premium mindset, and the artists who were involved with Mikser (either through collaborations or distributions) were pushed to be the best they could be.

mixser!
The quality of goods for sale in Mikser was incredibly high. As you can see, I couldn’t help but buy into what they were selling.

But she stressed the importance on employing an open, multi-disciplinary orthodox. Mikser’s financial health could not be sustained alone on sales, but on the house’s potential as a bonafide venue for live events, festivals and markets. The space itself regenerates much of its overhead through its rates as a venue for hire, not just for artists but for NGOs and social initiatives, but does so in relation to its surroundings as opposed to outgrowing them, ensuring it remains an accessible part of society for everyone.

“In addition to this, prices have been scaled to fit the needs to the people. The very core of a business should be creative content then the periphery of the core should be adapting to the priorities, not to marketing but to emotional and social levels”.

As we discussed, this ultimately gave Mikser a peculiar position of power: The capacity to generate a social income, if you will, by generating interest and pulling a larger demographic of people to the venue. Maja emphasized the power to inform and influence large numbers of people, by breaking up the daily habitus with something new and exciting. She went on to explain the chain reaction one venue, if used correctly, could have on a local area. Creativity, entrepreneurialism and hard work can generate revenue, but it can also give something back to society, a sense of purpose and belonging, and eventually this can influence politics. To think that all of this has been essentially founded through creative thinkers, artists and their work for the sake of everyone is nothing short of staggering, as Maja put it, “we are everyday heroes.”

Meeting the Mikser

SERBIAN IDENTITY AND THE CONCEPT OF EUROPEANNESS – IRENA RISTIC

http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/1452-595X/2007/1452-595X0702185R.pdf

“since the European Union is not just an institutional organisation, but also a community of values, it remains a question whether historically established norms and values in Serbia can potentially be in conflict with direct and indirect expectations, demands and values of the EU” (Ristic 2007: 185).

IDENTITY

Identity takes on various definitions depending on the context it is concerned with. On an individual basis, identity refers to unique characteristics and behaviours. In a wider sense, though, it must encapsulate the norms, values and customs of a collective group of people in a way that represents each of them fairly and equally, as well as provide a social order against which to regulate the interactions occurring within this collective group. In a sense, there is nothing hindering the performance of personal identity until it runs over the borders of personal space, in which it becomes disciplined by wider society. Nassehi recognises that we automatically become self-disciplining citizens when we consider our identity in terms of national state and in comparison to other nations. In this context, identity and national state become intertwined and a homogenous national identity is formed and performed. “A nation state and identity hence determine each other: collective identity gets its full affirmation and confirmation, within a national state that is defined by territory, borders and a nation/society, and vice versa” (Ristic 2007: 186).

The construction of a national identity transparently serves as a regulatory tool to guide a society towards progression. “Nassehi sees both the nation and the national identity as two major inventions of Europe’s modernity” (Ristic 2007: 186). It has been debated that these social concepts have not been made available to adopt like particular attitudes, but implemented as pervasive discourses that contradict concepts of individuality. Furthermore, it incites discrimination between borderlands and prosecution of minorities. However, the inability to subscribe to any national identity prohibits membership to that nation or society, thus rendering a person an outsider and a minority to be persecuted. This cycle illustrates one of the biggest factors contributing to the wars that undulate European history, and also juxtaposes the expected outcomes of producing a national identity in the first place.

EUROPEAN IDENTITY

‘Europeanness’ as a characteristic of identity is problematic as its connotations vary rapidly between places, political standpoints, generations, economic backgrounds etc. However, Ristic proposes that there may be universal values of Europeanness, which are “reflected in the simultaneous existence of a consciousness of common tradition and culture” (Lepsius 2004: 4 cited in Ristic 2007: 188).

“The importance of the national state and the identification of citizens with their national state, and further with a region they border with, and finally with Europe can be seen as crucial European values, from which we can drive the principles of self-determination, voluntariness, religious tolerance, openness, political pluralism and federalism, free trade and an awareness of common identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures” (Europäische Identität heute und morgen, Council of Europe documents, http://www.coe.int/T/d/Com/Dossiers/Themen/Identitat/).

This understanding contests that ‘Europeanness’ is linked to abstract values as opposed to ethnic, socio-cultural, historical, geographical or institutional values etc. that differ between every national state. Ristic proposes that these values are actually postnational.

SERBIAN IDENTITY

Serbia’s inability to fill the space where a national identity ought to be solidifies its reputation as the “unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193). “National identities are often determined not only from inside, but also from outside” (Ristic 2007: 188-189). In her book, “Imagining the Balkans”, Marija Todorova explored the reduction of Balkan culture and stereotypicalisation of images in the Western media that portrayed the Balkans as a wild and barbarous society. While this may or may not have been intentional, and though was only a dominant ideology in the West in the 1990s, it has an impact on the self-perception of those living in the Balkans as they become aware of the lens through which they are being viewed by the rest of the world. In doing similar research, Vespa Goldsworthy coined the term ‘imperialism of imagination’, which has been used in the personification of Serbia as the unruly child in relation to the parent that is the rest of Europe. This is an image widely circulated in the discussion of Serbia’s progression, but only from the Western perspective.

Serbian national identity as seen from within, Ristic posits, sits on one of either two opposing standpoints. The first sees Serbia as a Western European country, and this relates to liberal values and urbanised Western culture. This understanding “does not see the nation in the foreground, but the citizen” (Ristic 2007: 190). The second sees Serbia as a European only in geography and stays close to its traditional and historically non-European attitudes, which could be considered closer to Russia’s and much more disdainful of Western liberalism. This standpoint “sets collectivism before individual responsibility and underlines the orthodox/Slavic heritage” (Ristic 2007: 190). Ristic argues that this dichotomy of opinions towards an established national identity in Serbia is evident in the country’s institutions and in wider society and, ergo, hinders any progression the nation may make. Ristic explains that the closest thing Serbia has to a pillar of national identity is the Serbian orthodox church. While the ideologies and beliefs from the church have long been shaping and representing the mindset of Serbian society over the centuries, it became less representative in the 20th Century when it clashed with Western liberal values that Serbia adopted out of a crisis for financial and social improvement. The church is only steadily regaining its high esteem now and only in the parts of Serbia that can afford retraditionalism because they have not subscribed to this modern sense of Europeanness.

Historically, Serbia has swung back and forth between Western and Russian values in an effort to secure financial stability and opportunities for growth. Having never succeeded either way and being constantly shifted from one polar end to another, the country is split in two without a clear vision for progression without extremely radical changes to political regimes. “Serbia’s history was marked by discontinuity and… [it] still disables Serbia[‘s ability] to find an identificational common denominator” (Ristic 2007: 193). Until the country can find unity inside its own borders, and demonstrate an openness to cooperate with European values, it will not reach membership within the EU and will continue oscillating between Eastern and Western value systems and risking further separations between borders and territories.

SERBIAN IDENTITY AND THE CONCEPT OF EUROPEANNESS – IRENA RISTIC