Andrew Gryf Paterson was selected as one of the Rewilding Cultures Mobility Conversation grant receivers in spring 2023. They are travelling from Finland to Montenegro, exploring potential future routes of human climate migration in reverse. During their travel, Paterson will keep a travel diary on the Bioart Society website. This is the second blog entry.
Dispatch from Beograd & Novi Sad [Written 17-20.10.2023]
16.10.2023: Meeting a Helsinki friend in Beograd
It is not the first time that I have asked myself, how do I orientate myself in a new place? Most sensible reply: If you know someone who knows someone, ask those apriori friends or contacts to suggest where to go to meet on arrival. Download mobile map before losing mobile data coverage. Look up meeting place, and screen-grab the route if necessary. Then ask someone you trust to help you get a local SIM card. It is relatively smooth to get a pre-paid version, and then you are able to roam.. Online maps, messengers, reference websites. This rhetorical question interests me: How do we do human mobility, migration & tourism in the Anthropocene?
I was lucky that I have a friend in Beograd (Belgrade), called Maja with whom we share University of Art & Design Helsinki (TaiK) days together.. We were in a group of international applied art & design students along side more internationally-minded Finns as friends in common. Maja was the first person I wrote to to tell that I was visiting, and they were the first to reply offering a place to stay, despite expressions of busyness, teaching, parenting and even Doctor of Arts thesis work that needs to be done. We caught up after not meeting for a decade or so, and chatted about common friends. With typical hospitality of Serbs, and Balkan peoples in general, I was given their own bed, several meals a day, guided tours of relatable local heritage, food samples and souvenirs. It was a warm-hearted and most privileged situation. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to meet my other friend in the city, Vladan, who shares my Ernst Bloch appreciation and principle of hope.. But they caught a cold before their travel to Budapest, so we couldn’t meet. But I stay hopeful we will meet next time and visit the contemporary arts & activism of Beograd and Muzej Jugoslavije (Museum of Yugoslavia) in future times.
17.10.2023: Left - Burek pastries in a street-side Pekara (Bakery); Middle - a peek into Red Star Belgrade stadium; Right - Mirror selfie among hosts’ photos
17.10.2023: Top - Burek eating on the street-side learning Serbian Cyrillic characters; Bottom - Lunch with Noa & Miranda being introduced to Začin sauces, in this case an Indian spiced one.
Thanks goes to another friend, Sezgin from Helsinki, who offered me the contact to one of their good friends in Beograd to meet: Noa Treister, a well known local curator of workers’ histories (mining, labour cooperatives) and cultural producer, who has applied their international experience to be substantially involved in a solidarity kitchen project about 2 and half years ago called Društveni centar ZaČin. Začin is the Serbo-Croatian word for spice, and Za čin means To act. This space has hosted political and labour-orientated reading groups online, music and community food events. Production cooperatives are a strong focus with jars of spiced and flavoured sauces being made as fund-raising products. It is clear to me in conversation with Noa that this space brings together from different cultural backgrounds, life experiences and skills. Reading, talking and making together supports social exchange, valuable ‘doing’ activities which surpasses past traumas in the community.
21.10.2023: Top – Spice rack in Začin space’s kitchen; Bottom - On the street nearby in Beograd.
21.10.2023: Left – Entrance steps to Začin space; Middle - Meeting room in Začin space with workshop poster; Right - Workshop map discussing changes in historical borders in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, for example, pre-1918 and pre-1991 borders.
18.10.2023: The relatively new Beograd – Novi Sad fast train service in the very new Beograd Centar railway station (officially opened on October 22, 2023. China Railway International (CRI) and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) were in charge of reconstructing the Belgrade - Stara Pazova section of the line, while Russia's RZD International reconstructed the Stara Pazova - Novi Sad section. Serbia's government signed an agreement with Swiss train manufacturer Stadler Rail for the delivery of three high-speed trains, to be used on the Belgrade-Novi Sad railway line. The inaugural journey of the Belgrade - Novi Sad service was in March 19, 2022. See for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest%E2%80%93Belgrade_railway
18.10.2023: Novi Sad railway station built 1963-1964, and renovated in 2021 in time for hosting international and European visitors to Novi Sad 2022 European Capital of Culture year programme.
My high-speed train trip to Novi Sad that followed the day after continued the example of local and regional engagement when I went straight from station to the office of Grupa za konceptualnu politiku (Group for Conceptual Politics in English). GKP, as they are known in acronym, is a non-governmental association founded "to achieve the interest in the area of development of self-management, democracy and new politics of citizens' associations in Serbia and beyond. GKP seeks to actualize the self-management politics in terms of encouraging citizens to autonomous political self-organization and to directly participate in governance and decision-making in matters of common and public interest in local communities". Branka Curcic was my contact there, who I knew and met back in 2008 in Novi Sad when Curcic was working at kuda.org, the internationally-renowned cultural association for critical network culture. We caught up with our stories, and a little lament for those days of international exchanges in the Eastern European networks between North and South, while discussing the value of making both grounded and local connections. In the post-socialist ecological context, the re-making and re-valuing of connections and understanding the power within them is critical work. It was there that I met again, after 4 and half years, Sergey Dmitriev, the Russian nomad and researcher of socio-ecological projects in Russia, Scandinavia and now the Balkans.
18.10.2023: Top – Interior of Grupa za konceptualnu politiku office, with stacks of Bulletin ; Bottom – Nearby exterior of Novi Sad block-house in same neighbourhood.
18.10.2023: Meeting table top at Grupa za konceptualnu politiku with Branka and Sergey.
My accommodation for one night stay, the Varadin Inn, was in Petrovaradin across the river Dunav (known internationally as the Danube) from Novi Sad. Although I had booked independently without advice, this hostel & café was familiar already to Sergey, as the previous year this venue and surroundings was host to a summer school event called ‘Summer School on Environmental Activism & Climate Change’. The event was hosted by Volonterski Centar Vojvodine (VCV) within 3-party partnership that includes BiH branch of IPSIA and GAIA Kosovo funded by WBF (Western Balkans Fund) and co-funded by the European Union to promote regional cooperation.
18.10.2023: Left - Walking with Sergey; Middle - Collecting figs from tree in Varadin Inn Hostel courtyard; Right - Storing hostel room fee as cash in book of political theory.
18.10.2023: Crossing Varadinski Most (Varadin bridge) looking across the river Dunav (Danube).
Such bridges are loaded with association, in other ways, through time. I crossed backwards and forwards over the Varadinski most (Varadin Bridge) several times that day and next morning. I acknowledged, from a nearby memorial on the Novi Sad bank, that the bridge was destroyed by NATO bombing on the 1st April 1999. I remember this Kosovo Conflict, while I was living in Scotland via newspaper, television and early internet media. Then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair infamously urged military intervention to “advert.. a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo”, following NATO Resolution 1203 (1998), which went ahead without UN Security Council support (NB: Russia and China vetoed).
18.10.2023: Memorial stone on Novi Sad side of Varadin Bridge, which reads in English, “The Allied NATO airforces destroyed the Varadin Bridge on April 1, 1999. The citizen of Novi Sad Oleg M. Nasov was killed on the bridge in the age of 29.”
All three of the Novi Sad bridges, and Frušta Gora upland area were bombed in the month or two that followed. The suffering of Novi Sad residents, including some loss of life, devastation of infrastructure including nearby oil terminals, caused great environmental damage especially as air pollution. The damage was also assessed by UN Environmental Programme after the bombing ended, and noted that water damage was reduced pre-bombing thanks to the foresight of local engineers who mixed flammable liquids with the oil before the bomb strikes, but created huge black smoke plumes. For several years after the war ended the Varadin & Liberty bridges were rebuilt. The United Kingdom also paid for the water systems to be restored that it bombed a year or so earlier. However, it was only in 2018, almost 20 years later, that the last bridge across the Dunav river at Novi Sad was remade, with support from EU structural funding. The European Cultural Capital arrived a few years later in 2022.
16.10.2023: Magazines at a Beograd street kiosk.
The Western Balkans is an important geopolitical area, but it seems it’s historical environmental memory post-conflict is little discussed these days, although it is surely not forgotten by locals. China is nowadays a major developer of Serbian (and Montenegrin) infrastructure for mobility and logistics from the 2010s onwards, especially in relation to China’s Belt and Road Initiative that spans Eurasia and surrounding territories and ports. It is worth recognising that these European lands and waters are where these global powers cross and influence each other, with both soft and hard strengths. The European Union is supporting mostly cultural and environmental aspects, while the Chinese and Russians bring their power with infrastructure, energy and economics.
The contemporary and future effect on the local environment, and the related “emerging communities” is also up for critical discussion at various dimensions and reach. I am an admirer of the critical cartography of local Novi Sad based artist, designer & academic Vladan Joler, which maps complicated integrated systems and their relations (similarly inspired by the French collective Bureau d’Etudes). I hope that one day, no so long into the future, this type of mapping is made locally for a larger audience to understand and appreciate. There seems to be a great need before future crisis arise. But for now, it is time now to move on from the cities, to the uplands..
 Corinto, G. L. and Farrugia, G. (2023). Human mobility, migration & tourism in the Anthropocene, Geographies of the Anthropocene (Il Sileno · Edizioni) Volume 6, no. 1. Accessible from https://www.ilsileno.it/geographiesoftheanthropocene/human-mobility-migration-tourism-in-the-anthropocene/
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