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Archive of past issues of the Journal for critique of science

Issue No. 253 - Metelkova (3/4 2013)


(ČKZ No. 253 - 3/4 2013)

pp. 12–20 by Jasna Babić

Metelkova mon amour: Reflections on the (Non-)Culture of Squatting

In some circles in Slovenia the name Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova City is considered to be almost a synonym of squatting. Although Metelkova was not the first public squat, it definitely remains the oldest of those still around. Drawing comparisons with the international squatting movement, the squatter community in Metelkova is analyzed on different levels: to what extent it nurtures the culture of squatting, and what was and remains the role that Metelkova plays in a wider Slovenian context in terms of developing and sustaining the squatting culture. The article ends with the conclusion that the squatter movement in Metelkova (and elsewhere in Slovenia) has so far failed to fully develop, nurture and maintain strict guidelines and principles, and that this can be attributed to the lack of squatting tradition, the large number of people involved in the project, and the internal division among them on the legalization issue.

Keywords: squatting, direct political action, community, temporary autonomous zone, Metelkova City

Jasna Babić graduated in cultural studies and holds an MA in sociology, works at the Peace Institute and, in her free time, is a program coordinator of the Gromka Club in ACC Metelkova City. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 21–28 by Vasja Ris Lebarič

The Desert of Normality

After twenty years the establishment still does not recognize Metelkova City as one of the most important centers of alternative culture. Correspondingly, the alternative scene is still viewed as »underdeveloped« or merely as »undeveloped mainstream culture.« Something that can, in the best-case scenario, aspire to develop into an ideologically aligned established culture. The perspective of a »not yet« Metelkova is not problematic due to economic and real estate interests but because of a wider ideological inadequacy, which is expressed also through continuous gentrification attempts. Metelkova is one of the last defense lines of diverse cultural and production modes in the area.

Keywords: ACC Metelkova City, gentrification, subculture, ideology, ideological state apparatuses, relations of production

Vasja Lebarič studied at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and at the Academy of fine arts and design, where has obtained BA and MA. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 29–41 by Saša Nabergoj

Gesamtkunstwerk Metelkova City

For the last twenty years the protagonists of the ACC Metelkova City have been transforming its public space and the façades of the buildings by architectural, constructional, artistic and handcraft interventions, thus creating a unique kind of gesamtkunstwerk. The article focuses on the key points of the construction process and its contextualization in a broader historical, social, political and cultural context, thus aiming to define the constitutive elements of artistic practices and procedures of setting up the Metelkova artists’ community. The article highlights the necessity to perceive the entire area as a work-in-progress, with individual segments sometimes disappearing or gradually overlapping with other interventions, and with a number of elements that from the very beginning were meant to be only temporary. This principle, in contrast to the traditional understanding of cultural heritage preservation, appears to be crucial.

Keywords: work-in-progress, gesamtkunstwerk, visual arts, alternative

Saša Nabergoj is an art historian, curator and critic. She is Assistant Director at SCCA – Ljubljana, Center for Contemporary Arts. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 42–51 by Andrej Pezelj

Analysis of the Art Policy of ACC Metelkova in Relation to Autonomous Contemporary Art

Starting from the fact that the idea of autonomy appears in the very name of Autonomous Cultural Centre Metelkova City, the article on the one hand outlines the general concept of autonomy in the field of art and the conditions that made its emergence possible, while on the other hand it delves into the particularities of autonomy that is characteristic of Metelkova. Inasmuch as the latter is known to possess a subcultural or alternative character, it is necessary to clearly define the practices that correspond to this characterization. It is argued that a practice can be understood as alternative only if it aims to annul the existing social relations. An alternative practice also cannot be deemed autonomous without doing away with both the concept of authorship as well as the notion of a work of art being a finalized singular product.

Keywords: policy, population, art, authorship, work of art, discipline

Andrej Pezelj is an academic painter, PhD student in sociology, and an independent cultural worker.(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 52–57 by Nenad Jelesijević

United Colors of Metelkova. Situation-Intervention-Reflection

The article deals with the spatial issue of Metelkova City, the urban complex situated in the city of Ljubljana. Comparing its northern and southern part, the article focuses on the aesthetics of space, having in mind obvious contrasts of regulation/use and political connotations of squatting in the northern part where Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova City is located. Following this, my video intervention is presented at the same venue where it happened, eight years before the writing of this text. In the light of that intervention, which should set a temporary situation of symbolic occupation of the mainstream’s part of the complex, I aim to open a space of reflection of the representation phenomenon that can be put into service of either neutralization or resistance as an open process.

Keywords: United Colors of Metelkova, video, site-specific, intervention, reflection

Nenad Jelesijević, PhD, contemporary art critic, philosopher and theoretician of visual culture, and artist (the KITCH duo). (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 60–69 by Nataša Velikonja

Gay and Lesbian Scene in Metelkova

The article deals with the development of the gay and lesbian scene in ACC Metelkova, while specifying the preliminary aspects of establishing and building gay and lesbian activism associated with spatial issues. The struggle for space or occupying public space is vital for the gay and lesbian scene, as it provides not only the necessary socializing opportunities for gays and lesbians, but also does away with the historical hiding of homosexuality in the closet, in seclusion and silence. Because of their autonomy and long-term, continuous existence, homo-clubs at Metelkova contributed to the consolidation of the gay and lesbian scene in Slovenia and significantly improved the opportunities for cultural, social and political expression of gays and lesbians. Such a synthesis of the cultural, social and political, further intensified in Metelkova, and characterizes the gay and lesbian community in Slovenia from the very outset of gay and lesbian activism in 1984. It is this long-term synthesis that keeps this community in Slovenia so vital and politically resilient.

Keywords: heteronormative public sphere, gay and lesbian scene, identity politics, queer politics

Nataša Velikonja is a sociologist, poet, essayist, translator and lesbian activist. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 70–78 by Elena Pečarič

YHD in Struggle for Independent Living for Disabled

The YHD group (Youth Handicapped Deprivileged) was shaped from the need of young disabled students who wanted to taste freedom and independence. Through revolt, persistence and thirst for answers, the informal movement Youth Handicapped Deprivileged was established. It was later transformed into YHD – Association for Theory and Culture of Handicap. YHD found a home in ACC Metelkova and has stayed there for 20 years. The theory of handicap and revolt against medical comprehension of disability are the principal guidelines to which the Associations’ projects and actions adhere. Other associations for disabled people are centered around medical diagnoses of its members, whereas YDH aims to bring about positive changes concerning the position of handicapped people in the society. For YHD, disability is a social status and not a characteristic of the body or a mental condition, difficulty or »special need«. YHD rejects a pre-written script for the lives of the disabled.

Keywords: YHD (Youth Handicapped Deprivileged), theory of handicap, deprivileged groups, independent life of handicapped, Metelkova City

Elena Pečarič holds a BA in philosophy and sociology of culture from the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 79–91 by Neven Korda Andrič

Interview: Andrej Morović

For ten years Andrej Morović was one of the key people of the Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova. In the end of the 90s, he strongly influenced the shaping and transformation of Metelkova from the ruins into a relevant social space for Southeastern Europe. In the interview, he touches upon performance, construction, art, finances, art and political projects of Metelkova City.

Keywords: Metelkova, squatting, construction, social space, art and political project

Neven Korda Andrič holds a BA in social sciences. He is an intermedia artist, videomaker and director. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 92–106 by Sandi Abram

Building Communities in Resistance: Metelkova City in the Hands of Axt und Kelle

The article deals with nomadic journeymen and journeywomen from the German guild Axt und Kelle and with their encounter with Metelkova. At the outset, the historical trajectory of German guilds, the constitution of Axt und Kelle and the custom of tramping artisans (i.e., walz) are highlighted. The hypothesis that Axt und Kelle make use of re-appropriated spaces (i.e., squats) either as a sporadic proactive clientele or they choose such spaces as their annual summer solidarity work camps is defended on a twofold basis: firstly, squats are considered and constructed as a substitute of the previously guaranteed houses of call (i.e., herberge) by the classical guilds. Secondly, the guild intentionally constituted itself as a political subject with the mission of empowering communities in resistance. ACC Metelkova City was chosen as a solidarity work camp twice in the early and mid-00s when many emblematic interiors and exteriors were created. Focusing on the non-instrumentalized (own) production of knowledge, exchange of experiences and outwardly oriented distribution, the article views the reciprocal interaction between ACC Metelkova City and Axt und Kelle through Mauss’s theory of the gift.

Keywords: squatting, Axt und Kelle, political nomad craft, journey(wo)men, anarchism, gift

Sandi Abram, MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana), currently living in Ljubljana. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 107–113 by Tomaž Furlan

Metelkova City

The comic strip deals with Metelkova City and the authorities whatever their political alignment who have been always engaged in dialogue. Occasionally, this dialogue was more stressed, and sometimes it was covered in layers of ambiguity. The discussions between the representatives of ACC Metelkova City and the authorities did not always end with a clear, precise and straightforward conclusion.

Keywords: Metelkova City, excavator, contract, legal, order

Tomaž Furlan is an academic artist and entrepreneur. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 116–129 by Neven Korda Andrič

A View From My Balcony

The article identifies the differences between that which produces normality and is destructive to the otherness, and that which deconstructs the former and produces the latter in the case of Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova City. It also delves into the question how to act upon and make (our) world meaningful under the conditions of the present neoliberal market-oriented time and services, and in the era that is essentially characterized by the creative industries and hastened withdrawal of the state from the public sphere. Is it possible in this context to recognize the cultural economy of ACC Metelkova City as merely a duplication of the socially dominant production mode that in effect prevents any autonomous model to evolve? The premise of the article is that we have to clearly differentiate between independent culture and autonomous culture, and monitor both at ACC Metelkova City. The fundamental question is how to incorporate holistic relations of productions within a limited territory into a respective legal order that would not determine the conditions of different production processes itself.

Keywords: autonomy, authentic, independent, alternative, subculture

Neven Korda Andrič holds a BA in social sciences. He is an inter-media artist, video maker and director. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 130–138 by Mitja Svete

Direct Democracy Will Develop Independently, or Not Happen at All

Protests against neoliberal reforms implemented by the ruling elite, which took place in Slovenia during the winter of 2012/13, created a public space for reflection on the concept of direct democracy. In the context of very different approaches and conceptions of direct democracy that have appeared within the protest movement, the need for outlining the field of direct democracy arose as a matter of political necessity. The article argues that any discussion on this topic should be based on the perspective of broadening the sphere of basic human rights. Thus we need to pursue and develop direct co-decision-making through deliberative forms inside particular communities. ACC Metelkova City is an example of a political community that develops and applies certain elements of direct participation and represents an important political experiment, as well as object of research.

Keywords: direct democracy, human rights, deliberation, ACC Metelkova City, forum

Mitja Svete is a sociologist and historian currently employed at the Crisis Center for Children and Adolescents. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 139–150 by Tjaša Pureber

Against and Beyond the Existing: Building Community in Resistance in Metelkova

The article examines the politics of autonomous spaces. We understand their narration of resistance in the context of ongoing movement against the dominant social order. The existence of autonomous spaces enables people to build social relationships that fundamentally differ from those that are dominant in a society in general, and also at the same time to generate different subversive practices. In the present article, it is argued that autonomous spaces should be understood merely as potential spaces of this subversion inasmuch as its realization depends on the always-ongoing reflection of their own practices. ACC Metelkova is understood as one of such spaces of potentiality or cracks in the struggle against the capitalist system. The state and the capital are trying to discipline, normalize and subdue Metelkova through different mechanisms examined in the article. It is argued that Metelkova needs to remain heterogeneous, since it is vital for effective resistance against the processes of normalization.

Keywords: Metelkova City, non-representation, anti-capitalism, autonomous space, community

Tjaša Pureber is a political scientist and PhD student in sociology of culture at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 151–159 by Sara Pistotnik

Cases from a Set of Contradictions in Daily Practices of Autonomous Spaces

The article highlights the significance of autonomous spaces. Instituting autonomous spaces and working in them is usually a contradictory and multidimensional process that has a plethora of different effects for those involved, ranging from exceptionally positive to extremely frustrating ones. My experiences derive from collaboration in various liberated spaces in Ljubljana, mostly in the Rog Social Center and Boj Za, an occupied square in front of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, and at the same time from my role of a user of ACC Metelkova. The methodology is based on a form of participant observation in specific types of autonomous spaces that strive towards openness, horizontality, non-profit and inclusion. Being fully aware that generalizations are possible only to a certain extent as each space is characterized by a multitude of experiences and ideas, I still believe that we can address some thoughts or even misunderstandings shared by people active in both autonomous space as well as in wider public. Mostly those that are usually absent in comparable texts as they are considered too trivial, even though they frequently impede daily practices in autonomous spaces and their development.

Keywords: urbanism, autonomous spaces, horizontality, participant observation, horizontality

Sara Pistotnik is a Phd student of ethnology and cultural anthropology at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Her research interests include the areas of migration and citizenship with emphasis on erasure. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 160–169 by Andrej Pavlišič

Navigating the North-West Passage: Metelkova as a Space of Autonomous Politics in the Middle of Social Devastation

At the spatial and social intersection of global processes driven by capital and twenty years after the occupation of former barracks, Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova City is – taking into account the entire legacy of its specific trajectory – confronted with a challenge to once more recognize how those processes are being daily manifested in practice through the encounters with powers-that-be on the one hand and through the dynamics of its courtyards, clubs and other spaces. General social devastation that is the result of a neoliberal assault on society also confronts autonomous spaces with a fundamental question: what can be their role in this ever-greater destruction? Can these places function as organizational nodes for the needs of the new social margin? What would this mean in practice?

Keywords: social margin, urbanism, autonomy, survival strategies, transition

Andrej Pavlišič holds a BA in political science. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 170–196 by Bratko Bibič

Improvisation on Theme 93/13: Orientation of a Precarious Musician in the New Global Order

The article discusses several aspects of massive cultural infrastructure developments, especially those devoted to the so-called independent culture, in Ljubljana. These took place two decades after the squatting of former military barracks in the city center and its transformation into the alternative Autonomous Cultural Center Metelkova City (1993–2013). It pays special attention to the urban-planning and cultural policies of urban regeneration of several city parts, especially in regard to construction of cultural and creative districts in Ljubljana, in which also ACC Metelkova City is (potentially) situated. In its second part the article attempts to detect, by exemplifying certain events and practices of different  stakeholders, an ambivalent character of ACC Metelkova City in particular, and of the cultural and arts sphere in Ljubljana in general, in the overlapping points of two discursive complexes in conceptions: of liminality and creative destruction.

Keywords: Ljubljana, Metelkova City, cultural infrastructure, alternative, independent culture, urban regeneration, creative industry, cultural districts, liminality, creative destruction

Bratko Bibič is a composer and accordion performer, sociologist and philosopher, researcher and writer, decades long engaged in alternative and independent cultural field, with special emphasis on spatial issues. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 197–210 by Marko Hren

Progressivity Enhanced

Rather than a scientific text, the author contributes a concise memorandum from the originator of the idea who has managed the campaign for the conversion of the military barracks into a creative cluster between 1988 and 2002, when he parted ways with Metelkova due to conflicting views on the center’s future. His views shed light on a distant period of time from a perspective of a participant–observer. The information is abundantly supported by primary sources, also available online. However, some of the presented hypotheses are heavily influenced by his personal experiences of xenophobia, elitism, and predatorial behavior, which were already then discernible on the so-called alternative scene as well – so much so that they obstructed the implementation of progressive programs. The author claims that, in spite of the substantially different reality today, the myths and prejudices concerning Metelkova must be done away with in order to enhance its progressive nature. Above all, the paper calls for an objective view on internal antagonisms, mainly originating in deep class divisions between the users. These make a clear distinction between truly marginal ndividuals and the overambitious beau-bourgeois, as the author labels the large part of users of Metelkova of »his« time. On these grounds, he argues for a robust approach to ban all forms of xenophobia and self-ghettoization.

Keywords: myth, progressivity, elite, self-ghettoization, margin

Marko Hren was an activist within peace and human rights movements, speaker of the campaign for complete demilitarization of Slovenia (1988-1991), and in this context he designed and initiated the conversion of the – at that time central - Yugoslav military barracks at Metelkova Street in Ljubljana into a creative cluster. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


pp. 211–224 by Andrej Pavlišič

Interview with Nikolai Jeffs and Miha Zadnikar

Currently, the Metelkova Network is the most exposed initiative mentioned in regard to the occupation of former of Yugoslav People's Army barracks on Metelkova Street in September 1993. However, several other lesser-known initiatives also played a key role in this dynamic, for instance Resistance Breaking Network, Mass People's Committee, and People's Defense of Metelkova. From this circle and in the aftermath of the occupation, a Metelkova PR group was formed. The interview that Andrej Pavlišič conducted with two members of PR group Miha Zadnikar and Nikolai Jeffs focus on both the immediate as well as wider political and social context of the occupation, and revisit some of the lesser-known challenges of Metelkova’s early period.

Keywords: Metelkova, squatting, alternative scene, transition, autonomous spaces

Andrej Pavlišič holds a BA in political science. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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