URBAN SUBJECTS
SABINE BITTER | HELMUT WEBER

NEW, Novi Beograd 1948 - 1986 – 2006, 2007

  1. info
  2. images
  3. text

NEW, Novi Beograd 1948 – 1986 – 2006
In the video “NEW, Novi Beograd 1948 – 1986 – 2006” young architects, urban planners, artists and curators, all of whom live and work in Belgrade, read an unpublished text by Henri Lefebvre. The selections from Lefevbre’s texts are presented in the video to rethink the notion of “self-organisation” within the long neoliberal moment and to actualize the question of how claims to of citizenship produce new forms and understandings of the relationship of the state and citizens. These claims and relationships produce space through and against the currents of neoliberalism as it cuts across and refigures national space and brings particular pressures into neighborhoods.

The text from Lefebvre was submitted as part of a proposal with French architects Serge Renaudie and Pierre Guilbaud for the International Competition for the New Belgrade Urban Structure Improvement in 1986, sponsored by the state of Yugoslavia, and was discovered by the architectural historian, from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade, Ljiljana Blagojevic.

In his urban vision for Novi Beograde — the capital of former Yugoslavia founded in 1948 — Lefebvre emphasizes the processes and potentials of self-organisation of the people of any urban territory to counter the failed concepts of urban planning from above. For Lefebvre, at this late point in his life, the promises of both modernist capitalist as well as state socialist architecture and city planning had failed. Yet, Lefebvre viewed Novi Beograde and Yugoslavia as having a particular position in what he has elsewhere called “the urban revolution.” As Lefebvre states, “Because of self-management, a place is sketched between the citizen and the citadin, and Yugoslavia is today (1986) perhaps one of the rare countries to be able to pose the problem of a New Urban.”

The settings in which these citizens of Novi Beograde read the excerpts of Lefebvre’s text are architectural sites and urban landmarks which represent New Belgrade’s important role in the history and development of a the nation state and the Non Aligned Movement during the sixties and seventies. These representative sites include the Hotel Metropol, where foreign diplomats and western cultural figures stayed, The Sava Center, an international conference center form 1977 where Non-Aligned Movement conferences were held, The Museum of Modern Art, the cultural center that faces Novi Beograde with its back to the old city center, as well as places like the Genex Towers which housed a state-owned export business, and the symbolic New Belgrade West Gate. These spaces of state modernism in Yugoslavia are sites made from the urbanism from above that Lefebvre was always suspicious of. Yet, these spaces are also historical and present urban facts of New Belgrade: Lefebvre’s text, and the plan for the new city, both aligns and collides this past and present in what New Belgrade was and can be.

By framing the neighborhood of contemporary New Belgrade through Lefebvre’s concepts of 1986, we are looking for the emergent concepts of citizenship and modes of self-organisation that have formed or sprung up at a more neighborhood or grassroots level. While New Belgrade has a complex texture to its everyday life, it is possible to discern these new forms of social reproduction. For instance, the initiatives of Roma people to legalize their garbage [waste?] collection and recycling to gain labour rights, and their claims to full citizenship, are part of the urban processes and political struggles that produce and reterritorialize city space, neighbourhoods, and national space today. Along with their very grounded necessary politics, the acts are in the spirit of Lefebvre’s vision and perspective the potential of urbanization (The Urban Revolution from 1970) or David Harvey´s important call for “possible urban worlds” in Justice, Nature and the Geography Difference from 1996.

Credits:

reading Lefebvre in order of appearance
Zoran Eric
Jelena Mitrovic
Dusan Saponja
Aleksandra Mircic
Ana Nikitovic
Ivan Petrovic
Davor Erdes
Dubravka Sekulic
Dunja Predic

The video “NEW” by Sabine Bitter / Helmut Weber is part of the research project
“Differentiated Neighbourhoods of New Belgrade” initiated by Zoran Eric
Center for Visual Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade