International Summit of Video Artists in Novi Sad

The second international video summit VideoMedeja, was held at the Novi Sad Theater, December 5-7, 1997. A festival of video, installations and performance works primarily by women, VideoMedeja was expanded from the 1996 summit into a full, three-day program with international programs and selections by guest curators. Sadly, technical problems experienced the year before did not improve, and the quality of presentation and discussion with local authors about their work remained apologetic. As one of the first international audiences in several years for Yugoslav video work by women, better feedback would have been an important feature of the festival.


Read also:

  1. Last Years Report on Video Medeja
  2. Fresh Report about Cluj, Rumania
  3. Report about Ostranenie, Dessau
Old City-Logo of Novi Sad

New media art initiatives, like all ongoing events in alternative media programs, face great difficulty, no matter where they are located. VideoMedeja, a second year event in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, is located in one of the most unstable areas of Europe, and as a festival it also suffers from communication difficulties, political prejudices, and internal struggles for leadership. With funding from the Novi Sad Open Society Institute (Soros) for a second year, it attempted an ambitious program for which it was basically understaffed and unprepared for the great interest to participate from artists around the world.

VideoMedeja I, which defied all predictions of failure in 1996, pulled off a strong local event by the sheer energy of the organizing team. It was, after all, only months after economic sanctions had been lifted, and nightly student protest demonstrations were at an all time high point. Even under these circumstances, the first VideoMedeja festival brought together a selection of interesting video works that renewed the tradition in Yugoslavia of discussion and presentation of media art - this time with a strong focus on women in Eastern Europe.

In 1997, VideoMedeja offered an expanded three day program of exceptional works from 21 countries. The program attracted many more authors, curators, and critics who attended from both East and West Europe. Authors (the local term for artists) individually expressed the desire to discuss common issues of their work. But, this never really happened, as the 'round table' did nothing more than provide a place for brief introductions, and a quick overview of the guests.

Video still from Conversion Sound-Image/Image-Sound by Illia Dragneva/Lucia Macari (Moldava) 1996.

Several changed occurred at VideoMedeja II. The focus on central and eastern European work was still strong, but the prime-time for program screenings were given to foreign programs, especially the UK and Japan, and also work by men was peripherally included. The technical and financial problems faced in 1996 (where they were mostly overlooked with good natured smiles) were not accepted so generously by the guests or local artists in 1997, who expected a better, more professional presentation. Although it was promised in 1996, no website was developed for the 1997 festival.

As an insider/outsider (I was listed as part of the official festival board in the catalogue), I longed for the intense discussions and program introductions that had made the Ostranenie festival such a pleasure to attend. Several programs presented in Dessau were also in Novi Sad, like the Crossing Over' selection and 'Meeting Point'. But in Novi Sad, no translations were provided for the Serbian speaking audience in the instances where English was the default language, and foreign guests tried in vain to find supporting information in the festival catalogue (which was a performance in itself). Even with the difficult presentation, and technical problems (un-monitored sound, cutting off of credits, a wavy screen and awkward light flooding the screening space when latecomers entered) the selections and programs were well chosen and heartily received by audiences eager to see new work.

Read also Ostranenie report in Telepolis.

East European festival highlights included 'Crossing Over' described as a mixed gender program of video works resulting from workshops conducted in Sofia by Nina Czegledy, 1996-97. Presented by Iliyana Nedkova, art historian for SCCA Sofia, Bulgaria, it was announced with great interest that a 'Crossing Over' workshop would be held in Novi Sad in July 1998. A program of Russian videos selected by Tania Moguilevskaya, added some remarkable work from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Moldova to the program. A short selection from 'Meeting Point', the 1997 annual exhibition of video for SCCA Sarajevo was presented by Enes Zlatar.

Student works from educational programs were also represented. Erika Pasteur, an artist living in Budapest, presented her personal work and a strong selection of work by her students at the Hungarian University of Applied Arts. This program profiled a professional course that features computer graphics, non-linear editing and advertising techniques. A program from the Academic Film Center at the Belgrade University and videos from the Novi Sad Short Film Workshop were also shown to a large, enthusiastic audience.

The non-East European selections included 'Maniacs of Disappearance - today's Japan as disseminator of video-messages' a three part program curated by Kazunao Abe, Yukiko Shikata, and Christophe Charles. This popular program was shown in the late night screening slot, and presented new images and ideas to the Yugoslav youth audience. A strong program organized by Mike Stubbs of Hull Time Based Arts, and a selection of new works from London Electronic Arts, gave a good representation of the new "brat" style and content in British video.

Installations and performances were treated similarly, as one time events. A stunning presentation of 'x y ungeloest' a two channel projection work by Milica Tomic (also presented at Ostranenie) centered on the issue of the 1989 assassination of 33 Yugoslav citizens of Albanian nationality, who were part of the Kosovo protests, and whose deaths were never announced in the media. By using performance and film language to demonstrate how crime is reconstructed, this work is a stunning example of artistic attention toward politics and social content. This installation was commissioned for the exhibition MURDER (1997), and was funded by the Center for Contemporary Art, Belgrade.

A round table discussion on Sunday morning between a dozen women from MultiMedeja (at the Ben Akiba Club in the Novi Sad Theater) provided a strong focus, and a future for dialogue between professional women writers, artists and educators. VideoMedeja originated from MultiMedeja, an organization initiated by Marija Gajicki in 1994, as an outgrowth of the women's studies program at Novi Sad University, a theory focused program. Participating was Dubravka Duric, editor of ProFemina, who announced the first English language edition of the magazine, in early 1998. ProFemina is a journal for women writing and culture. It is published in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in four issues a year by Radio B92. It covers the broad field of feminist writings and writings on feminism. It's issues are divided into sections for poetry and prose, as well as essays and other information relevant to women's studies.

The four-hour round table dialogue between arts, theater and literature spokeswomen addressed the problems women have to approach issues of gender in post-Communist Yugoslavia, today. Biljana Tomic, art historian and critic (and head of the Gallery SKUC --Student Culture Center-- in Belgrade), described her view on gender, by saying "we have lost our gender - we are all beings of the past...", while Dubravka Duric, poetry editor of ProFemina, explained, "feminism is considered 'insulting' in today's macho Yugoslavia", and told of her difficult experiences as a feminist author. Other viewpoints on gender and feminism in art were equally passionate and committed. This topic was neglected by VideoMedeja, which chose instead to focus on "the body" in general and its beauty, as Tomic stated, "...everything that is basic human content". It was also a pity that this meeting was on the last morning of the festival, and that festival organizers did not attend, as it offered important links to female expression in today's Yugoslavia.

Media Center (for ProFemina)
Knez Mihailova 25/I
YU-11000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Phone: (381) 628-984; fax: 628-767

VideoMedeja: Second international video summit
Organized by VideoMedeja / Association "Apostrof"
Executive organizer: Elza Vuletic
Secretary: Vesna Rajcic
Curator and catalogue editor: Vera Kopicl
Publisher: Agency Apostrof

Jevrejska 4/I
YU-21000 Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
phone/fax: 381 (0)21 621.308 (Kathy Rae Huffman)