Since the Austrian Cultural Forum was founded in 2001, parallel to the improvement of our bilateral relations, the+ cooperation with Austria and Serbian improved and expanded. Director Austrian cultural forum Johannes Irschik talks about further plans and projects.
How much the work of the Austrian cultural forum was affected by improvement of our overall bilateral realtions?
– After nearly 20 years of continuous work, we have managed to position ourselves on the mental map of cultural stakeholders in Serbia and we are happy that the number of projects that we carry out or take part in continues to rise every year. We are also pleased that we are not only present in the capital of Serbia, but in many other Serbian cities as well.
What type of events that you organize are the most popular?
– Our most popular projects are those designed in such a manner that they are not technically demanding but still rich in content and that can easily travel through Serbia and be presented in various cities and venues. Our travelling documentary exhibitions, such as the one about Gustav Klimt, or the one about significant women in the history of Austria or about the most renowned Austrian urbanistic landmarks have reached thousands of people and have received excellent media coverage. For this year we have a new travelling exhibition ready. It is a documentary exhibition about the Pozarevac Peace Treaty signed a bit more than 300 years ago which will have its premiere in the City of Pozarevac on 25 April. Austrian cinema has been very successful over the past years and Austrian feature films, short films and documentaries won numerous international awards. The success of Austrian films presented at numerous film festivals throughout Serbia proves that we have managed to respond to the expectations of the audience in Serbia. Every year we prepare and interesting selection of Austrian films, translate it into Serbian and let it travel to several Serbian cities, sometimes combined with other programs. This year our focus is on recent production of Austrian short films that received both Austrian and international praise. The selection is called “Österreichische Kurzfilmschau” and will start its Serbian tour in Belgrade in the framework of the Expanded Media Triennial.
How much it takes to put together a plan of work of the Austrian cultural forum in Serbia. When did you start to plan the program for 2019, how the decisions are made, and how much preparation the logistic may take?
– Our annual planning starts in the autumn of the preceding year, when we draft a program overview for the coming year. Detailed programs are then drafted three times a year, several months before the actual event happens. It is therefore important for us to discuss project proposals with Serbian or Austrian Institutions and individuals well in advance, preferably at least half a year before the project is scheduled to be carried out. The decision whether we can accept a project proposal or not is based on a variety of principles: the quality and artistic value of the proposal, whether we think that the proposal is appealing to Serbian audiences and whether we have sufficient budget at our disposal. Artists and scientists that we support must be Austrian citizens or residents and professionals. The duration of the preparation and logistics of events depend on the scale of the project and the division of labor between us and our partners.
Which events would you like to single out in this year’s program?
– As already mentioned, this year we have a new travelling exhibition ready as well as a travelling selection of Austrian short movies. Both projects will be presented in a dozen of Serbian cities. Details are always announced on our Facebook Page. Last year we have started working on joint projects with the European Capital of Culture Novi Sad 2021 and we will continue this cooperation also this year. Also expect seeing lots of Austrian musicians at various festivals across the country, ranging from classical music, to electronic music to Reggae. The Austrian Cultural Forum currently presides the EUNIC Srbija Cluster (a network of European Union National Institutes for Culture and Embassies) in which context we carry out several exciting projects, such as a series of debates entitled EUNIC Talks which focus on cultural diplomacy themes, organized in partnership with the University of Arts Belgrade, the European Day of Languages or the EUNIC AiR project – an initiative supported with the funds by EUNIC Global. EUNIC AiR stand for Artists in Residence and brings artists and other professionals from our respective countries to spend some creative time in Serbia in cooperation with our local partners in different fields (visual arts, creative industries, literature…).
How do you choose which Austrian cultural content is going to be exhibited or promoted in Serbia and the region?
– One of our primary objectives is to present Austria as an innovative and creative nation that is historically diverse and rich in culture and scientific know-how. Therefore, our focus is on the presentation of contemporary Austrian culture as well as exchange between Austrian and Serbian artists and scientists. We benefit from a large network of Serbian partner institutions that approach us with project proposals and together we then decide whether the proposal fits our objectives and budget and is in line with our regulations. At the same time we receive many
interesting proposals from Austrian artists and we try to match them with Serbian institutions or partners in order to help them implementing their projects.
According to your knowledge, what are the impressions of Austrian artists who are performing or exhibiting in Serbia?
– I have now been in Serbia for over three years and have had the pleasure to welcome several hundred of Austrian artists and scientists. I am very pleased to say that the feedback I received from them was very positive. They not only appreciate the hospitality and openness of their hosts but also the professionalism and enthusiasm of Serbian artists and other cultural stakeholders. I am very pleased that many Austrian artists continue to come back to Serbia after their first visit and many joint projects are established and carried out over a longer period of time.
What are the most popular books in the Austrian libraries in Belgrade and Novi Sad?
– The two Austrian libraries in Serbia, based at the University Library in Belgrade and the Library of the Matica Srpska in Novi Sad, offer a wide range of books by Austrian writers as well as books about Austrian history and culture to its visitors. In Belgrade works by Elfriede Jelinek, Franz Kafka and Arthur Schnitzler are in high demand, while in Novi Sad Stefan Zweig, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke and Felix Mitterer are among the most popular authors. I highly recommend your readers to visit the two Austrian libraries in Serbia!