Blogging about a cultural holiday

At the Art center we blog just about anything – self-sufficient gardening, food, DIY building, mini projects, our guests, and lately even about ecological cleaners. This will sound very Monty Python, but our artistic center (together with our blog) is an excellent metaphor for (current) state of culture in Slovenia. No budget, literally.

Each year, the beginning of February is marked by increased usage of the word ‘culture’. Indeed, it is present in all spheres of life, reaching it’s peak on Prešeren Day and then disappearing from the horizon. On 8th February we celebrate the anniversary of the death of Slovene national poet France Prešeren… and, ironically as it seems, also the ‘death’ (well, suicide to be correct) of our culture. How typically Slovene.

Kultura morta? / (Cultural Death?); 2014

The situation is… NOT, period. 
Asociacija, Association of Arts and Culture NGOs and Freelancers in Slovenia, says that the situation in culture is alarming, others are talking about a cultural catastrophe, national TV is telling us stories about impossible living conditions of slovene artists (way below minimal wage), funding for projects and programs is shrinking horrendously, how the National Program for Culture is only a piece of paper and so on and so on… if we mention only a few statements over the last few days.

Cuts and blockages don’t surprise us anymore here at the Art center – after 14 years of existence it still hurts, but to tell you the truth, we simply cannot be bothered to deal with incompetent bureaucrats at the Ministry of Culture anymore, begging for crumbs from them etc..
When you look around a bit, see the world, Slovenia really becomes small… small in all negative connotations, unfortunately.

However, it is horrible for us to watch – even though 7 years ago we were first on the list for cut-offs (lucky ones, always pioneers!) – that every year, more and more individuals and organizations are joining us on this list.
Therefore, just like every year, we once again join the wave of protests on the Slovene Cultural Holiday.

Creativity on Chain; installation on Slovene Cultural Holiday;
mixed media (snow, wood, ash); 2009

Culture? No shit. 
Culture in all it’s glory deserves honor and praise, but not in Slovenia. Here it looks like it became an insult in all its extremes, a swear word to release the building frustration. Exactly 7 years ago, we invented – in our humble opinion- a very appropriate word for these and similar ailments. A neologism that seemed (and still is) unbelieveably suitable for the description of slovene cultural policy: KULTURAC.

original logo

hacked version

Culture with a C
Kulturac is a composite: a new word formed from foundation (culture) and suffix (c) and essentially derives from the visual image (logo) of the former Ministry of Culture. Within the art scene one could call it also subvertising, ad-busting or a spoof.

»Subvertising is a portmanteau of subvert and advertising. It refers to the practice of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements. Subvertisements may take the form of a new image or an alteration to an existing image or icon, often in a satirical manner. “A well produced ‘subvert’ mimics the look and feel of the targeted ad, promoting the classic ‘double-take’ as viewers suddenly realize they have been duped. Subverts create cognitive dissonance. It cuts through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality and, momentarily, reveals a deeper truth within.« (Source: Wikipedia)

Suffix C (as in copyright) suggests that national institutions and its employees, who should take care of the development of diverse cultural and artistic production, instead operate exclusionary, elitist, rigidly bureaucratic, conservative and ideologically oriented, centralized etc.. and in this way possess the life of Slovenian culture and art.

Also (very important for our foreign readers!) – kulturac means something else. This part is hard to translate. Nonetheless, kultura is culture, kurac is a curseword meaning dick, which joint together forms kulturac = culture dick. Sort of.

Examples of use
The word culture has recently (wow, that’s years now) won the suffix c , upgrading the word to kulturac (=cultural dick) which could be / is used in daily life as a cultural swearword meaning:
– mostly disagreement, disapproval, resentment, for example of cultural policy, culture, quality of cultural / artistic activity / project / …
– pejorative for a person of unspecified gender in the professional field (culture) etc..
The application can also be used as a self-criticism of culture/artists and opportunism, but it is rare.

Other uses are hard to translate, but you get the picture:
1. Vulgar term in wide use in cultural spheres. Usually used in sentences when disagreeing with something or because something is plain wrong.
2. Code for the unknown specimen of undefined sex in the field of cultural activity. Usually used in a negative mood.
3. As a place denotes things that have gone wrong.
4. Send somebody ‘in kulturac’ means that him / her do not agree or do not approve his / her actions and procedures.

Specifically, the word kulturac originates from the year 2007, when after the eviction, the team of Art center found asylum in Metelkova city in Ljubljana. At that time we got a space in the building Hlevi (ex Stables), located exactly across the street from the HQ of the Ministry of Culture. We completely renovated the space into a living and working area and named the studio Artists’ Asylum. Before the eviction, and later on during the exile from the premises of Art center, the team continually informed all co-financiers and partners in projects of the Art center, relevant institutions, associations and individuals in Slovenia and abroad, about the irregularities of the forced management by the local despots. On the day of eviction, at the end of November 2006, our first public statement warned of the long-term effects intentional harm and blockage of the first art center in Slovenia will bring.

Artists’ Asylum: before -after; 2008

In the past, the Ministry of Culture repeatedly (well, actually always) distanced itself from the problem of Art center. This is despite the fact that the establishment of the center in 2000 was backed by the EU funded project to build an artistic center that later on won the award for the best regional project. Misunderstanding of Slovenian cultural policy or it’s decision-makers about the specifics of the Art Center and the ignorance of these – in the rest of the world – renowned artistic exchanges and practices, their understanding of the Artist in Residence programs can be elegantly summarized in a statement by the Ministry of Culture employee in 2012, that art residencies are nothing more than tourism ( ? ).

At the end of 2006, when there was a violent eviction of the premises of Art Centre by local police, we informed all the ministers (4 of us survived!) about the possibilities of the development of Art Center, asked for help, and in the end just before the public auction of the Art center complex saw a bright light at the end of a long, dark and musty tunnel.
At least we hoped so.

Visit of Art center by (now ex) Minister of Culture Mrs. Majda Širca; 2010

Later in 2009-2010 (resulting from lawsuits won by the Art Centre team) the ministry approached us, to help solve the center by paying off the debt with a promise of program independence and co-investment opportunities for the Art center team, which in 2010 they then broke again. Art Center has then filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Slovenia, which is still ongoing. And here we are, in the year 2014.

We still believe that our posts about self-sufficient gardening, DIY building, mini projects, our guests, and finally, ecological cleaners, are certainly meaningful in the development of an autonomous artistic center.
Never the less, when the thought about our daily bread takes over creativity, ideas, development of art and its potentials (especially in marginalized environments, in one of which Art center operates), the reality becomes a tragic comedy of an experience – even the Monty Pythons would cry with laughter. And we’ll spend the cultural holiday making ecological cleaners and celebrating it with entering our new word in ‘Razvezani jezik [The Unleashed Tongue], the first user-generated online dictionary of spoken Slovenian language’. That’s as cultural as it gets.