Inke Arns on Sun, 12 Oct 1997 07:32:56 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Syndicate: Re: Scandal in Montenegro (fwd)

Dear deep_europeans,

On Tue, 30 Sep 1997 Luchezar Boyadjiev sent the following message Re: the 
Scandal in Montenegro:

Please, circulate!

Thanks for this message! Actually this is quite urgent for me because I have 
just come back from Cetinje where I took a major part in this Biennial. In 
one word I know all about it - 9 days of heavy work, 7 BG artists 
participating, all around 120 artists in the Biennial, a lot of 
international ones, such as Oleg Kulik for instance. Several venues and an 
interesting concept for the whole event - it is titled "Back and Forth", 
curated by Andrei Erofeev (Moscow, Museum of Contemporary Art in
Tsarytzino), Bernard Mercade (Paris), etc. and has several sections. Section
one is about taking the road, emigrants, travelling, etc. in the Blue Palace
(Plavi Dvorac); section two is the "New Icon" in Vladin Dom and I guess this
is where the described event took place; section three is in the Biliarda
building and is titled "Homeless" about refugees; there are a lot of outdoor
installations, etc. 

Now, because of my reputation of the last five -six years as an Eastern
European artist who very often deals in his art with relligeous subject
matter in a kind of "blasphemous" way (you might say that within the
international art world I have become to be known as one of the main
blasphemers because of works shown in various shows), I was given a
one-artist presentation in the former BG embassy in Cetinje (now a restorant
complex) where I did an installation called "I love Jesus - souvenir shop".
It is sort of a retrospective of everything I have done on this subject
matter and I would imagine that in the eyes of an Orthodox monk the level of
blsphemy there might run quite high - just an example, in the shop I am
offering as a souvenir of the "faith" a roll of toilet-paper on which there
are faces of Jesus with his tongue sticking out rubber stamped on each
section. So, you can imagine how the actual wiping operates and who is
wiping...Plus a lot of other stuff of the same sort. I hate to think what
might happen to my works but...I also have a big (382/225 cm) computer print
out work titled "Veronica revisiting kitchen" in the "New Icon"
section...and more elsewhere...So, this message touches also a personal
note. However, I am also worried about everything...

I must say that the "New Icon" section must be very blasphemous to a
monk...I guess that the foreign works in question are mainly by Russian
artists from the collection of the Museum in Tsarytzino but I can't be sure
- communication with Montenegro is quite difficult. I don't know a thing
about the destruction but it is a scandal in view of the situation in
Montenegro - they are just before heated presidential ellections. 

Now, I meant to write a letter to Netime and the Syndicate about this trip
- so, sorry for the ocasion but here it follows...It is as deep European as
they come...

We, myself, Iara Boubnova (curator), Kalin Serapionov (artist) and Lyben
Kostov (artist) took a 11 hours car trip across Yugoslavia - Nish, Prishtina
(Kosovo) and all the way across the big, big mountains of Montenegro to
Podgoritza (current capital) and the Adriatic coast of this small but
immensly beautifull and proud republic. Cetinje is the ex-capital and it is
a small but breathtakinglly beautifull mountain town of about 20 000
inhabitants. Located in a valley about 30 km from the coast but at an
alltitude of about 800 m above sea level. A lot of small palaces, etc. 

Now, the Biennial must be seen as part of this republic's efforts to get out
of the isolation and away from the shadow of the really Big Brother for them
- Serbia. The role of Prince Nickolas, the son of the ex-king from the
Njegosh family, is desisive. He is a very helpfull gentle man who everybody
in Montenegro knows and chats with on the street upon the briefest of
meeting or encounter. In each restorant there is a must on the list - cheese
"the Njegosh Way", pork chops "the Njegosh way", etc. The Prince, as
everybody calls him, and as you would address him if you are an artist
participating in the Biennial in a need of paint, mezonite or just some
nails, is by no means after cheap fame and power. He wants to help his
homeland get out of a deadlock, doesn't want any part in the elections and
basically I don't think the big shots in Belgrade like him too much...

The population of Montenegro is only around 600 000 people and I honestly
don't know how they are able to make a living. However, one of the main
historical reasons for pride here is the fact that Montenegro was never
really occupied by the Ottoman Empire - a major cause for pride in the
Balkans...The distance from Sofia to Cetinje is exactly 600 km but the last
250 km stretch, 2/3 of it on Montenegro territory is only mountains. And I
really mean it - high, Alpine type of peaks and deep, menacing valleys
composed of beautiful marble and other rock, often collored in the red, etc.
collors of strange rock plants, deep blue sky and curves, curves, curves on
the road up and dawn, up and dawn with no end...There is hardly any spot you
can put a foot on this land and be in a stright upward position let alone do
agriculture...Only as you reach the coast there are some surprisingly and
strictly horizontal tiny terraces where people have somehow managed to
cultivate vineyards (hense wine, etc.). And everywhere there are the police
patrols...At first Serbian then Montenegroan and they stop you on the road
for no obvious reason but to check you out...The truth to be known - when we
told them that we are going to Cetinje not for commerce but for an art event
they became friendly and even were asking for something "in collor", a
brochure, a folder, etc.

The event itself is by all means a success - big international
participations, surprising but true, huge crowd of important French and
Italian art people, lots of Eastern Europeans, friendly athmosphere, the sun
and so on. After the opening day - a trip to the very coast in Budva,
formerly a lively resort, exceptionally beautifull and well infrastructured.
I would advise everybody to go there one day, it is more then worth it...

But, here in Budva is where one starts to wonder...That is if you have been
very bussy with installing your works...

How come there are no tourists? The weather if still very fine, the prices
are low...?
You ask and you get your answer - the Serbian YU authorities are doing
everything possible to discourage tourism to this coast. How - for instance
by making it difficult to organize group plane travel on the Yugoslav
Airlines...the car trip is too long...Or...there are many suttle ways in
which assimilation effort is under way.
Because this is indeed the main question in Montenegro now.

The ellection campaigne is very visible - on the road you can see huge lines
of all kinds of vehicles equiped with visual propaganda of most unimaginable
sorts going to ralleys in Podgoritza or elsewhere; the TV is full of this
stuff; Momo's name and posters - he is the Socialist candidate and
pro-Serbian, and Milo's name and posters - he is a bit less Socialist
candidate and a bit less pro-Serbian, are everywhere, etc. You might think
that this is the fight for the White House and not for a small country with
no obvious means of getting out of a crisis...

But the point is Serbia, not Montenegro actually...unfortunatelly.

When people are asked - whom do you like for a President provided that
Prince Nickolas has counted himself out? The answer is - nobody because all
candidates want to keep the Serbian umbrella...The main indicator of street
mood are as usual the graffity on the walls. And they read: "Leave us
alone", "Momo, Milo, Slobo (Slobodan Miloshevich), Sadame (Sadam Hussein),
pichko matter (this is something which reffers to your mothers' vagina and I
don't want to translate it...)". 
People are desparate and see no solution to their problems - actually I
think they feel doomed to always be under the Serbian domination in one way
or another. Keep in mind - this is a terribly small country with proud
population and history but with no visible strength to fight it out like the
other ex-Yugoslavs did. It is always pointed out in Cetinje that, you see,
the Belgrade opposition fought on the streets, the Bulgarians stormed the
Parliament, the Romanians also strugled...all other Balkan people did
something on the streets in the last couple of years in order to change the
stalemate and get rid of the unbearable situation of dragging-on
post-totalitarian visions of Socialist Parties who have lost all ethics and
credibility...But we are not like this...

As for outside relations - obviously trade has all but stoped, almost
everything you see in the shops is either Yugoslav made or produced under
ages old licences. You ask for a roll of stick glue which you can get in any
stationary shop in Sofia, and people respond with "What actually is stick
glue?"...There is a computer in the Bienale offices but the poor thing is so
overworked..., no e-mail or other luxuries. The Biennial needed 27 videos
and monitors - the places they asked for this equipement in Belgrade were no
help, all requests were turned dawn. At the end somehow 10 sets were
provided (two of them for one of the BG artists - big thank you!) and my
susspition is that Prince Nickolas simply bought them...

I have no knowledge about the role of the Orthodox establishement in such a
situation - while we were there nothing happened. But if it has a track
record of backing the Serbian cause during the war in Bosna it would appear
to be logical that radical international art gestures and building up an
international cultural presence for Montenegro, inspite of and independent
of Serbia, would be the last thing they want...
So, I guess what the monks did is also a gesture directed not so much
against art but rather against any hint of independence and

That's all! 

I would be happy to answer any further questions. Also you can reach the BG
curator, Iara Boubnova, at:


for other details and contact coordinates in Cetinje.


Luchezar Boyadjiev
8A, Victor Grigorovitch Str., apt. 13
Sofia 1606, Bulgaria
tel. 00359 2 52 21 04
fax 00359 2 80 37 91

Inke Arns / Berlin

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: