Since autumn 2023, the Royal Institute of Art has offered the one-year research-based course Tusen Kultur (A Thousand Cultures), which, among other things, aims to understand the possible functions and futures of community centres and cultural centres. The course, which brings together artists, poets, architects and others with an interest in the issues it explores, recently organised a study trip to Belgrade. They spent a week visiting cultural centres and sites of cultural production.
The teachers responsible for the course, Elof Hellström, adjunct lecturer, and Sebastian Dahlqvist, lecturer, talk about the trip.
What did you do in Belgrade?
‘We went there to learn more about Yugoslavia’s cultural policy and cultural centres, as well as the extensive privatisation that has characterised the city since the 1990s and all the community centres that today do an enormous amount of work to create a meaningful city and leisure time. Over the course of a week, we visited cultural centres and places of cultural production and learned about ways in which art can be at the heart of the democratisation of our neighbourhoods, cities and politics in general.
Tell us more about the programme
We had invaluable help from the Ministry of Space group in putting the programme together, and we also began the week with a series of talks and lectures at their offices. The inputs thus became both the drastic transformation of housing policy and the potential of urban commons. Over the course of the week, we visited a variety of sites, including the Magacin cultural centre, which operates through an open calendar, Serbia’s first contemporary art institution – now under threat due to a contractual dispute with the city – and a group that organises film festivals between apartment buildings in Novi Sad.
The situation for artists, cultural workers and civil society was an important reminder not to take anything for granted and to defend the open and shared spaces that exist. But also the importance of creating entirely new kinds of spaces and continuing to experiment with forms of production and distribution of text, image and sound.
Is the course available next year and who is it aimed at?
The course is open next year! This year the group consists of professional artists, architects, poets, dancers, writers, activists, cultural geographers and a programmer. We hope that next year’s course will also include participants from a variety of practices, which will help the course’s ambition to understand the possible functions and futures of community and cultural centres.