Wrecking ball versus Avant-garde

By Franziska Peschel Switch to German for original article

Novi Sad, like Esch, holds the title of European Capital of Culture this year. The second largest city in Serbia looks back on a rich heritage of the alternative scene. Many see it threatened by the institutionalisation of culture, of which the Capital of Culture has become a symbol. Over a lot of coffee, the Lëtzebuerger Journal asked around in the scene.

While the evening sun on the Danube promenade tempts strollers to succumb to popcorn, below the dam, on the grounds of the abandoned ironworks, only a short old man with a cap is still doing his rounds. The security guard chats with the young people who meet here to smoke pot, trots over the clean pavement, occasionally takes a look into the neglected rooms. Where there were doors, there are now passages to heaps of scrap metal. In the former workshops lie building rubble, plastic pipes, damp sofa cushions, chipped plaster. The walls are rotting, water has left green traces and mould on the walls. In between, new anthracite-coloured benches and lanterns stand out, polished, the paths newly paved. The front halls have been modernised, painted white and hide the true face of the dilapidated factory site.

After the factories in the industrial zone between the Danube and Liman Park were closed down, artists and creative people settled here for decades. They called the quarter Chinatown. Today, hardly anyone can say why. The area covers 11,000 square metres, and some names have risen to international cultural circles from its mud. After World War I, the area fuelled Serbia's second-largest city's industry, and with it population growth. In the 1980s, the now-abandoned site became the pulse of Serbia's underground cultural scene. A few years ago, the city administration recognised the potential – Chinatown became part of the city's cultural infrastructure.

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