croatia in Mars & Medak 2017

Conversation with Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak (co-authored with Ana Kuzmanic)

Marcell Mars is an activist, independent scholar, and artist. His work has been
instrumental in development of civil society in Croatia and beyond. Marcell is one
of the founders of the Multimedia Institute – mi2 (1999) (Multimedia Institute,
2016a) and Net.culture club MaMa in Zagreb (2000) (Net.culture club MaMa,
2016a). He is a member of Creative Commons Team Croatia (Creative Commons,
2016). He initiated GNU GPL publishing label EGOBOO.bits (2000) (Monoskop,
2016a), meetings of technical enthusiasts Skill sharing (Net.culture club MaMa,
2016b) and various events and gatherings in the fields of hackerism, digital

b at
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.
Tomislav Medak is a cultural worker and theorist interested in political
philosophy, media theory and aesthetics. He is an advocate of free software and
free culture, and the Project Lead of the Creative Commons Croatia (Creative
Commons, 2016). He works as coordinator of theory and publishing activities at
the Multimedia Institute/MaMa (Zagreb, Croatia) (Net.culture club MaMa, 2016a).
Tomislav is an active contributor to the Croatian Right to the City movement
(Pravo na grad, 2016). He interpreted to numerous books into Croatian language,
including Multitude (Hardt & Negri, 2009) and A Hacker Manifesto (Wark,
2006c). He is an author and performer with the internationally acclaimed Zagrebbased performance collective BADco (BADco, 2016). Tomislav writes and talks
about politi

Ana Kuzmanic is an artist based in Zagreb and Associate Professor at the
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy at the University in Split
(Croatia), lecturing in drawing, design and architectural presentation. She is a
member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. Since 2007 she held more
than a dozen individual exhibitions and took part in numerous collective
exhibitions in Croatia, the UK, Italy, Egypt, the Netherlands, the USA, Lithuania
and Slovenia. In 2011 she co-founded the international artist collective Eastern
Surf, which has “organised, produced and participated in a number of projects
including exhibitions, perform


Petar Jandrić & Ana Kuzmanic (PJ & AK): In 1999, you established the
Multimedia Institute – mi2 (Multimedia Institute, 2016a); in 2000, you established
the Net.culture club MaMa (both in Zagreb, Croatia). The Net.culture club MaMa
has the following goals:
To promote innovative cultural practices and broadly understood social
activism. As a cultural center, it promotes wide range of new artistic and
cultural practices related in the first place to th

ological, LBGTQ, ethnic, feminist and



others) or critically questioning established social norms. (Net.culture club
MaMa, 2016a)
Please describe the main challenges and opportunities from the dawn of Croatian
civil society. Why did you decide to establish the Multimedia Institute – mi2 and
the Net.culture club MaMa? How did you go about it?
Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak (MM & TM): The formative context for
our work had been marked by the process of dissolution of Yugoslavia, ensuing
civil wars, and the rise of authoritarian nationalisms in the early 1990s. Amidst the
general turmoil and internecine bloodshed, three factors would come to define
what we consider today as civil society in the Croatian context. First, the newly
created Croatian state – in its pursuit of ethnic, religious and social homogeneity –
was premised on the radical exclusion of minorities. Second, the newly created
state dismantled the broad institutional basis of social and cultural diversity that
existed unde

alternative and
oppositional activities during the 1990s, had started to wind down its operations
towards end of the millennium. As the Open Society Institute started to spin off its
diverse activities into separate organizations, giving rise to the Croatian Law
Center, the Center for Contemporary Art and the Center for Drama Art, activities
related to Internet development ended up with the Multimedia Institute. The first
factor shaped us as activists and early adopters of critical digital culture, and

titutional exclusion and access to physical resources (including
space) needed for organizing, working together and presenting that work was a
pressing problem. MaMa was one of the only three independent cultural spaces in
Zagreb – capital city of Croatia, with almost one million inhabitants! The Open
Society Institute provided us with a grant to adapt a former downtown leather-shop
in the state of disrepair and equip it with latest technology ranging from servers to
DJ decks. These resources were mad

the collective sense of purpose inspired by an ideal can carry over into useful
collective action. This is the core of our interest …
PJ & AK: There has been a lot of water under the bridge since the 2000s. From
a ruined post-war country, Croatia has become an integral part of the European
Union – with all associated advantages and problems. What are the main today’s
challenges in maintaining the Multimedia Institute and its various projects? What
are your future plans?
MM & TM: From the

but not limited to digital technology and
information freedoms, political theory and philosophy, contemporary digital art,
music and cinema. Simultaneously, it has been strongly focused to social and
institutional transformation.
The moment zero of Croatian independence in 1991, which was marked by war,
ethnic cleansing and forceful imposition of contrived mono-national identity, saw
the progressive and modernist culture embracing the political alternative of antiwar movement. It is within these conditions, which entailed exclusion from access
to public resources, that the Croatian civil society had developed throughout the
1990s. To address this denial of access to financial and spatial resources to civil
society, since 2000 we have been organizing collective actions with a number of
cultural actors across the country to crea

tion of public services that coalesced
around the Right to the City movement (2007 till present) (Pravo na grad, 2016)
and the 2015 Campaign against the monetization of the national highway network.
In early 2016, with the arrival of the short-lived Croatian government formed by
a coalition of inane technocracy and rabid right wing radicals, many institutional
achievements of the last fifteen years seemed likely to be dismantled in a matter of
months. At the time of writing this text, the collapse of broader social and
institutional context is (again) an imminent threat. In a way, our current situation
echoes the atmosphere of Yugoslav civil wars in 1990s. Yet, the Croatian turn to
the right is structurally parallel to recent turn to the right that takes place in most
parts of Europe and the world at large. In the aftermath of the global neoliberal
race to the bottom and the War on Terror, the disenfranchised working c

telecom companies. In their
daily lives, most of these people enjoyed opportunities and privileges of working in
a rapidly growing information technology market. Across the former Yugoslavia,
enthusiasts had started local Linux User Groups: HULK in Croatia, LUGOS in
Slovenia, LUGY in Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Macedonia. In the spirit
of their own times, many of these groups focused on attempts to convince the
business that free and open source software (at the time GNU/Linux, Apache,
Exim …

MM & TM: Art can no longer stand outside of the political space, and it can no
longer be safely stowed away into a niche of supposed autonomy within bourgeois
public sphere detached from commodity production and the state. However, art
academies in Croatia and many other places throughout the world still churn out
artists on the premise that art is apolitical. In this view artists can specialize in a
medium and create in isolation of their studios – if their artwork is recognized as
masterful, it will be bought on the marketplace. This is patently a lie! Art in Croatia
depends on bonds of solidarity and public support.
Frequently it is the art that seeks political forms of engagement rather than vice
versa. A lot of headspace for developing a different social imaginary can be gained
from that venturing aspect of co

d developed a series of book scanners
and used them to digitize hundreds of books focused to Yugoslav humanities such
as the Digital Archive of Praxis and the Korčula Summer School (2016), Catalogue
of Liberated Books (2013), books thrown away from Croatian public libraries
during ideological cleansing of the 1990s Written-off (2015), and the collection of
books selected by the Black Panther Herman Wallace as his dream library for
political education (Memory of the World, 2016b).
In our view, amateur l

ccessed, (re)produced and
shared, there will be so much to follow up upon.

PJ & AK: You organize talks and workshops, publish books, and maintain a major
regional hub for people interested in digital cultures. In Croatia, your names are
almost synonymous with social studies of the digital – worldwide, you are
recognized as regional leaders in the field. Such engagement has a prominent
pedagogical component – arguably, the majority of your work can be interpreted


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