We begin with Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, and shed light on what it means to do critical cultural work from the position of a political and cultural outsider. What forms do anger and sarcasm and unshakable self-irony adopt there?
For several years now Sofia has been working on becoming compatible for Europe, and outwardly much has changed. Who are the new owners of the city, and what new visual surfaces and codes do they bring with them?
Kosovo and its capital, Pristina, are marked by uncertainty with regard to their status. Will the vision of independence become reality in 2006? What consequences does freezing a society as a protectorate of the United Nations have for the everyday lives of its members?
We approach Sarajevo, once battled over so fiercely, roughly ten years after the war, with the questions: What does it mean here to subject the dominant politics of memory to an analysis? Which strategies of visualization come into play? Which do not?
In Zagreb, the capital of neighboring Croatia, intellectuals and artists are reopening the history of their networks: the "second life of the collective" is a response to new conditions that are determined by nationalism and capitalism. What potential for resistance do present collectives and networks develop?
Poland’s capital is booming. At the same time, a critique of neoliberalism is becoming more acute in Warsaw today. How does critical contemporary art relate to trends toward traditionalizing society once again while at the same time urban life is being liberalized, and not least on the basis of the new freedoms that have resulted from the economic upturn?
The citizens of Ljubljana have long since associated themselves with an international network and an unusually lively art and cultural scene. Faced with a changing political and economic situation, however, intellectuals and artists are debating over how to preserve this openness. How do they formulate their critique? Which countermovements do they address? What does internationality mean in Ljubljana today?
The thematic approach the artists and authors have opened up to each city is closely linked to the relevant local context but at the same time points beyond municipal and national borders. In that sense, one question remains consistent throughout: What do these cities and their inhabitants tell us about themselves and also about ourselves? In order to do justice to the heterogeneity of these places and positions, we decided to follow a strict dramaturgy. For each chapter we invited artists and photographers to produce works especially for this publication. In the present volume, the path into the city and to a theme always goes by way of art. In each case, we spoke with writers, curators, journalists, economists, and sociologists. The first essay in each chapter outlines the city’s theme from an internal perspective. It is accompanied by photographic works or visual contributions by artists. A second, briefer contribution takes up a thematic aspect and offers greater depth. It is followed by a reportage, a literary text, or a hybrid of the two, usually formulated from an external perspective. The alternation and confrontation of internal perspective and external view runs through the entire book and is continued in conversations between artists and intellectuals. Members of the "relations" projects discussed with their colleagues in order to make various positions more tangible through dialogue and thereby open them up to negotiation. Before we depart each city and its scenes again, an artistic work visualizes it one more time. Finally, an essay places the local situation in a larger discursive context: How are the new elites coming to terms with the wars of the recent past? Who is turning the communist era into a museum? How is the European Union securing its external borders, and who does the protectorate in the former Yugoslavia really protect?
The chapters on the cities are followed by the "Atlas." Every present has its backdrops and prehistory. We are led through these by a text that sketches in compact form the relationships in realpolitik and weaves in historical and economic data. The tension between subjective perspective and transnational view plays an important role in the "Atlas" as well. Rather than seemingly objective data, it offers a narrative that is founded on facts. At the end of the book we return to the beginning—that is, to the art and culture projects that were developed over the past three years in the framework of "relations." These projects are documented in brief descriptions and lists of all the participants.
The present volume is a collaborative work that can only have been produced through intense cooperation among the members of the "relations" projects; the authors and artists; the advisory team of Marius Babias, Mathias Greffrath, and Georg Schöllhammer; and the editors and translators. And it required not only energy and patience—even finding a language as such was a repeated challenge to our powers of invention. The experiment of cultural exchange and translation, the verbal probing, questioning, and testing, began anew with nearly every initial context, nearly every conversation, and it continued in intense work on the texts. For example, the present contributions were translated from eight languages to produce both an English and a German edition.
We need only recall briefly here that official wordings and translations frequently become political issues as well; every translation inscribes, consciously or unconsciously, one’s own cultural background. And, as always, the devil is in the details. The explosive force of official wordings can be seen, for example, in the spelling of the name of the city of Pristina. The editors here have followed the international convention that adopts neither the Albanian spelling ( Prishtina ) nor the Serbian one ( Priština ), but rather creates its own: Pristina. Our Kosovar colleagues, speaking Albanian, by contrast, use the Albanian spelling Prishtina. Kosovo belongs to the state union Serbia and Montenegro, even if Kosovar self-conception has produced a clear vote for independence. The presence or nonpresence of the h in Pristina thus narrates the complex history of a conflict over the status of Kosovar society that is still unresolved. For that reason, we decided against standardization, as in other cases as well, and tried to portray the naming practices currently in use.
Taking into account and in some cases also defending heterogeneity frequently affects literally every word in this book. Allow yourself to be confused. And allow yourself to be seduced—by an incomplete, dialogical, kaleidoscopic attempt to come to terms between the covers of one book with site-specific and yet cross-border questions, with subjectivities, regimes of the gaze and visual axes, official wordings and visual worlds, all of which are in motion. We always understood that one key prerequisite for such an attempt to visualize and convey rested in the interlocking of internal and external perspectives and in establishing distance within empathy. For us, readings that presume a tension between inside and outside and are able to alternate between empathy and distance offer a possibility for participation or, perhaps more accurately, for contemporaneity.
Katrin Klingan and Ines Kappert, Editors
1 Ulrich Peltzer, "Erzählen ohne Grenzen: Kartographien des Romans," unpublished typescript of a lecture held on November 22, 2005, at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin.
Images from Leap into the City (Selection): Ziyah Gafic', photographs, 2001-2004, Bosnia and Herzegovina