The book Lessons on Defense is a translation of two texts that were created as part of a research project on culture in the People’s Liberation Movement (NOP) in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. We started researching this topic in 2014 as part of the Politicization of Friendship (Politizacija prijateljstva) exhibition when creating the mural Lessons on Defense, which examined the ties between prominent cultural workers before and during the Second World War. While preparing for this piece, a number of new topics and additional questions arose, leading us to conduct research on culture within the People’s Liberation Movement during 2016 and 2017, with the support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Office for Southeast Europe. During the two-year project, we visited archives and museums in Jajce, Sarajevo, Užice and Belgrade, released two publications and organized the conference How to Revolutionize Art (Kako stvarati umetnost revolucionarno?), where we presented studies by Vida Knežević, BLOK Collective (Ivana Hanaček, Ana Kutleša, Vesna Vuković), Miklavž Komelj, and Gal Kirn.
The subject of this book is culture in the People’s Liberation Movement, with a particular focus on events during the establishment of the liberated territories, where a large group of artists was based and, consequently, cultural production intensified. We focused our attention on the period of the Republic of Užice, the Second Session of AVNOJ, and the Liberation of Belgrade. Episodes such as the flight of refugees to Italy and Egypt, and various congresses of cultural workers were also of interest to us. Our research included the study of archival material and the locating of primary sources, as well as case-wise consultations of a plethora of memoirs published after the war. Our desire is to open a dialogue about the different conditions of cultural and artistic production today by providing updated knowledge on developments in culture during the Second World War. Today’s perspective enables us to focus on events that can be helpful when envisioning future artistic production. Partisan culture was certainly a product of particular historical circumstances. Nevertheless, we believe that some of these practices are still applicable today, and, therefore, we can learn from the experiences from the past. Furthermore, new interpretations of Partisan art can help us distance ourselves from – and recognize more easily – revisionist policies that, among other things, use culture to depoliticize anti-fascism and reinforce capitalism.
This book contains translations of two texts: “Toward an Analysis of the Cultural Activities of the People’s Liberation Movement” and “Culture of the NOP: The People’s Culture / Revolutionary Culture / State-Building Culture”. Both texts underwent minor revisions for the international audience; we have included information necessary for understanding the complex circumstances in which Partisan culture emerged and a better understanding of the texts in the footnotes. We suggest that readers of this book explore this topic further on their own, as it has proven impossible to cover all aspects of cultural production during the People’s Liberation Struggle in just two years of research.
The English translation and adaptation for an international audience was undertaken as part of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2019-20 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck.
Authors Miloš Miletić and Mirjana Radovanović
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Financially supported by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Europe and Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen.
This book is published in the series:
BÜCHS‘N’BOOKS – Art and Knowledge Production in Context (Volume 9)
Edited by Andrei Siclodi