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March 6, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 179
The State and Culture

The Promotion of a Campaign

by Branka Kaljevic

Tuesday evening at the National Museum was Minister of Culture Nada Popovic-Perisic's party. She promoted a campaign created by Saatchi & Saatchi for the Ministry of Culture. Popovic-Perisic has proclaimed 1995 a Year of Renaissance in Culture with the message: it's better with culture, with culture we are stronger, without it we don't exist , we can't live without it...

Those at whom the message was aimed had the opportunity of seeing the National Museum lit up by search-lights that evening, a lot of police and official cars, and important guests enter the Museum.

Inside, everything was under control, the guests, the ambient, the choir on the balcony, and cultural messages on the walls. Reporters and photographers were in the back row.

With the switching off of lights and search-lights, the Year of Renaissance started officially. That we are not without roots is proved by the campaign mascot. A figure from Lepenski Vir, created by man during the Mesolithic period, an ancestor of ours, separated from us by centuries of culture.

A little later, on Saatchi & Saatchi spots he will laugh at us, looking on the world through colorful visions, and instill into our ears the culture of living, speech, dressing, communication, togetherness. Its been a very long time since there were so many nice cultural messages, spots, beautiful music in one place, and we aren't used to them.

At the morning press conference held by Nada Popovic-Perisic there were no special guests, no festivities, and no program of cultural transformation, at least not worthy of the Saatchi & Saatchi company which participates at world festivals. The cultural policy has been summed in nine items, of which the majority are viewed by some as mere promises.

One: More money will be earmarked for culture this year. Only the best projects will be financed in a equal-opportunity competition, by public competition, once a year. We will learn in the Year of Culture who will determine who and what is best.

Two: Culture must travel, so that all institutions of republican importance will have to circulate throughout Serbia if they want to get money.

Three: Institutions which are self-financed will also have the obligation of travelling. Only with the best programs. The ministry will come up with the money according to the quality of the program.

Four: The ministry is also thinking of publishers. And here the rule: only the best will be financed, will also apply. How? By public competition. In return, the publishers will have to put aside 180-200 works of their best books for libraries.

Five: Six films will be financed this year. The stipulation "the best" is not mentioned here.

Six: Monuments will have to be included in contemporary trends. In return the state will invest in their preservation.

Seven: Only professionals will represent us abroad. "The world is interested in our contemporaneity. By going out into the world, creative persons will have the opportunity of comparing their work with modern world trends and of raising their criteria, and then the criteria of the public.

Eight: Money has been secured for the opening of alternative spaces for experimental programs.

Nine: Young talented people will still be appreciated, and "a program has been drawn up for the return of our established artists from abroad".

So much from the minister on the first day of a cultural transformation in Serbia. And while the elite enjoyed in the National Museum a way of life they have never been deprived of, millions of TV viewers continued to sing along with half naked mass culture folk stars.


Interview: Dragoljub Micunovic

The Commercialization of Vulgarity

VREME: We asked President of the Democratic Center Dragoljub Micunovic if he would say something about the drive "Culture as the self-liberation of society and a self-defence".

MICUNOVIC: We started from the fact that in many respects society is in a crisis today and that individuals are endangered, entire strata of society, including society as a whole, are endangered by the lack of culture. Since culture is that which determines man and differs from everything else, we believed that by defending culture or helping culture, man and society must be defended. Because, if all cultural elements, habits, memory, the nurturing of values and heritage are dissipated, then one stops being a human being.

VREME: Would you give some examples of destruction in culture?

MICUNOVIC: First of all, general education is endangered. The curriculum is made according to the rules of inertia, it is completely inadequate, all you have to do is look at a history or geography book and it makes one weep with sadness, because the children are learning contents which will be changed in a year, not to mention the ideological indoctrination of social, economic and many other subjects. It's grotesque. Those contents have nothing in common with reality. Today children do not have a clear idea of a career, and they ask themselves the point of education in primary school. They are thinking of how to start a business or going abroad, rather than thinking of building a career in a totally broken down society. On the other hand, if we look at the libraries: according to some statistics, reading has dropped ten times compared to the period of 10-15 years ago. Our cultural space has disintegrated, because we did live in a Yugoslav cultural space. With the severing of ties everything has become provincial. Publishing is full of romantic, uncritical, silly, traditional kitsch - more books with Serbs in the title have been published in the past three years, than in the last three hundred years. All this points to the insularity of culture and its regression. A new aggressive class is on the rise, people who come from strata which didn't nurture culture and education, and they have brought with them their values. Apart from brutality, they bring vulgarity which is best seen in folk music and other contents, so that this is another attack on cultural values which existed here.

VREME: What do you think of the campaign sponsored by the Ministry of Culture for this to be a Year of Culture?

MICUNOVIC: It's nicely said, but I think that this is not going to be a year of culture. It's going to be another year of sanctions and war. Under such circumstances it is hard to believe that there will be culture. We must however, greet all efforts at returning to culture and its defence, because we will then be defending the dignity of man. We had wonderful theaters, good films, good musicians, good actors, great cultural wealth... and all attempts at preserving this must be supported so that values can be reaffirmed, so that our culture can go out into the world, to renew intercultural links without which culture sinks into provincialism. An exclusive battle against trash does not address the problem. Culture must reach down to the lowest social layers with its contents and messages, because that is the only way in which it can be nurtured. It is necessary to find ways of enforcing good and quality projects on those who offer vulgar commercialism. Those, I believe, are the real roads to renewing culture.

VREME: Were you invited to the launching of the Year of Culture?



Culture In Silence

by Perica Vucinic

Without search-lights, cameras, pomp and ceremony and the Serbian Minister of Culture, a night after she had promoted 1995 in Serbia as the Year of Culture, a two-day debate started in the Students' Cultural Center on the topic "Culture as the Self-Defence of Society and the Individual". The debate brought together 150 intellectuals, cultural and public figures. The Democratic Center Fund does not hide its ambitions of the Belgrade meeting growing into a drive.

"'Culture as the self-defence of society and individual' is the title and it is purposely provocative, but it really means what it says", said sociologist Sreten Vujovic, one of the participants in the debate at the SKC, talking to VREME. Vujovic said that the development of society depended on a broad concept of adopted goals in culture, which are not just determined by economic and political sub-systems, but a cultural sub-system which contains the basic aesthetical values which determine economic and political development.

The first quarter of the meeting - the first day - abounded with learned papers with dramatic but familiar diagnoses. But the main question is how can learnedness and culture, regardless of how broadly they may be understood, how can they compete with the even more encompassing and omnipresent lack of culture. Should an opposition culture be established to counter the ruling culture?

"Such a claim is basically true, but the cultural space is differentiated. There are various forms of culture - a neopatriarchal, neonational (neonationalist) culture, and if we are speaking of the concept of an "opposition" culture, then we are thinking of the democratic opposition, which would make sense - therefore, the culture of an open society, the culture of dialogue, the culture of empathy, the culture of tolerance - a culture which would radiate with the European and world tradition, because, this culture is insular, traditional and xenophobic", said Vujovic.

"How to work?", is a question for Biserka Rajcic. She answered: "Sincerely", which means that a climate must be created, and the climate is made by intellectuals through their work. She believes that the climate is missing and that this is the reason the Democratic Forum died out, and the reason for the falling apart of the Belgrade Circle, which she also joined. As a tireless translator from Polish and an expert on Poland we asked if some of the experience in the battle for culture during the period under Jaruzelski could be applied here, and learned that there have been no cases of illiteracy in Poland for the past 150 years, whereas every tenth Belgrader is illiterate. And the conditions for the battle are different.


Dragan Sakan, Director

Cultural Mission

by Slobodan Kostic

"One campaign doesn't change culture, but it can certainly change an awareness. I guarantee that our agency didn't earn anything on this project"

While the Ministry of Culture is preparing to launch a new cultural policy, summed up in nine items, the campaign for the promoting of culture created by Dragan Sakan, a top marketing expert and team of associates, was presented with style. Sakan who is the Saatchi & Saatchi Advertizing Balkans director, wasn't prevented from making a highly professional campaign without the contents of this new cultural policy. "The campaign itself is a cultural event", said Sakan talking to VREME, and showing us the just finished TV spots.

"The multinational agency Saatchi & Saatchi doesn't have anything to do with this project", said Sakan, resolving all dilemmas over the authorship of the drive. We now work as individuals, just as our athletes play in foreign teams, but here we occasionally participate in various cultural projects. That is our mission in this region. All these actions are nonprofit, because we are financing a "new moment, and that's the name of our magazine ('New Moment'). That is why we have accepted the Ministry of Culture's promotion of culture in general, with pleasure, because culture is a general thing, independent of all ideological attributes. Our only condition was - freedom in creative solutions, because we wished to make a truly creative action. I got together over a hundred experts in various fields. We wished to make the biggest and most creative campaign ever done here. Saatchi & Saatchi managers in London have absolutely nothing to do with this campaign."

VREME: Do you think that the current cultural policy could change, or that under the sponsorship of your campaign someone might say, for example: "Folk music is our most valuable artistic expression at the moment?"

SAKAN: I know that won't happen. Throughout the whole campaign top cultural values are underscored. Culture will always remain what it is, and we weren't bound to a particular cultural policy, a specific Ministry or its current stand. We simply say that its "empty without culture" and that "its nicer with culture" (those are the slogans), which has nothing to do with a specific cultural policy. We rely on the most generalized moments which cannot be abused, changed or turned into something else: the culture of living together, the culture of speech, the culture of dressing, the culture of doing business, the culture of communication, etc. The only interest was to make a highly creative action, because I had no other motives.

VREME: What preparations did you undertake for the realization of this campaign?

SAKAN: We divided the strategy of our approach into several phases. The first starts with the slogan - "It's empty without culture", then we caution and show what will happen if other things take over the place of culture. We say that life without culture is empty, that all are endangered, because culture is the essence of identity. In the second phase we say that "it is nicer with culture". As our symbol we chose a Lepenski Vir idol and brought it to life in spots. This deity was created hundreds of centuries ago in the area of Lepenski Vir. The following phase suggests that "the situation in culture today is sad"; so help, become a benefactor - a cultural benefactor, because culture needs help in order to survive. In the end we unfurled a flag with the names of our greatest cultural figures taken out of a rich Serbian tradition and the slogan - "We are stronger with culture". Some thirty spots were made, including posters, badges, etc. We have created a special action for benefactors in culture, who should become involved right at the beginning. We are the benefactors club's first members.

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