About and Around Curating: Our bad experience with the Cultural Center of Belgrade
We collaborated with The Cultural Center of Belgrade (thereafter KCB) on the occasion of their 53rd October Salon in which were supposed to participate. Unfortunately, after this experience, we can only describe the behavior of his center’s leaders, Mia David and Zorana Đaković, as dishonest and unprofessional. We did appreciate their support in the past for our first season hosting a session at Artget Gallery in January 2012 (with Aleksandra Estela Bjelica Mladenović), and later during the 2012 Mikser Festival when they offered valuable technical support. However, our latest collaboration, which we expected would only be better than the previous ones, was a completely bad experience.
We were publicly invited to the 53rd October Salon in June 2012, by the Salon’s coordinator Zorana Đaković. Đaković had also been our guest with the occasion of the 13th session of About and Around Curating. A few weeks after we were invited, the curator of the Salon himself, Branislav (Branko) Dimitrijević confirmed our invitation. Not only that, but, as he suggested, we began discussing more activities that we could be responsible for at the Salon. (Such as facilitating a project for the art collective Expodium). What happened instead:
1) In the official flyer of the Salon, meant to be shared with visitors to the exhibition, our role was misrepresented and diminished – we appeared only as “support” for someone else’s project (namely, Expodium’s). KCB’s director Mia David’s later excuses for such “misunderstandings,” which we accepted, didn’t improve the situation, because:
2) We were never offered a contract for our participation in the Salon; we brought this up several times during our meeting with the management and we patiently waited for the draft proposal to appear (They told us: “It is such a busy period, but as soon as we find some time…”); and on top of all of this:
3) We remained unpaid for any material support (including fee), which, as is well known, on quite regular basis every participant gets from this institution, on occasions like this.
4) Finally, after our correspondence with Mia David, we realized that our project was never included in the budget of the 53rd October Salon in the first place.
Our conclusion, therefore, is that we were deliberately erased from the printed edition, and we were never given a contract proposal because we were never meant to be paid for our work, after having been invited by the same institution, KCB, that supports the 53rd October Salon.
As a response to the irresponsible and unprofessional way we have been treated we, the co-founders of About and Around Curating, feel it is our responsibility to let our colleagues and the wider public know that we DON’T RECOMMEND any kind of collaboration with KCB and its current management. Our warning is specially intended for fellow artists and independent art organisations, both domestic and foreign. In the Serbian cultural field, particularly in the public sector, running an institution is a very dark matter- in the last 3 decades or so applications for employment have been very rare, or never actually happened; many Open calls for projects, aren’t actually open at all, and are only used as cover for some other purposes. All important decisions are made far from the public eye, under rules of political interests and nepotistic deals. That is the most important reason for the lack of responsibility and for the bad way in which these institutions are run; not to mention shady business ethics.
The present situation urges us to collaborate across the civic/ independent and public sectors; nowadays institutions need such collaborations more and more, due to the lack of financial resources to develop and sustain their own projects. Moreover, institutions should ask themselves- what are they doing, how and for whom? (this is a matter of transparency). Therefore, it is extremely important to take a real good look at unprofessional business manners and to constantly insist on ethical relations, contracts, material support, fulfillment of deadlines. In many institutions, both in the public and civic sector, a lot of dedicated professionals are striving to do their jobs right, just like there are individuals doing their job in the KCB, as well. However, in our our opinion, those dedicated professionals do not include this institution’s current leaders.
Andrej Bereta and Srdjan Tunic
Curators, Art historians
Authors of the project About and Around Curating/ Kustosiranje
NGO ARTIKAL, Belgrade