Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Serbian art scene is facing extraordinary circumstances. Just as during the 1990’s war in the region, or catastrophic floods of 2014, artists in Serbia were among the first to react to the events that plague our society. In addition to affirming the value of this sector as an important subject in society, the professional theatre and dance scene for children and young people demonstrates their extraordinary vitality and creativity.
In spite of insufficient understanding and acknowledgement of the importance of the sector of culture for children and young people, and years of insufficient state budget funding for the field of performing arts for youngest audiences, the performance art scene for young audiences still manages to persevere in its mission to bring hope and insight into the world around them. Once again, artists, theatre practitioners in Serbia, unconditionally and swiftly shifted to new channels of communication where they offered numerous programmes and contents in order to help children and their parents go through the quarantine period as smoothly as possible.
Programmes are offered by the institutional and non-institutional culture scene through various online models of distribution, with particular focus on screenings of recorded theatre productions from the archives of the institutional theatres via the theatres’ YouTube channels, but also through live streamings of plays performed in front of empty auditoriums, in this case productions with few performers, in order to comply with authorities’ recommendations regarding the permitted number of persons attending.
Even though artists came to community’s assistance very promptly, what particularly concerned and surprised us was the decision-makers’ decision to cancel annual competitions for co-financing of culture projects for the year 2020 at local levels, which provoked strong reactions from the professional cultural public and from over 30 artistic representative associations representing artists from all artistic disciplines. This reaction was primarily sparked by the fact that such a decision imperils all the projects and puts all activities until the end of the year 2020 to a halt, and even more so, the fact that it puts unemployed artists, freelance and part-time collaborators, who represent the major part of the scene, at risk. This is a sensitive group who introduces healthy experimental tendencies that are key generators of new artistic trends almost exclusively found outside the public sector.
At this point, we await the authorities’ response, hoping that they will be more humane in regard to the artistic sector’s fundamental rights to work and to creativity, to secure the sensitive and seriously endangered creative energy and personal existence and livelihood of independent artists and their family members, and introduce measures to protect these.
Prior to these reactions, ASSITEJ Serbia joined the initiative of signing the Joint Statement by European Theatre Institutions addressed to the European Union and its member states regarding consequences of COVID-19 measurements.
We share with you the message ASSITEJ Serbia invited Milena Minja Bogavac to write for WTD, before the onset of the pandemic, as a sign of support and in the spirit of this year’s slogan emphasising unity and togetherness, because we must emerge from this experience even stronger and more empowered, as our mission is larger and more important than ourselves.
Diana Kržanić Tepavac, ASSITEJ Serbia