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April 17, 2006

Doktoro Esperanto

found image of L.L. Zamenhof (1859-1917)

Polish physician Lejzer Ludvig Zamenhof invented the language Esperanto which he outlined in his book Lingvo Internacia (1887) under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto. The Espernato Association of Britain is actively promoting the language today (

For their installation 'Shelter of Hope' to be built for The Sweetest Dream exhibition, Tamas Kaszac and Aniko Lorant are creating an Esperanto classroom constructed from locally found materials and rubbish. During The Sweetest Dream, audiences can access information and resources gathered and made by the artists as well as take part in a free Esperanto class by Terry Page.

As Terry pointed out, 'there is a happy coincidence: the name "Esperanto" derives from "esperi" = to hope; a principal artistic contributor to your event is Nada (meaning "hope") Prlja; and your own surname ... need I go on?'

Some of the ideals and facts of the language include (see:

Esperanto does not belong to any nation and therefore all its speakers communicate on equal terms. With any other language it is always the native speaker who has the advantage.
Esperanto encourages friendship and freedom of expression across frontiers regardless of race or creed.
Esperanto is the easiest language that you can learn due to its regular grammar and pronunciation. It can be learned in a fraction of the time needed to learn other languages.
Esperanto is spoken in over 80 countries around the world.
Esperanto does not threaten individual countries' culture or language but offers a common means of communication for all.

April 14, 2006

The Sweetest Dream - unity and dissonance in Europe

Reunion exhibition with allsopp&weir, Raffaella Crispino with Dragan Djordjevic, Nemanja Cvijanovic, Horkeskart, Tamás Kaszás, Anikó Lóránt and Nada Prlja

Image: Nemanja Cvijanovic 'Mantra' 2005.

Location: SPACE, 129–131 Mare St, London E8 3RH
Exhibition dates: 8–24 June 2006
Opening hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 1–6pm
Preview: Wednesday 7 June 2006, 6–8pm

Free Events:
Saturday 10 June, 2pm
United we stand? An afternoon of discussion with artists in The Sweetest Dream
Thursday 22 June, 6.30pm
Esperanto for beginners! Language class and discussion with Terry Page

The Sweetest Dream focuses on the pursuit of unity in Europe. Artists in the exhibition consider collective ideals and subvert cultural stereotypes through an installation, works on video and an off-site project. At The Sweetest Dream, a cacophony of voices, languages and nationalities converge.

Image: allsopp&weir 'Call to Prayer'

Attempts to create kinship across Europe take diverse forms, from transnational cultural projects to efforts to control populations by redrawing borders. Nada Prlja’s project ‘Advanced Science of Morphology’ (2006) which presents 26 combinations of the five national flags of the states that once made up Yugoslavia. Prlja’s flags create distorted national identities, reflecting the impossibility of drawing clear distinctions in such contested territory.

Singing together, be it national anthems or union songs, connects people while spreading political ideals. A series of video works in The Sweetest Dream capture the desire to sing from the same song sheet across national and cultural boundaries. In ‘Learning Freedom’ (2005) we watch Dragan Djordjevic attempt to teach Raffaella Crispino how to play ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin with no common language between them. The painful process of learning an unknown piece of music is echoed in allsopp&weir’s video ‘Call to Prayer’ (2005) in which a classically trained female singer learns to sing the Islamic call to prayer from a record.

The invention of Esperanto hoped to overcome our communication barriers and to create understanding across borders. Tamás Kaszás and Anikó Lóránt will install ‘Shelter of Hope’ an Esperanto classroom constructed from locally found materials. During the exhibition, the public can access information and resources gathered by the artists as well as take part in a free Esperanto class.

The Sweetest Dream brings together artworks that criticise and celebrate attempts at unity and invite us to reflect on the roles we play in making and breaking dreams of European togetherness.

The Sweetest Dream is the title of an artwork by Nemanja Cvijanovic that re-works the EU flag.

April 12, 2006

Art Under Construction: The Balkans in Context

Q. Whither The Balkans?
Q. Does A Specifically Balkan Art Exist?
Q. Is ‘Balkan’ A Global Capitalist Marketing Construct?
Q. Or Is It A Source Of Resistance?

Between May 25th and June 16th, 2006, these questions and others will be explored at a series of lectures and exhibitions to be held at City University.

Balkan identity is not just about Balkan identity. Like any figurations of identity, the images tell us as much about ourselves as others; as much about Europe and the West as about the Balkans; indeed it has been argued that the Balkans is 'more central than we ever imagined' (Fleming) to the fight against global injustice.

Maja Bajevic and Emanuel Licha, "Green Green Grass of Home", 2002

Programme of Events
25 May

2 – 5pm
Art in the Balkans
Chair: Juliet Steyn (City University)

Janis Jeffries (Goldsmiths College, London)
‘In-between Peripherality. Maja Bajevic: Sarajevo/London’

Diane Amiel (Université Paris I - Panthèon-Sorbonne)
‘Does a specifically Balkan art exist?’


2 June

5.30 – 7.30 pm
Key lecture
Chair: Griselda Pollock

Marina Grzinic (ZRC SAZU - Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts)
‘Art and Culture in the time of Global Capitalism: ABSTRACTION, CANIBALISATION, SUPRESSION’


7.30 – 8.30 pm
Private View
A Rosalind Brodsky project by Suzanne Treister
Exhibition at Social Sciences Building, City University
Dates: 22 May – 16 June

9 June

7 – 8.30pm
The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game
A project by Personal Cinema
Presentation by the artists Ilias Marmaras and Alexandros Spyropoulos


12 June

6 – 7.30 pm
H.arta (Maria Crista, Anca Gyemant, Rodica Tache), Romania –
Presentation of the project "Usually I do this"
Introduced by Raluca Voinea (Curator)
Room: D104


15 June

2 – 5 pm
Balkans Exhibited: a Debate
Chair: Ziauddin Sardar (Writer and broadcaster)
Introduction: Louisa Avgita (City University)
Magda Carneci (INALCO; Curator, Poet)
Lorand Hegyi (Curator and Art Historian, Director of the Modern Museum, Saint-Etienne)
Suzana Milevska (Art Critic, Curator)


16 June

6.00 – 7.00pm

Projected Visions
Video art works curated by Apollonia – European Art Exchanges

7.00 – 8.00pm
Dimitris Konstantinidis (Director of Apollonia – European Art Exchanges, Strasbourg)
‘The Portrait of the Balkans?’


All events will take place in room DLG19, School of Social Sciences, City University, St John Street and Whiskin Street, London.

For further information please contact:

Louisa Avgita
Events Coordinator
Department of Cultural Policy and Management
School of Arts
City University

Art Under Construction: The Balkans in Context is supported by LCACE - London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise, in conjunction with Apollonia: European Art Exchanges, B+B, the Foundation for Women's Art, the Serious Interests Agency and SPACE and the international art and cultural journal Third Text that will be publishing a special issue on the Balkans, derived from contributions to these events.

Why reunite?

Why do we always want to know more? Why do we always want to go somewhere we’ve never been before? I have worked on projects and exhibitions that touch on different issues (migration, architecture, craft, business…) but there is something that links them all: a fascination with difference, contradiction and change in art. Does the potential of art lie in its ability to be both futile and functional? Reunion is a journey to find out what makes art critical by looking at projects and theories that seem to me to challenge and throw into question arts relation to society.


This website reflects the diversity of interests I and other contributors have and the way in which I am trying to understand and develop a wider understanding of what makes my practice critical rather than just assume it is. After a period of research, meetings and talking it has been difficult to set up an informal community of practitioners who live in different parts of Europe and are doing their own thing. Why would they want to come together? What’s in it for them? I feel the need to start again, from scratch, from me, my subjective position in all of this – why am I interested in trying to find out about other ways of working, why am I so keen to get people together all the time? Is it because I’m trying to find out more about where I’m coming from? Maybe I go in search of other people’s experiences in order to consolidate my own? What is at the heart of my interest in a socialism of art? It is partly that which has drawn me to find out more about art in south east and eastern Europe – places and people with more experience of socialism than I have ever had. How does a Socialist government affect ones practice? How does this change when there is a change in government and capitalism kicks in? In this website I want to investigate where resistance to the use of art by other agencies comes from and to search with a magnifying glass where the ‘politics’ in art now lies and how this differs across Europe.

April 10, 2006

Reunion Letters

Following the reunion weekend at Wysing Arts Centre (near Cambridge) in November 2005, we asked those who came to write letters about what they were doing (and where they were going). This was a way of trying to continue the conversations. We were inspired to do this by a letter Ella Gibbs read out to us during that weekend away from a friend of hers who was living and working in Georgia. The letter unfolded a whole world of experiences, feelings and concerns that many of us could identify with but find difficult to share on a day to day basis (because of our geographical distance or because there's always something more pressing to be done) . The format of the letter allows a slow communication that does not have to be reciprocal.

Sophie Hope's Letter: View image

Nada Prlja's Letter: View image View image

Ele Carpenter's Letter: Download file

Sarah Carrington's Letter: Download file

Donna Lynas' Letter: Download file

April 09, 2006

Q&A with Johannes Wimmer, Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum, London

As the key funder of reunion I wanted to ask Johannes Wimmer about his personal and professional interest in South East Europe and the role of the Austrian Cultural Forum in this region.

1. What is your role and responsibility as the Austrian Cultural Counsellor and Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in London?

My assignment combines diplomatic functions with those of arts and culture management. Essentially, my mission and aim is to foster contacts, dialogue and communication between the UK and Austria on various artistic and academic planes. This involves many projects and events, most of them organised and implemented in cooperation with partners based in the UK. In the first years after its opening in 1956 as Austrian Institute, the Austrian Cultural Forum London used to function more like a club, which at the time served its purpose very well. Over the years, and in particular through the past decade, the ACF became increasingly open, reaching out to new audiences and putting a strong emphasis on contemporary cultural life. I hope that I contribute to bringing this process further – London and the UK provide wonderful opportunities in this respect.

2. Austria is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, what is Austria's take on EU cultural policy?

Austria thinks that arts, culture and creativity have a crucial role to play in the ongoing process of European integration. Programmes such as CULTURE 2007 and the Culture Capital of Europe, which are main cultural items on the agenda during Austria’s EU Presidency, are particularly valuable instruments in proving the difference the EU can make in this regard. Consequently, Austria stresses the need to ensure adequate funding for the EU’s cultural programmes.

3. What do you think the value of exchange between practitioners is across Europe?

If we aim at promoting Europe as a democratic project, cross-border debates, exchanges of information and thoughts among practitioners are obviously essential. These are also instrumental in developing intercultural competence – across borders and at home – which to me seems quite a necessity, at least, if we are interested in – as you (Sophie) put it – “approaching the issue of gaps and misunderstandings that occur across Europe”.

4. Where do you think politics lies within culture?

There are always political connotations to any artistic or cultural expression, whether intended or not. In the realm of intentions, one usually finds certain hierarchical approaches. In virtually every political system, political, economic or social goals serve as rationales for cultural policies, which concerned practitioners may or may not approve of. In the worst cases, the subordination of cultural policies leads to very narrow focuses and various limitations on artistic freedom and creativity. As a matter of course, practitioners may think along their own hierarchical lines as well, with sometimes equally adverse results. Ideally, I would like to think of a decidedly equitable interaction between the cultural and the political, including the exchange between practitioners.

5. Can you explain your (personal / professional), interest in South East Europe?

I am born in Graz, capital of the province of Styria, in the south east of Austria, about 40 kilometres from the border to Slovenia. The name Graz is derived from the Slavic/Slovenian word gradec, which means “little fortress”. All over Styria people, places and foods carry names clearly indicating a long coexistence of different languages and living together of their speakers. The same holds true for a good number of other regions in Austria. So for me, there is of course a sense of belonging.

When I was a teenager it really fascinated me to cross the rather well guarded international border between Austria and then Yugoslavia to find landscapes, people and places in Stajerska (the Slovenian name for Styria) appearing quite familiar, while obviously much else was so entirely different, as a result of the region’s violent and painful divisions in the course of two world wars and their aftermaths.

Interestingly, a very remarkable cross-border artistic and cultural exchange started in Graz with the first “Trigon” biennale in 1963 which brought together 130 artists from Italy, Yugoslavia and Austria. Ten years later, in 1973, Trigon presented video art on a big scale for the first time in Europe, combining projects by artists from Austria, Italy, and Yugoslavia with a large selection of videos by U.S. artists. Artists from Yugoslavia were also regular participants in the new arts festival “styrian autumn” (steirischer herbst) since 1968. By establishing a public creative space, this cross-border cultural cooperation transcended the many political limitations of the time.

Seen from a professional side, a keen interest in what happens in South East Europe and in the Western Balkans in particular and seems to be very natural for an Austrian diplomat.

Very sadly, the disintegration of Yugoslavia and many years of bitter, armed conflicts since 1991 have shown the endless, massive challenges facing the peaceful exploration of the political and the cultural on our own continent, and in Austria’s immediate neighbourhood, till this date. I must admit that I still very much struggle to come to terms with what happened. And yet, considering the enormous creative and innovative energy in the countries of that region, I hope and trust that despite all recent hardship, disruption and instability, this positive creative spirit will finally prevail over all self-destructive impulses.

And there have been many very positive developments in recent years. Our neighbour Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. Croatia and Macedonia recently became applicant countries. And it is a clear goal that all the Western Balkan countries and peoples continue to move closer to the EU.

In its own small and effective way, the Reunion-project presents us with a forward looking, down-to-earth approach to tackle important aspects of the challenges I mentioned through a lively and very open exchange among practitioners. That’s why the Austrian Cultural Forum is very happy to support the programme and its activities. I am looking forward to Reunion’s investigations, debates and events this year.




Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant - one of the most invasive in the UK (it is one of the biggest probelms facing the construction industry today according to It was introduced in 1855 when a specimen was given to Kew Gardens. It is now illegal to plant knotweed in the wild and there are companies set up to eradicate it. It's covering a lot of the 2012 Olympic site. It's notoriously difficult to get rid of and can come back years after you think you've got rid of it. I quite like this analogy with the way artists / activists / agitators work to keep coming up with difficult questions and disrupting things. The way artists are invited to solve problems / create identities / look pretty but actually create a disturbance and are a nuisance. I hope reunion and the website could be a bit like that.


hello fran, shall we start plotting?