Ever since the 1960s, the October Salon has been held in Belgrade, the former capital of Yugoslavia, now the capital of Serbia. Throughout the 1990s, and well into the 2000s, the city’s most important art event supported by the Ministry of Culture and Information was focused on the local production, until it was transformed into a manifestation of international relevance in 2005. Traditionally organized by the Cultural center of Belgrade, each year it brought different curatorial concepts conceived by some of the leading proponents on the international art scene.
However, in 2014 amid the shifting Serbian cultural policy, the format of the October Salon was changed from annual to biennial, followed by the public outcry, numerous debates, the withdrawal of the Board, and dismissal of the director of the Cultural Center of Belgrade, Mia David. By that time, the city’s budget for culture was already very low, the Museum of Contemporary art was under reconstruction, and both state institutions and independent organizations and artists suffered. Therefore, the decision to change the format was perceived as endangering for the local scene.
By now, two editions of the October Salon as a biennial exhibition (by David Elliot in 2016, and Danielle and Gunnar B. Kvaran in 2018), were conducted, while the situation became more complex in the past six years predominantly because of the increasing commercialization of culture with the implementation of creative industries models, on one hand, and on the other, the lack of interest in artistic practices that are too critical of these and other social and political issues in Serbian society.
Despite the tensions regarding the financial support of local artists and cultural institutions during the coronavirus pandemic, the Cultural Center of Belgrade decided to push the October Salon forward this October, although it was initially scheduled for September this year. The appointed curators Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin (the founders and editors-in-chief of the international art magazine CURA, and the independent and non-profit space BASEMENT ROMA) will bring the concept entitled The Dreamers.
The upcoming exhibition will encompass around fifty artists whose artworks fit Dreamers. With this particular exploration based on various resources from Bernardo Bertolucci’s film of the same title as the exhibition, and Walter Benjamin’s concept of the threshold and Jean Baudrillard’s hyperreality, to the dystopian sci-fi movies and recent digital technologies, the curators tend to articulate the present moment and the alternative and perhaps ideal scenarios that take place in dreams where categories such as gender, religion, and culture become irrelevant or constructed differently. The dreams are perceived as tools for emancipation, where reality and virtuality collide, while philosophical questions regarding our very existence come true.
And so, dreaming is perceived as a much-desired activity that helps us re-establish our connection with reality and become aware of various urgencies of the shifts required.
The majority of the artworks will be installed and presented at the Belgrade City Museum Building in Resavska street, a total of over 100 works to be precise. The Cultural Centre of Belgrade Movie Theatre will host a dense film program including the releases by Mark Leckey, Nico Vascellari, Marianna Simnett, Anri Sala, Cyprien Gaillard, and Cécile B. Evans, while the performances by Sanja Ćopić, Sonja Radaković, and Nora Turato will be presented in various city exhibition venues.
Interestingly, a 16-episode radio drama by the artist Than Hussein Clark will be tuned at the Radio Belgrade Channel 2. A series of interventions by Alex Israel and Alex Da Corte will be developed in public places, while the one to be released by Cyprien Gaillard will remain permanent as a donation to the city.
The Dreamers will be accompanied by a commissioned soundtrack created by the musician and composer Mauro Hertig, and a temporary bookshop by Alexis Zavialoff, founder of Motto Distribution, that will offer a selection of magazines, artist books, essays, and catalogs.
The October Salon will be accompanied by bilingual catalog (in English and Serbian) and will include texts by Ian Cheng, Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Emanuele Coccia, Giulia Bini, as well as a conversation between Ben Vickers and Kenric McDowell, and a large iconographic atlas of works with an introduction by Costanza Paissan.
The exhibition is readapted according to the mandatory measures of physical distancing and the restrictions on access to public places.
UPDATE October 20, 2020: The 58th October Salon | Belgrade Biennale 2020: The Dreamers will be held in various venues across Belgrade in summer 2021 instead of October 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new dates are 4th June – 22nd August 2021.
Featured images: Trisha Baga - The Voice, 2017 (still). 3D video with sound, 25’22’’. Courtesy: the artist and Greene Naftali, New York and Société, Berlin; Camille Henrot - Saturday, 2017 (stills). 3D video, color, sound, 19’32’’. Courtesy: the artist, kamel mennour (Paris/London), König Galerie (Berlin) and Metro Pictures (New York); Camille Henrot - Saturday, 2017 (stills). 3D video, color, sound, 19’32’’. Courtesy: the artist, kamel mennour (Paris/London), König Galerie (Berlin) and Metro Pictures (New York); Bojan Šarčević - AHTMalta185/Ain’tnobody, 2018 (detail). Freezer, ice, audio, 83 × 88 × 185 cm © Bojan Šarčević. Photo: Robert Glowacki. Courtesy: Modern Art, London.