After years of deliberate nation building narratives in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro in which state supported art was particularly instrumental, some national myths have informed the society at large. Mainstream contemporary art in these countries still very often reflects this sentiment, openly promoting prejudiced stereotypes and justifying national ideologies or political agendas. Simultaneously, these countries have witnessed a significant decrease in critical reflection on contemporary art. Since mainstream media treat culture as entertainment, it is almost impossible to publicly discuss issues such as nationalism or chauvinism in art. Art criticism has dwindled down to occasional specialized magazines catering for a very narrow and mostly academic audience. Proper newspaper art reviews have virtually disappeared.
Having this in mind, this project is conceived as widening the public space for critical discussion on contemporary art. This is of particular importance at this specific moment considering the European Union prospects of these countries, their connection to European common cultural space and adoption of European values of tolerance, participation, intercultural dialogue and inclusion. Criticism of contemporary art contributes to this dialogue inasmuch as it reveals the way in which contemporary art (de)constructs nationalistic myths, national identities and images of the other as well as the ways contemporary art deals with neuralgic and traumatic points of societies.
The general aim of the projects is to initiate a Europe wide discussion on the significance of contemporary art in enhancement of the common cultural space achieved by affirmation of critical reflection on art.
Specific objectives of the project are:
1. To create trans-national critical discourse on art in order to contribute to intercultural dialogue;
2. To facilitate the dialogue between artists and audiences by recreating the common cultural space;
3. To promote European values, particularly intercultural dialogue, inclusion and participation, by means of increasing their visibility in online and print media.
The project is defined by three main themes: dealing with the past, social transformation and identity. art criticism will be particularly focused on the way contemporary art treats: the past (emergence of new states, nationalism, chauvinism); social change (change of cultural framework, new economic system, decrease of public space, consumerism, censorship, freedom of speech); identity ((re)inventing national identity, building European identity, models of inclusion/exclusion of minority groups).
The project will focus on visual arts, performing arts and literature produced in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro in recent years. Art reviews will be produced during three Art Modules. There will be 11 participants (young art critics) per Art Module from all these countries selected based on their applications.
The Art Modules will be organized in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia and they will host prominent thinkers from the region, Europe and the world. The first part of each art module is a three-day initial event which will include: workshops for young art critics, public lectures given by international lecturers and a public discussion on the topic of building democratic and open society.
The second stage of each Art Module consists of writing essays on a predefined subject. Writing essays will be preceded by researches which will be conducted in all countries of the project (consulting archives, visiting events, interviewing artists etc.). Selected art reviews will be published simultaneously on the project web site and partner’ web portals, in daily and weekly newspapers in these countries and in other electronic media. Best art critics will be awarded a prize at the end of the project.
Find out more on the project's Criticize this! web site http://www.criticizethis.org