The Art of Joining the Party

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

Submitted by Ivan Petrovic: Perfect prank/activism from Serbia


The Art of Joining the Party
Balkan Insight
Nemanja Cabric BIRN Belgrade
April 13, 2012

Two playwrights who joined a number of political parties, using a modified speech by Goebbels as their agenda, have turned their experience into a performance called Oni Zive, (They Live).

Annoyed by unsolved burning issues in Serbian cultural policy as well as in society in general, Maja Pelevic and Milan Markovic, artists with no permanent job, came up with an unusual idea – to become members of almost all political parties at once and tackle them from the inside.

Their artistic performance resulted in a dramatic text, audio-visual materials, and a blog.

“Our main thesis is that political parties have taken over the space for performing arts and have contributed to the fact that there is almost no budget for culture. In these circumstances, when theatres face bankruptcy, and the independent scene lacks financial support – we decided to turn political parties into our space for performing arts,” Maja Pelevic told Balkan Insight.

From February 13 to 21, these two screenplay writers applied for membership of the Democratic Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Progressive Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, United Regions of Serbia, the Social Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party of Serbia.

As a cover letter for their application, they used a changed version of a 1928 speech by Goebbels called “Knowledge and propaganda”.

The text with a name “Idea-Strategy-Movement” was slightly adapted to suit political parties’ public image. Instead of “Hitler”, the artists inserted the name of the party leaders or ideologists. Instead of “National Socialism” they’ve used “democracy” or another suitable term. Instead of the word “propaganda”, which was frequently used by Goebbels, the artists came up with the word “political marketing”.

Markovic: It’s no bluff

“It was exciting when we signed our Application Form, but when they called us to join and participate more immediately in councils, and boards for culture… I didn’t feel so good anymore.

I wasn’t sure who was using whom, because we didn’t have a clear plan of what to do after we joined parties as a part of our performance, so I didn’t have the need to bluff. To me, the value of what we do lies in the sole fact we are not bluffing, because this divides it from investigative journalism”

A quote by Milan Markovic from “They live”.

“We just wanted to point out the problematic nature of belief in ideological neutrality. An ideology that is not perceived as an ideology is in fact the most dangerous one,” Markovic said.

The feedback from the parties was surprisingly positive. Soon Pelevic and Markovic became members of the culture councils of most of the parties and got a chance to stand for election in various city and municipal party councils.

“[Parties] weren’t bothered with all of the ideological standpoints that the author [of the text, Goebbels] fought for, and which are apparently worth fighting nowadays: gaining power no matter the cost; spreading one’s idea into society’s pores, conducting ruthless propaganda,” Markovic said.

The authors say their performance aims to spotlight issues of “party-ocracy”, corruption and nepotism in culture.

As a part of the artistic performance in Dom Omladine on April 8 they read a dramatic text “They live” that mostly consists of their instant messages (chats), conversations, and similar material gathered at the time of their idea’s realization.

The performance was followed by audio and visual material, including a short movie.

“This project is above all an artistic performance, and we wanted to avoid dealing with this issue through investigative journalism, the sensationalism of daily political life,” Pelevic said.

She noted that the first public reading of “They live”, planned for March 17 at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre’s Studio, was cancelled as the manager of this institution didn’t like it.

“It was cancelled under the excuse that the project wasn’t structured and provocative. This kind of soft censorship is present every day on the cultural scene, when politically unsuitable projects are turned down for alleged artistic irrelevance,” Pelevic said.