Ksenija Samardžija, director of the Foundation “Saša Marčeta”, is a well-known and respected curator with a rich working biography in Belgrade artistic scene. After graduating from History of Art at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade and passing the Curatorial exam (National Museum in Belgrade), she founded an art association PODR.UM (2013), which actively participates in organizing numerous exhibitions, art residence programs, presentations and other kinds of connecting arts and audiences. She has been engaged in international projects aimed at promoting contemporary artists and creates possibilities for production and works exhibition. For more than ten years she was involved in curatorial work, keeping and managing the collections and legacy collections. During the ten-year stint she temporarily or permanently managed the legacy collections of Ljubica Cuca Sokić, Petar Lubarda, Veljko and Mara Petrović, Petar Dobrović. She is savvy in market conditions, exhibitive capacities and potentials of topical visual art scene.
We talk with Ksenija about the inception and current position of the Foundation, the Balkan Cinema as a unique city space and their future plans.
When did Saša Marčeta Foundation start working and with what goals, mission adn vision it initiated its activities?
During 2018, the first activities of the Foundation which is named after its founder and which arose from a personal need to create better conditions and to invest into art, above all. The ability to initiate and realize such idea takes a specific kind of energy found only in people of great will. Such environment develops new possibilities. That is why in our work, there are no generic concepts such as mission and vision; we simply seek to create better conditions, to support wha we beleive offers specific values, to follow and re-examine different topics and ask questions.
What were your guided by when you were electing the Foundation’s Program Council?
The Foundation’s Council is a great support in the decision-making and program planning process – every single or personal decision is filtered through the Council. The main idea is to establish a professional practice that prevents including only personal requests and opting only for one’s close interest groups. With Stevan Vuković and Dragan Zdravković it is possible, because our goals are the same, and that is creating independent, free art space. With full trust and mutual respect, we believe that we set healthy criteria. So far we have been quite satisfied with our team and relationships we have built, but we are also open and available for different ideas.
How far have you got with renovation of the Cinema Balkan?
Cinema Balkan (1867) is changing successively and since it is a cultural good under supervision of the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and that it occupies a site in central city zone, changes sometimes take longer that we would like. After the façade and construction work on the object’a consolidation, we change the windows, organize the levels and even with all this work going on, Balkan in active. The Foundation is free to use to space, but the Cinema Balkan develops apart from our activities.
Balkan Cinema is a cult city space. How important do you think is for the citizens to still see this space as a cinema with a long and renowned tradition, and how as a place where tradition is being modernized?
Balkan is a miraculous space. A unique historical edifice with accumulated beauty, history, memory, energy – like time capsule which reminds us that Belgrade has always strived to keep the position of a European metropolis. At the site of a former caravanserai and oriental architecture, a ceremonial hall in academic style was built, where the capital’s urban and artistic life had already been evolving. This was the place where fist operas, movie screenings and theatre plays were held…Today, the Balkan is seen as a space of contemporary art and culture – a historical edifice which acquires some modern features.
In your announcement of Raša Todosijević’s exhibition it was mentioned that by displacing from the comfort zone of the museum institution’s integrity to the private-public exhibitive space, what opens is a sensitive field of (non)acceptance and a possible, desired critical judgement of the public and audience. What exactly did you mean by that and in what way does an exhibitive space’s owner’s structure (may) contribute to the perception of a certain artwork and artist?
This may be the most sensitive question. This is the first time an owner of a space such as the Balkan Cinema decided to establish a cultural foundation, which he personally supports, while his walk of life is business which is still not recognized as an “ideal partner” for supporting fine and visual arts. Doubtfulness and cautiousness are somewhat logical and expected and we try to confute these dilemmas by our work. This IS a private project which is invested in and from the public sphere’s perspective it requires a lot of attention.
When, on the other hand, we talk about technical and logistical aspects of the program’s organization, which are the comparative advantages of the Foundation and the Balkan Cinema in relation to “conventional” exhibitive spaces that you would single out taking into consideration your rich curatorial and organizational experience?
With regard to production requirements, we have at our disposal an amazing team of architects and technicians who manage to accept and realize each of our requests. Then, there is our logistics support, from all the sectors: from legal department to the courier and we are still getting used to using all this capacities. This year has taught us to adapt and adjust our plans and we proved to have the advantage of our organization to quickly adapt and react. For instance, Balkan Live was organized in just a couple of days, Summit of the Non-Aligned spontaneously took a cue from this event… For realization of programs we have Saša’s unconditional support and in such sort of coziness we try give the artists the best possible level of cooperation.
Which of the Foundation’s programs held so far made the strongest impression on you personally?
I have to be honest and single out Thank You, Raša Todosijević – Greatful Serbia. For me, that exhibition was a precious emotional experience, and above all, an opportunity to collaborate with an artist who transcends all limits of the surroundings. A strong character, funny… As I see it, Raša is what we call urban, what Belgrade is and can be – charismatic, brash, vital… That intelligent need to provoke, to challenge and never to rest. He is never a passive observer and that is a value I truly admire and for which I have a peculiar respect. Thank you, Raša.
How do you see the program concept for the next year? To what extent has the Condi situation initiated a “go with a flow” and what can you announce, not only concrete events but also a wider picture and vision of what the Foundation and the Balkan Cinema wish to be in the future?
Without bigger gatherings and with restrictions of moving and working hours we are currently more oriented toward online activities, our blog is more active and life on social networks is more dynamic. strongly recommend texts by the art historian Jovana Pikulić, who in a witty way integrates significant historical themes in our rich folklore (Bludgeoning of vila Raviojlla, Entertainment for Kings, Cupid, Psyche and iron Opanci…), but also texts by Stevan Vuković, which follow up topical exhibitions and artwork. In general, we seek to establish a space that accepts different artistic experiences, to take notice and react where attention is needed and we try to dedicate to it as much as we can. And as non profit, the Foundation well-intentionally and with no personal gain approaches programs that developed their capacities but need space or support so they could finalize them.