Wednesday, 26. October
City Museum of Ljubljana, 12.30 – 14.30

  • Iskra Geshovska, Kontrapunkt, Macedonia
  • Rael Artel, independent curator, Estonia
  • Julia Kümmel, political activist, Germany
  • Francesca Vanoni, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, Italy

Moderator: Gordan Bosanac, Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia

Iskra Geshoska is executive director of NGO Kontrapunkt (Cultural Centre Tochka), since its establishing in 2001. She is working in the field of cultural policy especially concerning the issue of independent cultural scene. She was consultant in the Ministry of Culture of Macedonia in the period of 2002-2006. She is publishing essays and theoretical overviews concerning cultural studies, contemporary theory of art, culture and media and performing arts. She was leader and initiator of many national and regional projects concerning the development of alternative cultural policies and new formats in self-organized non-institutional hybrid and critical acting in society. At the moment she is running the three year regional project Deschooling Classroom in partnership with TkH collective from Belgrade, Serbia.

New Topographies of Power

Responsible citizenship requires… the ability to assess historical evidence, to use and think critically about economic principles, to compare differing views of social justice, to speak a foreign language, to appreciate the complexities of the major world religions. A catalogue of facts without the ability to assess them, or to understand how a narrative is assembled from evidence, is almost as bad as ignorance.

This extract from Martha Nussbaum’s powerful and provocative book Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities might be considered as a starting point in the journey where the new political creativity should be found. Can the civil sector be considered as a fragment of that “new political creativity”? There are several dilemmas connected to a critical socio-cultural and dialogical role of the independent, civil engagement in the frames of political relevance.

In this brief presentation I will try to relate several ideas about the potentials inherent to the solidarity as a fundamental principle of a civil society in contradiction of neo-liberal paradigm. How solidarity, as an important aspect of the layer called civil society, creates a new subjectivity, a different identity. We live within a context of political fictions which, rather than for consisted, structured, allow schizophrenic motion through the pseudo-systems of the society. We are illuminated by the disorder of our societies which take more than they give. We face unclear border of activity/action which lack clearly marked transitions from one zone to another. In such political phantasmagoric conditions, self-organized auto-reflexive initiative is the only way out of the political and intellectual entropy. The self-organizing which have a clear and firm concept, which surpasses the sub-standard models offered by the institutions of power, are the options through which the traditional societal and symbolic structures transcend from ultimately dysfunctional into acceptably efficient and functional ones.

The “revolution”, dialog, solidarity, civil society, does not consist just of odes and proclamations and manifestos. The task is not only to carry out the evolution, but also to correct, upgrade, construct and deconstruct its course. If political segment called civil society leaves the framework of closed intellectual systems and establishes a fine balance within the public, mass-scale, socially necessary, and academically imposed, then we can talk about the new topography of decentralized power.

Rael Artel is an independent curator based in the forests of Estonia. She graduated from the Institute of Art History at the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2003, and participated in the Curatorial Training Programme in De Appel, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2004–2005). Since 2000, she has contributed to a number of magazines in Estonia and elsewhere, and curated shows in Estonia, as well as in Lisbon, Portugal; New York, USA; Amsterdam and Warsaw, Poland. In 2004–2008 she ran and moderated her experimental project space Rael Artel Gallery: Non-Profit Project Space. In 2007 she initiated “Public Preparation”, a platform for knowledge-production and network-based communication, which since the beginning of 2008 has focused on issues of nationalism and contemporary art in Europe in the format of international meetings. She is an artistic director of festival of contemporary art ART IST KUKU NU UT in Tartu, Estonia. More info about the project could be found at and

Public Preparation: The Role of Cultural Production in Public Sphere

In my presentation, I would like to give a short overview of Public Preparation project and reflect the role of cultural production in initiating discussions in public sphere. Public Preparation is an international platform for knowledge-production and network-based communication. First and foremost, it is a space for self-education focusing on current practices of critical thinking and production in the field of contemporary art. The practice of Public Preparation is mainly based on creating situations for experience, reflection, and discussion, in various formats. The project is a method for recognising, discussing and establishing, intellectual and professional connections. In that sense, it is a collective exercise in order to prepare for the upcoming future – a continuous preparation process that can never be complete but is always ready to take action.

The main agenda of Public Preparation is to concentrate on questions linked to the concept of artist as citizen. It sees the artist as an intellectual participating actively in public life. Contemporary art is a crucial part of the public realm, exhibition venues are spaces for open discussion, and artists have the power and responsibility to be actively engaged in the process of examining, imagining and changing our communal social reality. The current agenda of Public Preparation activities is to deal critically with the growing tendencies of nationalism in contemporary Europe.

Julia Kümmel works at the Public Radio in Frankfurt, Germany, as a sound technician (since 2000). Since 1984, she is involved in the anti-nuclear movement that later on focused on fighting the growing nationalism and racism in Germany. Since 1989, she is a part of the anti-racist movement in Germany and a member of the “Aktionsbündnis against deportation” in Frankfurt. After the public action in 2003 in Frankfurt Airport and long-term legal action against it, she won in 2011 with the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court.

Why is Frankfurt Airport so Important?

The Federal Office of Migration has a branch office at the airport and refugees must be able to prove their right to seek asylum within two weeks. This asylum procedure at Germany’s airports is unique in Europe. The number of deportations and refusals is high. About ten years ago, more than 10,000 people were deported from Frankfurt Airport. In 2010, there had been about 3,500 deportations.

The airport is the last public place for intervention. One can try to inform the passengers and give them information about what to do. One can try to talk with the crew or the pilot and convince them that the refugee is not willing to fly. The pilot is the one who is responsible for the security of all passengers; therefore he is responsible for the security of the refugee as well. One can try to influence the airlines not to participate in the business of deportation.

The “Deportation Class Campaign” against Lufthansa was highly successful.

The Frankfurt Airport Company Fraport reacted to the constant protest with a policy of banning protesters from the terminals. I brought my case to court and went through all official channels up to the Federal Supreme Court. All judged in favour of Fraport by approving the company`s right as a householder. Then I registered a complaint about the infringement of the Constitution to lift the ban, arguing that the company has violated basic rights like the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. In February 2011, the Federal Constitutional Court decided that the basic rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, are valid in privatised public places like airports and train stations as long as the majority of shares is in public hands.

Francesca Vanoni holds a degree in International Relations of the University of Bologna, Italy and an MA in Central and South-East European Studies of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London, UK. Between 1998 and 2004, she coordinated various research projects on the topic of inter-ethnic dialogue and strengthening civil society in the Balkans, and has participated in international cooperation projects of governmental and non-governmental organisations in Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

In her professional carrier she has been combining applied research with development work. Since 2004, she has worked for “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso” (OBC), a think-tank and news media focusing on socio-political transformations of South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Caucasus. She was also the acting director co-ordinating a team of 14 area specialists and around 45 correspondents from the regions for one year. Currently, she holds a position of the projects’ director.

Case Study: Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso

During the conflicts accompanying the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the Albanian political and financial crisis, thousands of people from Italy took part in various humanitarian missions to support those who suffered, bring humanitarian aid, express solidarity with civilian victims, denounce Western governments’ politics of power, and support the European integration of South Eastern European countries.

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC) was created in the year 2000 to respond to the need for knowledge and debate by people, associations, and institutions that had been working for years for a peaceful cohabitation in South-East Europe. After accompanying the last stages of the mobilisation, OBC has resulted in a combination of a research centre and a news provider, focusing on the socio-political transformations of South-East Europe, Turkey and the Caucasus. It also represents a forum for discussing the experience of transnational cooperation and grass-roots participation.

Moving from this case-study, this presentation aims at illustrating how the transnational civil society, engaged in raising awareness and in stimulating debate in the European public space, contributes to a threefold effect. First, in the EU member states it is crucial to sensitise the Western European public opinion not only to the hardship of the transitions and their European integration process, but also to the cultural and social richness of these countries underlying the importance of the process for the stability, peace and well-being of the whole continent; by doing so, it counterweights stereotyped images, prejudices, intolerance, etc.

Secondly, in South-East Europe, it contributes to mobilising civic forces, it supports participation, and opens up their public spheres with the effect of reinforcing the internal democratisation processes. Finally, it provides a precious source of expertise and analytical material for policy-makers, both at the national (Italian) and at the European level.