PERFORMING DEMOCRACY, 2019-2020

How to use the recorded material not to give a diagnosis for just one part of Serbian contemporary society, but rather as a tool with which to open constructive dialogue on the common future? How to understand the fact that among the filmed statements there is not one from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SPP) political party that holds nearly absolute power in Serbia today? Even though we continuously sent invitations to the representatives of the S.P.P. it remains the only potential and planned interlocutor who never gave as any, either positive or negative, answer regarding the possibility of participating in the project. An important indicator in rethinking both the filmed material and the current moment came from students of history, sociology and political sciences who commented the recorded material. The motivation for the inclusion of students into our research originates from the need to temporarily intervene in the practice of these academic disciplines, reducing the distance between scientific analysis and everyday life, the “objective” and “subjective”, the scientific method and artistic approach. The decision to invite students to participate in this dialogue is also the result of our sincere curiosity to learn more about the thoughts of young citizens in Serbia, those who are often considered as being ambivalent  toward the issues of society or politics. At the same time, these are our citizens who, to quite an large extent, are not burdened with direct experience of the history of disintegration of our common state, following the wars and changes after the 5th October 2000. Similar to all other participants in the project, students who answered our invitation, in cooperation with their professors Dubravka Stojanović, Ivana Spasić and Djordje Pavićević, in their written comments demonstrated everything but apathy and lack of interest in relation to democracy and the current state of our society.

Slavoljub Kostić and Goran Jakovljević, participants in the eco protests in Bor

Jelena Miletić, Dragan Stojmenović and Goran Milenković, Center for Informal Communication Nemušto, Bor

Božidar Savić, pensioner and Zorana Pavlović, artist

Zoran Lutovac and Dragana Rakić, Democratic Party

Milovan Pavlović, disabled pensioner, citizen of Serbia and Denis Ferizović, citizen of Serbia

Prof. Tamara Milenković Kerković PhD and Jugoslav Kiprijanović, Serbian movement Dveri

Jelena Simić, assistant professor at the Faculty of Law, Union University and Agata Milan Đurić, human rights activist, Geten Center

Jugoslav Ristić, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Kragujevac, Zoran Marković, President of the Independent Trade Union "FCA" - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Serbia, and Dragan Ilić, President of the Independent Trade Union "Zastava Oružje"

Snežana Žujković, specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics and Aleksandar Dukić, obstetrician-gynaecologist

Ljiljana Nadoveza, citizen of Serbia and Ozren Nadoveza, unemployed

Vladimir Marović and Predrag Voštinić, Local Front

Marija Perković, worker and Dženeta Agović, activist and president of the Impulse organization from Tutin

Marija Marinković, Danijel Dašić and Mladen Jovanović, National Coalition for Decentralization

Dobrica Veselinović and Radomir Lazović, Don’t let Belgrade D(r)own

Vesna Vojvodić Mitrović and Prof. Zoran Stojiljković PhD, Trade union "Nezavisnost"

Milena Repajić and Ivan Velisavljević, Radical Left Party

Radomir Ćirilović and Vladeta Jovanović, Prosperitet Association for the Protection of Consumer Rights

Iva Marković and Miloš Baković Jadžić, Right to Water initiative

Marija Jakovljević and Galina Maksimović, Reconstruction Women's Fund

Nataša Tasić Knežević, soloist of the Serbian National Theater opera in Novi Sad and Saša Knežević, pianist

Nevena Martinović and Filip Milošević, SHARE Foundation

Prof. Slavica Đukić Dejanović M.D. PhD and Prof. Predrag Marković PhD, Socialist Party of Serbia

Tanja Marković, activist and Nebojša Milikić, member of the No to Rehabilitation initiative

Milinka Minja Nikolić, Marica Stamenković and Milijana Živković activists, Mt. Stara Planina

Olja Nikolić Kia, member of the Trans-Balkan Solidarity collective and Push-back Map and Teodora Jovanović, anthropologist

Tara Rukeci and Branislav Markuš, Zrenjanin Social Forum

Slađana Radivojević, Zorica Krunić and Dušan Jović, Trstenik Theatre

How to use the recorded material not to give a diagnosis for just one part of Serbian contemporary society, but rather as a tool with which to open constructive dialogue on the common future? How to understand the fact that among the filmed statements there is not one from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SPP) political party that holds nearly absolute power in Serbia today? Even though we continuously sent invitations to the representatives of the SPP it remains the only potential and planned interlocutor who never gave as any, either positive or negative, answer regarding the possibility of participating in the project. An important indicator in rethinking both the filmed material and the current moment came from students of history, sociology and political sciences who commented the recorded material. The motivation for the inclusion of students into our research originates from the need to temporarily intervene in the practice of these academic disciplines, reducing the distance between scientific analysis and everyday life, the “objective” and “subjective”, the scientific method and artistic approach. The decision to invite students to participate in this dialogue is also the result of our sincere curiosity to learn more about the thoughts of young citizens in Serbia, those who are often considered as being ambivalent toward the issues of society or politics. At the same time, these are our citizens who, to quite an large extent, are not burdened with direct experience of the history of disintegration of our common state, following the wars and changes after the 5th October 2000. Similar to all other participants in the project, students who answered our invitation, in cooperation with their professors Dubravka Stojanović, Ivana Spasić and Djordje Pavićević, in their written comments demonstrated everything but apathy and lack of interest in relation to democracy and the current state of our society.

Having experienced sincerity and openness from all participants in this dialogue we feel obliged to think of new open experimental formats within which discussions about democracy could become open to broader participation, as an act of collective rethinking and conceptualization of alternatives. It is exactly this task, the imagining of a format which would enable space for free participation of all those interested, a space for dissensus and discussions, for the experience of sharing and developing collective imagination that represents the biggest challenge moving forwards. We believe that nowadays it is important to develop such a space within the field of art which is building its transformative potential in resistance to dominant models of production, norms and narratives, exercising its capacity for imagination, common experience and free play. This is where the notion “performing” comes from. On the one hand, it indicates that democracy is a collection of norms and agreed rules which regulate a society; on the other, it indicates our possibility to actively ask questions and seek for answers, confront our ideas, proposals and possible alternatives to dominant narratives and norms – and actually “perform” possible spaces of collective imagination within which alternatives can be freely considered and agreed upon. The project Performing Democracy offers one of the possible platforms within which different ideas are articulated and brought to the public. It also asks questions: Can we think of an alternative which would respond to actual challenges created by the pandemics, climate changes, growing inequalities, migrations? Can we collectively deliberate on and create new ideas, within and beyond existing divisions? Can we nurture empathy beyond our own interest groups and can we recognize our own interest in the idea of commons or collective? And how do we shape spaces within which we can negotiate, talk, test, make mistakes, learn from each other, perform and create ideas and concepts beyond dominant narratives; spaces which enable us to experience alternatives?

Participants: Slavoljub Kostić and Goran Jakovljević (participants in the eco protests in Bor); Jelena Miletić, Dragan Stojmenović and Goran Milenković (Center for Informal Communication Nemušto, Bor); Božidar Savić (pensioner) and  Zorana Pavlović (artist); Zoran Lutovac and Dragana Rakić (Democratic Party); Milovan Pavlović (disabled pensioner) and Denis Ferizović (citizen of Serbia); Prof. dr Tamara Milenković Kerković and Jugoslav Kiprijanović (Serbian movement Dveri); Jelena Simić (assistant professor at the Faculty of Law, Union University) and Agata Milan Đurić (human rights activist, Geten Center); Jugoslav Ristić (President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Kragujevac), Zoran Marković (President of the Independent Trade Union “FCA” – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Serbia) and Dragan Ilić (President of the Independent Trade Union “Zastava Oružje”); Snežana Žujković (specialist in gynecology and obstetrics) and Aleksandar Dukić (obstetrician-gynecologist); Ljiljana Nadoveza (citizen of Serbia) and Ozren Nadoveza (unemployed); Vladimir Marović and Predrag Voštinić (Local Front); Marija Perković (worker) i Dženeta Agović (activist and president of the Impulse organization from Tutin); Marija Marinković, Danijel Dašić and Mladen Jovanović (National Coalition for Decentralization); Dobrica Veselinović and  Radomir Lazović (Don’t let Belgrade D(r)own); Vesna Vojvodić Mitrović and prof. dr Zoran Stojiljković (Trade union “Nezavisnost”); Milena Repajić and Ivan Velisavljević (Radical Left Party); Radomir Ćirilović and Vladeta Jovanović (Prosperitet Association for the Protection of Consumer Rights); Iva Marković and Miloš Baković Jadžić (Right to Water initiative); Marija Jakovljević and Galina Maksimović (Reconstruction Women’s Fund); Nataša Tasić Knežević (soloist of the Serbian National Theater opera in Novi Sad) and Saša Knežević (pianist); Nevena Martinović and  Filip Milošević (SHARE Foundation); Prof. dr sci. Slavica Đukić Dejanović and prof. dr Predrag Marković (Socialist Party of Serbia); Milinka Minja Nikolić, Marica Stamenković and Milijana Živković (activists, Mt. Stara Planina); Tanja Marković (activist) and Nebojša Milikić (member of the No to Rehabilitation initiative); Olja Nikolić Kia (member of the Trans-Balkan Solidarity collective and Push-back Map) and Teodora Jovanović (anthropologist); Tara Rukeci and Branislav Markuš (Zrenjanin Social Forum); Slađana Radivojević, Zorica Krunić and Dušan Jović (Trstenik Theatre); students of Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Department for History: Ognjen Tomić, Dimitrije Matić, Sanja Radović, Ana Radaković, Luka Filipović and prof. dr Dubravka Stojanović; students of Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Department for Sociology: Irina Marković, Branislav Muškatirović, Danilo Pupavac, Milica Stević, Irena Šujdović, Jelena Tomić, Stefan Zdravković and prof. dr Ivana Spasić; students of Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade: Luka Petrović, Milena Manojlović,  Anastazija Radić, Stefan Milosavljević, Marina Milić and prof. dr Đorđe Pavićević.

We would like to thank all project participants on their goodwill and readiness to share with us their thoughts on democracy. We want to give a special thanks to our dear colleagues and friends who advised us during the working process, recommended or introduced us to new participants and hosted us in their homes and working spaces: Andrea Brbaklić, Iva Čukić, Zoe Gudović, Neda Knežević, Radomir Lazović, Galina Maksimović, Iva Marković, Tanja Marković, Branislav Markuš, Jelena Miletić, Nebojša Milikić, National coalition for Decemntralisation, Nana Radenković, Irena Ristić, Tara Rukeci, Jelena Simić, Branislava Stefanović.

Project authors: Ana Adamović i Milica Pekić
Camera, editing: Ana Adamović
Video post-production: Vladan Obradović
Sound design and post-production: Srđan Bajski
Translation of video statements on English: Goran Kričković
Web design: Vojislav Ilić

Project is realized with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy and Open Society Foundation, Serbia

„Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners“

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