KURS (Mirjana Radovanović and Miloš Miletić)

KURS, "Lessons in Defense", spread from book with the image of the poster from 1941 painted by artist Dragoljub Vuksanović in Liberated territory of Republic of Užice.

Lessons in Defense

The archival research Lessons in Defense deals with specific aspects of the development of culture and cultural policy inside the Peoples Liberation Movement (PLM) on the territory of Yugoslavia during World War II. The research follows several case studies and has been already published in two books. It was conducted in 2016 and 2017 and supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Europe. During the Fellowship at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen we would like to transform the existing archival research and the corresponding text into an artistic work. This would enable us to link the research results with various related contemporary discourses.

Focusing on key phases of the development of cultural activities of the PLM, as well as on antagonistic positions of its protagonists, the aim of our research was twofold. One was to trace (through archives) how partisan culture developed during war times and why cultural and artistic practice had been so important for the PLM.

Slovenian philosopher Rastko Močnik states that partisan culture brought people together in an anti-fascist struggle while at the same time it also produced new social circumstances. Thus, the partisan movement was not just a form of combating fascism, but, by facilitating new relationships, also a specific way of societal emergence in the context of which a consequently determined cultural shift occurred.

In the processing of archival data, we want to focus in Büchsenhausen on cases and processes that can be associated with the social and political challenges we are facing nowadays. By reflecting on historical practices of the Avant-Garde, we want to raise some of the issues that are important for the contextualization of present-day European society: what does the revolutionary struggle and culture of the PLM mean in today’s context of former Yugoslavia in particular and Europe in general, where the extreme-right is currently undergoing a process of expansion? What can we learn from the experience of organizing cultural workers within the anti-fascist movement? Could their models be reapplied today? Can we productively exert some of the practical experiences from then in our own art process? And the one question that can not be avoided and which largely defines our position within the cultural and artistic scene: What can be the role of art in social and political struggles?

Text: KURS

Mirjana RADOVANOVIĆ and Miloš MILETIĆ jointly practice visual art and research as KURS. In their work they explore how artistic practice can contribute to — and become an integral part of — various social movements. They often use archival material as a starting point, in combination with revolutionary poetry and prose and the visual language of progressive movements from the past. Most often they produce murals, illustrations and various printed materials including newspapers, posters, graphics. They are guided by the idea that the content they produce should be didactic and accessible to the wider public.

Projects that KURS realized in recent years are, among others: the research Lessons on Defense conducted in 2016 and 2017 on cultural activity within the People’s Liberation Movement; the mural Solidarity—to the International Brigades in Belgrade, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the International Brigades; the mural Struggle, Knowledge, Equality in Belgrade, on the occasion of the Students’ Day; the mural 20th October on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade; the mural Factory to the Workers at the Itas-Prvomajska factory in Ivanec, Croatia as part of the 13th Urban Festival; a residency in Chile at the AIR Casa Poli; the participation in the Persona Non Grata program in Ankara, organized by the AsiKeçi Collective; and the mural What Do We Know About Solidarity during the Qalandiya Biennial 2018 in Palestine.

As part of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2019-20 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck, KURS published the book Lessons on Defense: Cultural Activities of the People’s Liberation Movement (2020).