This story by Kristina Gadže was originally published to Balkan Diskurs, a project of the Post-conflict research center (PCRC). An amended version is republished by Global Voices under a content sharing agreement.
Amila Ramović, assistant professor at the Department of Music Theory and Pedagogy of the Academy of Music, University of Sarajevo, spoke to Balkan Diskurs about critical thinking through art. In addition to her academic title, she is President of the Society of Musicology of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a member of the International Society of Musicology based in Basel.
Ramović stressed that his profession gives him the opportunity to meet many future artists:
Art students are passionate about this vocation and in their work they are guided by the optimism that the values they instinctively and intellectually feel will be recognized by their environment. That is why it is a special privilege for anyone interested in the art of working with young people who are not yet “corrupted” by conformism, which is the greatest enemy of progressive and critical artistic thought – because only this art is the true one. However, it is true that this attitude on their part is quickly put to the test as soon as they finish their studies, because our society has no platform to support artists “, she underlines.
She says that young musicians she works with, even the most talented and award-winning ones, usually drop out of artistic pursuits very quickly and seek employment in music schools, and that daily work exhausts them. She added:
This is not at all strange, especially when you consider that, for example, in the institutional public sector in Sarajevo, there is only the Philharmonic and the Opera where someone can play music professionally. In this sense, we can neglect the independent sector, because it is also neglected by administrations with miserable funding. Young artists therefore cannot make music for a living. This reality worries them, demoralizes them and in the end they end up simply surrendering to this reality.
She survived the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996) and I saw how art works even under such conditions. It was during the siege, she says, that it became visible and clear that the experience of art is directly linked to survival as one of the most resilient ways to preserve people’s identities.
Ramović recalled that this was a time when citizens risked their lives to go to exhibitions and shows:
In a situation where our physical existence was called into question, where we, as human beings, were annihilated by the aggressors, but also by the “civilized” European world around us, the continuity of life was confirmed by the realizations of the mind. At that time, we felt that biological survival, survival itself, having to eat, warm up, was not enough.
History and culture are always interesting topics for artists, she adds, and in BiH, which is loaded with historical narratives, this is particularly pronounced. Amila Ramović explained:
In post-war Bosnia, precisely because of the dominant policies and narratives that those policies set, there was a flood of ethno-national kitsch in the field of art, based on historical and mythological narratives. where devotion to the people and to the homeland is manifested in the format of the works of art. I say in the format, because these works are consciously or unconsciously designed for the purpose of initiating empathic processes, in the way that pop culture seduces its consumers. Ultimately, these achievements are often reinforced by social support.
She says serious art requires a contemporary critical approach, contextualized in knowing not only the reality of BiH, but also contemporary artistic discourse:
This artistic discourse, which we recognize as the face of successful BiH art, is widely carried by artists who work internationally, regardless of the reactions of our environment. Braco Dimitrijevic is arguably the most important artistic figure on the BiH art scene of all time. His works are regularly featured in the permanent exhibition of the most important museums in the world. Despite this, I am not sure that it is recognized across administrations to its full potential, but also in our wider social space.
She explains that the limits of artistic discourse are largely linked to the fact that BiH, at all levels, actually invests very little in critical art, because it is not in the interest of what the scholars are aiming for. leading policies.
When asked if critical culture sometimes leads to separation from one’s own culture in the context of young people leaving these regions, Ramović replied that these two things work side by side:
Young people are leaving BiH because they do not see the possibility that something could change, and this is especially true in the artistic world. What is true is that the situation can be changed through serious critical action. And this critical culture, that is, critical thinking through arguments, attitude formation, attitude articulation and its placement in public space, is what we lack as that society in all our agendas. I often see young people, but not just young people, giving up on critical action.
Art is independent of politics, but the question arises as to how far they need to be connected, if they are to achieve goals that benefit society as a whole. Ramović believes that art involves people and therefore, in his opinion, it is political in nature, as it shapes the spirit and cultural heritage that builds the identity of a certain region.
Because art is in tune with reality, whatever its subjects and its form, abstract or concrete, it allows its audience to recognize nuances and understand the world in its ambiguity. For Ramović, good art is usually the enemy of right-wing politics, and good artists are almost always directed somewhere to the left.
She advises young artists to imagine the future, to have concrete goals in front of them and to fight to achieve them.
Very often the achievement of these goals is quite realistic, only that the messages of social reality lead us to doubt and pessimism. The dominant policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is based on preventing resistance and breaking the will for rebellion and change, so we are “trained” by both the administration and the media. But this position is fundamentally very weak, and it can easily be overcome in the face of strong creative energy.
She stresses the need for associations of art students and young artists in the independent sector to articulate their own visions and use public space, social networks and the media to lobby those who can create the conditions for may their visions come true.
I hope that young musicians, but also young artists in general, will initiate public actions and ask public administrations to change their attitude towards them, but this has not yet happened. If we look at the expenditure of budgetary funds, it turns out that refined intellectual work is not something that those who finance cultural production recognize as a value. This should change if we want BiH to have an active, stable, coherent and relevant art scene.