KUD Mreža is located in the Autonomous Cultural Centre Metelkova mesto. Can you tell us about its history?
The story of Metelkova began in the second half of the 1980s with a strong national independence movement, which actuated a vibrant cultural scene. The initiative to convert the military barracks along Metelkova Street into a multicultural centre sprung up, and over 200 individuals and several NGOs formed an association called Mreža Za Metelkovo. In 1991, the City and the Government officially declared that the barracks were to be run by Mreža Za Metelkovo.
But in 1993 the city council undertook an unannounced and illegal attempt to demolish the Metelkova buildings. Ha! Exactly the opposite of what they had promised! In response to this, a self-organised group occupied the northern section of the barracks.
At that point, Metelkova looked like a bomb site. But the cultural programmes at Metelkova were still extremely rich. There were over 200 cultural events in the first few months.
KUD Mreža was established in 1997. We started a gallery, but the main focus was still on Metelkova as a whole: improving working conditions, installing electricity, Internet and water, communicating with the municipality, and, the most difficult of all, internal communication and solving problems between the various Metelkova “residents”.
When we met before, you talked about Ljubljana’s vibrant art scene. What makes the city so special for you?
The richness of the independent art scene is rooted in the early alternative cultural movements of the 1980s. At the time, alternative culture in Slovenia consisted of punk and post-punk scenes, youth clubs, organisations, artistic and social movements, and some youth media outlets like Radio Študent and weekly magazines such as Mladina. The art movement NSK — Neue Slowenische Kunst — was also founded during this period. It is interesting to note that many organisations still exist and operate with the same progressiveness as 40 or even 50 years ago.
In Ljubljana, so many events take place simultaneously, a town with less than 300,000 inhabitants, that it is often the case that five concerts take place at five different locations on the same evening, and they are all extremely well attended. Not a day goes by without there being an interesting cultural event somewhere.
You curate and organise two concert series with László Juhász: FriForma and FriFormA\V. What is your curatorial approach?
The FriForma concert series promotes a mixture of genres that we usually label free improvisation, free jazz or experimental music. The innovative aspect is to combine contemporary academic music and entirely self-invented approaches, and basically everything in between.
FriFormA\V is a performance series that offers artistic creations which involve video, light and photography in contemporary sound environments. Both series aim to explore innovative works of the young generation of Slovenian artists. Our events take place at various locations, from clubs and bars, through galleries to functioning churches or other historical locations.
With FriForma and the residency programme Studio Asylum, KUD Mreža has focused on international collaboration and artistic exchange with local artists. What kind of effect does this have on your organisation and the local scene?
Our residency allows artists to get a feeling for Metelkova, Ljubljana and Slovenia. Not only does the artist get to know the local art scene, the emphasis is also on what happens in the other direction: the transfer of skills, knowledge and ideas that the temporary resident brings. We are aware that it is important for artists to move away from their everyday environment sometimes and work somewhere else, so we offer them a free stay in a space that allows them to work in peace and quiet, while still being in an inspiring environment.
KUD Mreža has been co-organising the International Feminist and Queer Festival Red Dawns. What is the concept behind it?
The idea of the festival was to honour the mostly invisible creative and organizational work done by women at Metelkova, and to create a public platform where women can socialise on their own terms: in a non-hierarchical, non-exploitational and anti-capitalistic manner, based on DIY principles, through collective effort. The feminist struggles of the past have proved that attempts to define women by gender are misleading: they are concerned with the metaphysics of “femininity” and “masculinity” instead of dealing with the reality of everyday hatred, disrespect and exploitation of people of all genders, not just women and men. The festival does not advocate a further polarization of genders. Instead, the creativity and the mixing of the participants questions the boundaries that separate people regardless of gender.
Die Slowenin Nataša Serec ist die Leiterin des Kulturzentrums KUD Mreža in Ljubljana. In das Projekt, das aus einer Leerstandsbesetzung entstand, ist sie seit Beginn involviert.