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Secret Capital. The Intersections of Art and Economy

A project by Katja Melzer and Karin Rolle

Host organizations: Lenau House and Protok - Center for Visual Communication

April/May 2011, Pécs (Hungary) and Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Secret Capital was a research and exhibition project which lasted for several months and investigated the intersections between art and economy. It operated on two levels; on the one hand students and experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, and Hungary developed projects that described the economic transformations Central and Southeast Europe have experienced from an artistic perspective. On a reflexive level they also examined the influence socio-political conditions have on creative work. Taking "creative economy" as their key phrase, they discussed their possibilities and limitations in the region.

1. Artistic Perspectives

The project kicked off with artists Mladen Miljanović (Banja Luka), Csaba Nemes (Budapest and Pécs), and Henrik Schrat (Berlin) offering their perspectives on the relationship between art and economy in a panel discussion.

In a workshop led by Henrik Schrat, 11 students from art academies in Banja Luka and Pécs developed their own project ideas. With the guidance of Mladen Miljanović and Csaba Nemes, the students presented the results of these projects to a broad audience and engaged in intensive conversation with the many visitors. Ljubiša Pušac, for example, showed videos and photography in Pécs which examined the ecological consequences of strip mining north of Banja Luka. László Ormay investigated corruption in the renovations completed in Pécs for its year as European Capital of Culture 2010. The students learned to work conceptually and intensively on projects. Their work was linked by irony and a talent for choosing controversial subjects.

2. The socio-political perspective

In a lecture at the University of Banja Luka, sociologist Alexandra Manske, PhD (Berlin) gave an introduction to the debate surrounding the "creative industries." The creative economy is considered on the one hand to be a driving force for economically weak regions, but reveals on the other hand the following dilemma: "The creative class" does in fact contribute to improving the image of de-industrialized regions, but they themselves usually work under precarious conditions. In the public discussion that followed, the debate was brought to bear on the context of Southeast Europe, where, given the background of resurgent national traditions, it seems crucial to foster sensitivity for creative and dissenting thought.

With support from: the art academies in Banja Luka and Pécs, Nádor Galéria, Szoba, the city of Banja Luka, Goethe-Institut Budapest, Robert Bosch Stiftung