“Tea Party” with Irena Ristić (FDA): On the Relationship between the Left and Art

In her lecture which described the titular relationship between the Left and art as a war between lovers, Irena Ristić, full professor of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, first made an overview of different perceptions of politics in contemporary art practice, from interpretations of art as apolitical, to understanding that it is aesthetically defined and political, right down to the attitude that art resides beyond and above politics and in itself represents an independent space of interpretation.

These points of view are also reflected in artists’ opinions, where some take their work to be a(n) (a)political act, others considering their artistic activity not only to be political, but first and foremost, a socially avant-garde action, while some finally believing that the role of art is to make (the political) reality impossible.

On the other hand, historically speaking, political Left has always harboured certain mistrust, considering art a bourgeois heritage, while in recent times, it primarily criticises the role of artist and the place of a work of art/artistic activity in the capitalist system of production. For the political Left, as Ristić emphasised, the processes of enhancing (class) conflicts and social antagonisms are an indelible part of any social activity, including art.

Using the example of the Cultural Centre of Magacin, founded in 2007 in Marko Kralević Street in Belgrade, which serves as a free space for collective work and engagement, both artistic and social, the lecture showed that the principles of political Left and art could be not only complementary, but also synergetic.

However, in Irena Ristić’s opinion, the Left and art have so much more to learn from one another: the Left from art how to advocate equality in work and resist group conformism and hierarchisation, while artists and artistic collectives, by using the principles of the Left and revolutionaries, may recognise the importance of constant re-examination of one’s own position in the capitalist system, as well as of the critical analysis of (re)distribution of resources and artists’ role in this.

The lecture held on 28 September in the Institute of Social Sciences, was a part of the Regional Tea Party cycle entitled “The Left”, organised in cooperation with the Academic Network for Cooperation in South East Europe.

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