Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Serbie et Montenegro: null points

Last week was big. I lost my right to various “up to 26 years of age” discounts and changed my country of residence without even moving.
On a lighter note (or harder, in this case… note, that is), a group of people in monster outfits complete with bad skin, battleaxes and batwings got flowers and kisses from a gay Greek in a golden suit, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Are these events even related?
In what I guess was a form of protest against a contest that is so bad that it became trashy cool, a Europe oversaturated with sequence overwhelmingly voted for a bunch of freaks. I guess it’s ok. Anyone’s dream can come true. These guys are not sinister, they’re just ugly. No self-respecting satan-worshiper would ever enter Eurovision, let alone blow kisses to the audience. In the end it’s just show-business.
And as interesting litmus test of society, that it is, it was Eurovision that recently brought to the surface everything that was rotten in my country. The scandal in the national final between Serbian and Montenegrin representatives resulted in withdrawal from the competition.
Serbia and Montenegro did not compete this year, and it never will, as it does not exist any more.
I believe both countries will eventually turn out right, but I am sad. Emotions fueled by unconstructive politicians have once again got the better of us. Instead of trying to resolve our problems, in an ever uniting world, we keep disintegrating. Politicians on both sides keep saying this changes nothing, so why then was it necessary to spend millions of euros on organizing the referendum? I heard on Croatian TV that Yugoslavia had no chance of surviving because such a union did not make sense, so why are all its former members in such a hurry to unite again with each other and everyone else in Europe. I saw a report about some illiterate people from a Cetinje slum saying they will vote for independence because their community might get a shower and toilet, perhaps a bus line to the center.
Excuse me? Am I the only one who thinks there’s been a mix-up?
As so many times before, politicians on both sides have manipulated people into believing that, once again, someone else is to blame, and that, once again, we need to take care of just one more outside problem so we can finally get to work on important internal matters. Once again their laziness and incompetence to produce results has been covered up by stories of patriotism and historic events. It is waste. Fortunately, this time, unlike other recent senseless brake-ups in the region, it will not include a waste of life.
Serbia and Montenegro have only themselves to blame. With or without each other both countries need to WORK - on their economies, on facing up to their pasts, on fighting corruption, on changing their frame of mind…
OK, people, there you have it - a clean slate. What now? Is anyone going to do anything, or are we on to the next excuse?
I wish us all - all the best.
The bottom line is, living in Belgrade for 27 years now, I have so far lived in 4 countries.
The vote in Montenegro was, despite of official shock, predictable. Voting in Eurovision was just as unsurprising.
In the years to come I expect Montenegro will give Serbia douze points (and vice versa). Who knows, maybe it’s that extra boost that we need to win.
And then, my friends and I can watch the event live in Belgrade Arena. Hopefully this year’s upset is not a trend, I expect Eurovision to go back to its roots. Next year it will be as gay as usual, I’ll be a year older again, living in Serbia, going on holiday in Montenegro.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Victory Day

Very happy with how Tuesday’s rally in Republic Square turned out - a beautiful spring day and lots of progressive and positive thinking. Although organized by political parties and against the current government, I really did not perceive it as primarily a political event, but as support for a certain set of values symbolized by Europe Day - the day of victory against fascism.

With rising conservativism and an unwillingness to confront our own horrible recent history holding the country back, many of the values which form the backbone of a modern civil European identity are in today’s Serbia under stress or in danger, and it was encouraging to see so many people coming out to support them. I was thrilled to see rainbow flags fluttering freely in the center of Belgrade. And though it was not a huge, revolution-starting, parliament-storming army of people, it was a good start. Perhaps we don’t need revolutions any more. We need evolution. Belgrade is a tough crowd to motivate, people are tired and skeptical after too many years of gathering in the streets. I would like to believe this was the start of creation of a unified Serbian civil society which will eventually take center stage and turn this country into what it could and should be.

Pictures from the internet – forgot my camera

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


My dad is feeling better and last night I could finally sleep.
After difficult surgery last week he can now move on his own, and might even be going home soon. He still has a long way to go. He is a bit lost and it’s difficult for him to speak. I don’t know what to say, so I just smile and hold his hand.
When I first saw him after surgery, pale and gasping for air, I thought he was going to die. I felt helpless. I was so sorry for him. When did my father become this old man? After I left the hospital I couldn’t calm down for days, although he was recovering. I guess it was one of those moments when you realize that people you love won’t be around forever, or maybe even for long, and you cry for them, and you cry for yourself, and you cry until you don’t even know why anymore.
My dad rarely says how he feels, but the other day, when no one was there he kissed my hand. I know.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Belgrade Design Week 2: Reaction to Karim Rashid

I completely agree with Karim (can I call you Karim?) that design has become democratic, either through the possibilities of customization of products and services or at least the increased ability to choose due to hyper-production.
He articulated some of the things I feel about the importance of expression – how so many people who are unhappy say it is because of a lack of creativity in their life. I felt that. I felt that I missed some of the creative outlets I used to have, which I have had to give up under pressure from obligations and assignments. That was the basic reason for starting this blog.
Everyone is a designer, he said, and I really believe it is so. And I think it goes beyond that, I think everyone is an artist, or at least can be. Now this, of course, opens up the problem of definitions, that if everything is art, maybe nothing is, but I do not agree that art is dead. It has taken new forms, penetrated all segments of life, and I think is as relevant and alive as it ever was.

Basically, Karim spoke in big bombastic statements but I fail to see how that is reflected in his work. How can you say that brands are dead, if you are yourself a brand, and anyone and anything can become a brand. We could say that the meaning of brands is changing that they are reinventing themselves, that brands too have become dynamic and even democratic.
He also criticized designers, especially fashion designers, for drawing from the past. But if design is democratic and we all live, as he said, in a digital age and are aware of our choices, then if we STILL decide to CHOOSE something from the past, we make it contemporary. If someone likes it and uses it, it’s fresh and new. We make the design contemporary not the other way round.
A complete break from the past, using strange shapes, digital prints, and painting everything pink and silver does not in itself make something modern. In fact, Karim’s design to me even seems a bit retro and seventies.
Karim Rashid is a skillful craftsman, but for me it is design for the sake of design, aestheticism and fashion. It has no background story, no justification. No context, no relevance.

On the other hand I was completely blown away by Ross Lovegrove - an amazing and inspiring man who deserved every minute of the standing ovation he got. It was one of those moments when you believe you see things clearly and say to yourself: from now on I’m gonna recycle, and …eat right and… fight for justice! He really demonstrated how design can be so much more than superficial form. That it can and should innovate and educate and be visionary. Thank you Ross!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Belgrade Design Week

Note to myself: I really have to learn to post these things on time. I drafted this weeks ago…

For a week in late April I’ve been buzzing around events related to the newly created Belgrade Design Week, a showcase for Serbian design, and an overview of global trends in design and branding and how they affect us locally.
The whole thing was well organized and fun and brought together international design stars and local unknowns, huge multinational agencies and aspiring artists and introduced Belgrade to new spaces like the recently opened Superspace gallery in the refurbished 1930s industrial warehouses on the Sava waterfront, where every night the people mingled, champagne in hand, looking across the super-sized river to the lush trees in New Belgrade and the shining Usce tower. It was a new and unusual view, not the Belgrade I’m used to - what I imagine of Brasilia - a modern city in a rainforest.
The low point, although morbidly fascinating, would have to be the opening panel when six biggest international advertising agencies in Serbia presented themselves and their work. The overwhelming intolerance, malice and envy suffocated any notion of a neutral ground where professionals could meet and exchange ideas. These guys obviously have nothing to learn from each other.
Was it possible that those people really believed what they were saying? I guess if you repeat something enough, you might actually start to believe it. One by one, the obnoxious six kept saying their presentation would be completely different and continuing to say how their agency is the best, biggest, most creative, and extra-superfantastic. Naturally they were all exactly the same.
Fortunately, the event kept getting better, with interesting presentations, constructive dialogue and some truly inspiring moments.
The segment about Belgrade really got me thinking, and if I can get organized, hopefully I will be able to post some of my ideas and projects in the near future.
The closing - design superstars day was great, Karim Rashid’s presentation drew a huge crowd… This deserves a detailed review (as soon as I get my notes organized).