Drawing: Djordje Balmazović (Škart kolektiv)
Participants: Boris Buden, Djordje Balmazović (Škart collective), Ela Meh, Tzortzis Rallis and Darij Zadnikar
Moderator: Anej Korsika
A panel on Thursday, 17 September 2015, at 4 pm in the conference room of the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova. The panel was organized as part of the third Glossary of Common Knowledge – Geopolitics seminar, to look at the refugee issue also from artistic, activist, and theoretical perspectives.
The participating theorists, artists and activist presented their views of the current refugee crisis in Europe primarily from the Balkan perspective. Their short presentations will be followed by a discussion.
The panel discussion was transmitted LIVE on VIDEO STREAM. Video recording of the panel in English language:
Over the last two years, Europe has faced a growing wave of refugees coming mainly from regions of armed conflict or war: in the first place Syria, then Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kurdistan and parts of Africa. 220,000 migrants came to Europe last year, this year the number has risen to 250,000. There are several routes: the African, Mediterranean, and the Balkan. None of them are easy: 3000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean. Over the last year there has been a marked increase in the number of people opting for the Balkan router: Syria-Turkey-Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary, and from there onward to Germany or Sweden or Austria. At least 2000 asylum seekers thus enter Serbia every day. EU countries are ill prepared for such great numbers of asylum seekers and, with rare exceptions, have no pertinent policies in place. All countries are reluctant to accept asylum seekers to the point that they are openly driven away (Hungary), some countries are building fences against them (Hungary, Bulgaria and Great Britain and France), while some countries (Serbia) nonetheless try give them at least minimum protection and care for the time the asylum seekers spend on their territory. The mass media play an important role in this: some portray asylum seekers as victims, some as potential terrorists, some with racial prejudice; few among them are capable of presenting a broader view of the situation. Oftentimes it is only art and theory which are capable of rising above a simplified humanist approach and point out the complex relations between local spaces and global forces. A further question is how such humanitarian crises, which the media depict as having epic dimensions, impact our language, culture, and thought.
The panel was presenting concrete experiences with, and reflections on, the issue of migrations (in Slovenia, Serbia, Greece and Great Britain). What do the generic descriptions of refugee, migrant, asylum seeker mean and who are the people standing behind them, what is their potential to change our collective consciousness and the current geopolitics. And, what can we do, how can we connect the existing initiatives, and what are the possibilities of building a common solidarity network.
MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Djordje Balmazović engages graphic design, art and activism in his work. He is a member of Škart, a collective established in 1990 in Belgrade. In the past years the collective has organized and participated in many activist events, as well as in Poetrying (Pesničenje) and in self-organized choruses (Horkeškart, Proba). Since 2013 they have been working with children (in homes for unatended children) and asylum seekers in asylum centers in Serbia.
Boris Buden is a writer and cultural critic based in Berlin. He received his PhD in cultural theory from Humboldt University in Berlin. In the 1990s he was editor of the magazine Arkzin in Zagreb. His essays and articles cover the topics of philosophy, politics, cultural and art criticism. He has participated in various conferences and art projects in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and USA, including Documenta XI. Buden is the author of Barikade Zagreb (1996/1997), Kaptolski Kolodvor, Belgrade (2001), Der Schacht von Babel, Berlin (2004), Zone des Übergangs, Frankfurt/Main (2009), Findet Europa, Wien (2015), etc.
Anej Korsika (1985) is a freelance writer, active in Institute for Labour Studies and Iniatiative for Democractic Socialism, you can follow him on the blog.
Ela Meh earned a degree in philosophy and became involved in a form of activism that links the fight against climate change to the fight against capitalism. Since 2010, she has focused on the no borders activism, advocating freedom of movement and opposing the border system. She has lived and worked alongside different autonomous and no borders collectives on the French-English border in Calais. In 2012, she was a Migreurop volunteer living in Belgrade and researched the consequences of the externalization of the EU migration policy and the position of migrants in Serbia.
Tzortzis Rallis is a graphic designer and researcher based in London. He studied graphic design and fine arts in Greece, Spain and UK. After finishing his Master’s studies in London, he has been working as a freelance graphic designer. Rallis is currently a PhD student at London College of Communication undertaking a practice-led research on modern agitational graphics and he is a member of the Design Activism Research Hub. In his personal practice, he uses design to explore the social and political role of visual communication in the public sphere. He supports grassroots collectives in Greece, he is a co-designer of The Occupied Times of London and co-founder of the Occupy Design UK.
Darij Zadnikar has Ph. d. in philosophy and is currently associate professor on the University of Ljubljana. He was for 15 years co-editor and editor-in-chief of Review for Criticism of Science, New Anthropology and Imagination. His primary interest is conceptualisation of new global emancipatory movements and political philosophy. He took an active part in these social movements from their beginnings twenty years ago. He took part in Genova G20 protests, was numerous times in Southeast Mexico, supporter of struggles of erased people in Slovenia and co-organising No-border movement etc.
Glossary of Common Knowledge is a part of a five year programme The Uses of Art – Legacy of 1848 and 1989 led by L'Internationale confederation of museums. Supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Culture Programme of the European Union.