Photo: Pescanik
Photo: Pescanik

Marina Abramovic, who once managed to escape from that dungeon of art, hated socialist Yugoslavia, has now returned to capitalist Serbia. The reborn motherland welcomed her back with open arms and gave her a whole museum and an entire season.

This world-renowned artist, who originated from our unfortunate soil, was invited by the prime minister herself. I must have missed when Golda Meir used her charm and power to persuade one of her countrymen to show their art to the motherland. Or when a British expatriate was brought back by Margaret Thatcher. Citizen Brnabic, perhaps emboldened after having won over Biljana Srbljanovic (who became a member of the government’s creative section) took on a bigger challenge and advertised her nice museum and her nice country in which citizens have whatever they could possibly desire to persuade the famous artist to allow her work to be exhibited at the Museum of modern art. 

This momentous cultural event cost the government at least 78 million dinars, which means that the government also used the money of those who will never come to the show, or even to Belgrade, for as long as they live. But, hey, this is a world-renowned artist we are talking about. And now, our citizens don’t have to fly to New York, drive to Florence or Vienna. The cutting edge of modern art is brought to them on a silver platter by the prime minister.

I don’t know how much of the state’s money will be used for transport of the art, how much for the machinery necessary to display our guest’s creations. I don’t even know it the artist is doing this out of the goodness of her heart, or if is she going to make some money out of this, whether she likes it or not (she likes to repeat the cliché about a childhood destroyed by cursed socialism). Somewhere on the internet, I even found the information about 300,000 euros spent on machinery and tools necessary for M.A.’s art. The famous Serb is obviously not bringing everything she needs with her, unlike Phil Collins who always brings his own sound systems, lights, sound engineers, etc. Whatever the scope of the expense, I disagree and disapprove as much as it is within my power to do so.

But then, I disagree and disapprove of everything.

1. If the artist had been born in Timisoara and if her last name was Abramesku, she would never get what Belgrade just gave her, even if she was a world-famous Romanian artist. The performer has fallen into the web weaved by our ruling class which keeps chasing famous Serbs all over the globe, alive or dead. They’ve used up the scientists from NASA, they’ve wrung the last drop of political use out of Nikola Tesla, Stojan the successful mathematician was brought back to the motherland, awarded with a laptop. The basketball team failed to take the gold and bring the medals to Kosovo on foot, Djokovic failed to win the US open, but it doesn’t matter – we have Marina!

2. This state deeply believes in advertising and is mesmerized by greatness and championship. It is ready to use every artist, scientist and sportsman to show how good its citizens have it. It spares no cost when it comes to its grand plan, because it doesn’t really cost them anything. These people, who spent billions of our money on what they consider a bait for gullible tourists who will run to Belgrade and spend a thousand euros a day, certainly don’t think it’s wise to be stingy when it comes to the artist who has now agreed to come to Serbia, after refusing previous invitations earlier this century. (Montenegro, which the artist also considers her homeland, has showered her with medals. But this doesn’t bother us, since of course the Montenegrins are part of our nation!)

3. Why did she accept the invitation now? Is it because the Museum of modern art was brought back to life, or because of the specific people who brought it back to life? Is the guest even interested in the community which is going to gaze at her life’s work, does she know how the average visitor of her show lives, or, even more importantly, how the millions of citizens of Serbia who will never visit the Museum, even though the show lasts until spring, live?

4. If the artist doesn’t care who invited her and how her hosts treat their subjects, why should I care about her art and craft? I refuse to be drawn in, even if I know her show left all of New York speechless on several occasions! Even if it costs me excitement, enlightenment, inspiration, and spiritual enrichment, I won’t go to the show. It’s the only means left to me to substantiate my honest protest.

5. Yes. In its various attempts to present itself as better than it really is, the state used to spend its citizens’ money on folk singers to entertain the poor for New Year’s Eve. But this isn’t even the case here! The government didn’t spend 78 million to cover the cost of the show in order to open the doors of the Museum to all lovers of culture. No, the tickets for the show will be sold at the cost of 600 dinars, with discounts for those classes of people allegedly dear to the government (pregnant women, retirees, etc.). This is double funding we’re talking about. We’ll never know the final balance. The 300,000 euros worth of equipment will remain at the Museum, which won’t have any use for all of it, even if it wanted to, so, as I’ve heard, it will be given away to other institutions of culture which can’t wait to get their hands on it. So I guess we should thank Brnabic and Abramovic for these gifts, as well.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 04.10.2019.