REX Cultural Center

REX kulturni centar

At this conference, REX is represented by Dušica Parezanović, Chief Program Coordinator.

Jevrejska 16, Belgrade, Serbia
Contact: Dušica Parezanović

social/community center (art, culture, but also other fields)
nonprofit association / NGO, established in 1994 by, at that time, the independent radio station B92, and since 2004 has been within the legal framework of Fund B92, an umbrella NGO for all nonprofit activities organized and produced by B92.

The REX Cultural Center is dedicated to producing and presenting contemporary, socially engaged artistic projects as well as to promoting and maintaining critical and analytical cultural practices. Our centre’s traditional role is to host a variety of initiatives, groups, and organizational and individual projects related to the alternative scene and the NGO sector. With the programs and projects that are initiated and developed in our centre, we tend to educate and empower individuals and groups to articulate and implement their own ideas, to develop an understanding of social relations, and to use their knowledge and skills to deal with their own political and social surroundings. REX intensively and permanently collaborates with organizations and individuals throughout Serbia, as well as with cultural centers, NGOs, and individuals from the region and Europe.

The REX Cultural Centre was founded in 1994 by what was, at that time, the independent radio station B92. Since 2004, it has functioned within the legal framework of Fund B92, an umbrella NGO for all nonprofit activities organized and produced so far by Radio B92. Fund B92’s mission is to contribute to the democratization of Serbian society through developing and protecting independent media, through civic initiatives, and through supporting engaged contemporary artistic and cultural production.

REX - old front

Decision-making: All individuals or organizations interested in working in our space are free to develop and present their concept and content to the audience. As a host organization we ask them only to fill in a project form and state the level of cooperation they expect from REX. All previous collaborators and REX team members are also encouraged to propose projects and programs, while decisions are made after consultations with the people in charge of the different REX program streams or after regular REX staff meetings when we discuss proposals. We have further discussions about possible levels and means of cooperation In meetings with the authors of proposed projects.

Organizational openness: REX’s cultural policy could be described as a concept of equal rights to production for known and unknown artists, for domestic and international authors, for well-established and emerging groups and initiatives, and for professionals and amateurs. This policy is visible both in every one of our monthly programs and in various long-term co-production-based projects such as Low-Fi, Images of Transition, Open Secret, Short Electronic Form Fair, Poetrying. Through many of our programsm we constantly question existing art production and promotion strategies and the promotion of art and established institutional work with authors and audiences. REX’s orientation towards activist practice and socially-engaged art has been recognized from its very beginning and maintained through 15 years of intense production. This orientation is one factor that influences authors’ decisions to approach us, perform, hold an event, or participate in REX projects.

Venue/s / resources: The building where REX operated was constructed at the beginning of the 1930s by the Jewish charities “Oneg Shabbat” and “Gemilut Hasadim”. It mainly provided space for cultural and social gatherings of the Jewish population of Belgrade. After the Second World War, the building was nationalized and used for various purposes. Since 1994, we have been hiring the basement space from Stari Grad District Council, paying a monthly rent of approximately €1,000 for 423 m2 (two offices, a sound editing room, an entrance hall, and the main performing hall). Apart from all the necessary basic audio-visual equipment for events, concerts, performances, presentations, and conferences, REX is especially well suited for workshops that require a set of interconnected workstations. More information about REX’s space and technical equipment may be found here and here.

REX - conversation about an artwork

Budget: more than €100,000 and less than €300,000.

Co-productions: Most programs are organized and initiated by REX. The rest are co-productions between REX and a variety of other initiatives / groups / organizations. In most cases, REX provides the venue, technical equipment, and the organizational or PR services of the REX team. The more the given project converges with our center’s work and mission, the more we look after the promotion or even try to find sponsorships or grants in order to also participate financially. Whenever it is available, REX (usually without charge) provides a space principally intended for idea development and project planning through workshops, educational and residency programs, or public project presentations.

Hosting: REX’s space, as well as REX’s equipment and services, can be hired, although our editorial policy must also be taken into account. We provide special prices for similar organizations/activities. We also donate our venue for free to many of these guest programs, although they pay a share of the running costs and pay for technical equipment and the services of our technical team.

Services: For more than fifteen years, REX has functioned as an “open source” center for various informal and formal initiatives and organizations, open space for youngsters and beginners, minorities, and other vulnerable and marginalized groups. Groups and initiatives such as You Are Right Online (a web-based guide through the legal system of the Republic of Serbia), the Centre for Youth Integration, the street newspaper Liceulice, the alternative choir HORKESTAR, the activist collective PROBA, the ecological organization Mirabela, the young feminist group Femix, various queer groups, and contemporary dancers, all use REX’s space for rehearsals, preparing projects, and meetings. The Café New Social Relationships project initiates and encourages the affirmation and communication of various activist, artistic, and political groups; the Checking Point project enables artists to show and present new projects, materials, research, or concepts on which they are currently working.

International collaboration:

Our basic strategy in international collaboration is based on our belief that the exchange and migration of ideas and methodologies is a necessary standard in the work and development of any cultural organization. We strive to participate in and answer calls for projects at European levels, whether with new partners or with our long-term international associates. Many artists and activists write to us offering collaborations or their projects or events. Some of them, while staying in Belgrade or the region, use our space as a base for research, a meeting point with other participants in a project, or as a venue for a workshop with local participants.

REX is part of the informal Clubture network’s Regional Initiative and the network of European independent cultural centers Trans Europe Halles. Our film festival FREE ZONE is a member of the Human Rights Film Network. We participate in an informal French-based European network, Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes, which supports artist mobility. REX has also had very good experiences with the European Volunteer Service program as a hosting organization.

Participation: Most REX projects and collaborations promote openness to a wide scope of audiences, invite different generations to participate, and involve audiences with different backgrounds. Short Electronic Form Fair present a unique participative artistic program for authors of all profiles, for the eleventh year in a row. ARTIST AS AUDIENCE presents a forum for the audience to bring forward and mutually examine opinions and attitudes about selected works by career artists without conversations privileging a professional way of expressing opinions and attitudes. The idea of the collaborative monthly event POETRYING, is to allow poets and poets-to-be, and anyone who feels like a poet, to read their work in front of a live audience, without censorship. The Women’s Day series of events/workshops is open to participation by female activists, professionals of different backgrounds, and our female neighbors of all generations.

REX - exhibition, Civilians in uniform, 2003

Gathering citizens: Through many of its projects, REX tries to encourage public debate and empower a variety of informal civic movements and actions. Some of the projects we produce use artistic concepts and methodologies but they function outside the setting and framing of the existing art system. The FLUX project at its outset incorporated different forms of cultural and artistic production which were prepared or developed in circumstances believed to be characteristic or already typical of the suburbs of Belgrade. It has evolved from extending the distribution of existing artistic production to generating new creative and presentation concepts in different social and infrastructural situations related to the Belgrade suburbs, such as the collaborative mapping of the spontaneously-built sewage system in Kaludjerica. You Are Right Online is a web-based guide through the legal system of the Republic of Serbia intended to inform citizens about their rights, obligations, and institutions. Workshop participants in the WHO BUILDS THE CITY? project, predominantly students of architecture, applied art, and political science, were led through the process of understanding what intervention in public space can communicate about a place and its surrounding community. One result was a public action on the open marketplace involving numerous activist organizations and citizens.

Neighborhood: Though many of our programs and projects insist on or succeed in including the neighborhood and many individual relations and collaborations might be seen as very successful, Rex is also exposed to a certain animosity from a broader audience towards the existence and work of NGO-related initiatives. Nevertheless, REX offers local residents free entrance to many of its events, and further encourages them to participate actively in some events, especially in projects such as POETRYING, WOMEN’S DAY, CIRKUSFERA, and FREE ZONE. REX initiates and organizes actions such as reconstructing the building façade (rare heritage of Jewish architecture) and roof, street lights, and the central heating system. One of our neighbors holds copy of the keys to REX and another one carries out small repairs to our space. We have (co)produced and organized several projects for the Dorcol community, such as BIBLIOTOK (Biblioflow), which aimed to introduce the wider public to publications focusing on contemporary art and culture, and ELEVATOR ART, a community-based contemporary art project which relied on communication between the artist and the residents of three buildings about creating indoor murals (where tenants voted on the location and content of the art).

Municipality: We apply for annual Ministry of Culture and City Department for Culture grants and never receive more than €10,000 per year for 4 to 6 applied projects. Recently, REX has been gaining recognition as an organization with great relevant experience in the field of intercultural dialog, and it became a partner of the Ministry of Culture in the project Mapping and Affirmation of Projects and Process of Intercultural Dialogue. The Local Municipality of Stari Grad offers smaller grants, and in the last few years two of our projects received about €2,500 per project while simultaneously being refused in the City of Belgrade competition. On several occasions, we have organized or supported events for elementary and high school pupils or other groups initiated by the Municipality of Stari Grad. Like all independent cultural organizations in Serbia, we still have no opportunities to apply for any stable financing or operational grants from the Ministry for Culture or City Department for Culture, as is the practice for institutions founded by local and national authorities. This is why we have also organized a special presentation for the General Board of our municipality: “Contemporary Art in a Contemporary Municipality.”

Advocacy / activism:
Our overall program is considered activist, focused on issues such as modernization, equality, participation, and human rights. Besides projects such as FREE ZONE Jr., which produces a manual aimed at teachers and students following the high school Civic Education curriculum using film as a educational tool, Women’s Day, or the online youth magazine Yeast, which addresses a number of problems related to political education and debate, REX also produces collaborative projects. These include: WHO BUILDS THE CITY? which gathers architecture and urban planning practitioners, civil society activists and members of different initiatives, and other citizens interested in the problems of urban planning, and FLUX BENEATH US Kaludjerica, which is open to collaboration with the local committees of all political parties active in Kaludjerica raising many questions for informants, viewers, and the public to consider, including questions regarding state and city housing policies, wealth distribution, territorial restrictions and urban planning, as well as the cultural and economic positioning related to these issues.

In addition: Besides strategic planning and everyday functioning, we also attempt to provide a platform for internal and external evaluations of our practice. We thus operate projects such as Mission Less Probable, a series of public presentations which locate and, through discussion, scrutinize the gaps between tasks and outcomes in recent artistic, architectural, civil society, or cultural policy-related production; likewise, we initiate projects such as INtoOUTREACH, which is realized through re-staging newly-produced versions of significant cultural events from the last decade which are considered to be of specific public importance and interest for developing regional contemporary art and respective audiences. With such a re-enactment strategy, INtoOUTREACH addresses the following issues: accessibility and availability of accumulated knowledge to a number of different organizations, institutions, and audiences; cross-cultural adaptability of established working methodologies and their outputs in different (regional) environments; joint program development and intensive cooperation among cultural practitioners from the capital and “third” cities.

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