What is democracy today, what does it imply and what are the most important inscribed concepts without which democracy cannot function? Is democracy possible? Is there an alternative to democracy? What is the optimal form of democracy? These questions are fundamental for the project Performing Democracy which is motivated by our need to discuss these issues, creating a space for a dialogue as broad as possible on the state of democracy. The project was developing in two phases.
The first phase was realized in Serbia and after its conclusion organisations DokuFest from Kosovo and Kontrapunkt from North Macedonia joined the project team. Motivation for enlarging the scope of the project is based in our belief that we need to rethink the notion of democracy and confront the challenges we are all facing today beyond strict local borders. Thus we have decided to join with partners from Kosovo and North Macedonia and broaden our investigation in the contemporary notion of democracy.
Constructing a collective participatory artwork in collaboration with citizens across three participating countries, the project aims to rethink the complexity of the current moment, investigating if we can discuss the meaning behind concepts such as tolerance, responsibility, solidarity and justice? Can we discuss these questions with people of different opinions? Can we talk about these issues with those who do not share our views, convictions and values?
We started from the belief that the current moment demands not only the restoration of dialogue and the possibility to confront different standpoints in the public space, but also a new level of collective imagination which implies heterogeneous positions and standpoints. We tried to include interlocutors from throughout Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia who have different interests, professions and living conditions. Their thoughts were recorded as short video statements. Trying to include in the dialogue interlocutors with different experiences, as well as those coming from different poles of the ideological spectrum, we talked to representatives of civil initiatives, movements and organizations, with representatives of political parties which accepted our invitation, as well as with our fellow citizens, many of whom we were meeting for the first time. Many collaborators displayed great confidence in us, welcoming us into their homes to share with us their valuable thoughts.
From the beginning of our work on the project at the end of 2019 in Serbia, to finalizing the video-recording of statements in North Macedonia and Kosovo two years later, together with the entire world we faced a health crisis which challenged all habits and postulates that had been determining our ways of living until early 2020. Very soon the pandemic started to evolve into a social, political, and economic crisis of which we are yet to comprehend the consequences. In such unforeseen circumstances we talked to 62 groups of citizens, initiatives, activists, professional associations, and political parties, aiming to discover how both democracy and the future are understood today. The answers we heard were extremely heterogeneous and ranged from the viewpoint that the “essence of democracy is the engaged citizen, dedicated to public welfare” to the standpoint that “democracy is a wrong idea due to human nature which cannot function in such a system”.