A segment of Belgrade culture has gone underground; very far from institutions, budgets, or project financing.
Disillusioned with the mainstream culture in Belgrade, young folk, enthusiasts, artists or creative entrepreneurs, as Richard Florida likes to call them, have established their own underground culture clubs, centres, galleries and theatres, promoting their work via WOM and social media.
The Tunnel Gallery and Micro Cultural Centre Kombinat are located in a historical borough of Zemun, in 29, Glavna Street. Their founders discovered an empty space in a passage where cinema Sloboda used to be, and created a mix of cinema, exhibition space and a small concert hall. Kombinat’s programme includes concerts, music, gaming, workshops, theatre, radio broadcasting and publishing. This self-sustainable model of creative enterprise was established in 2012, and since then it has been constantly growing.
Not far from Drugstore Club in Palilula, a group of young enthusiast established Kvaka 22 in 2015. This empty and neglected space was accidentally discovered by one of the guys from the group. After the squatters, who had lived there, removed 22 door handles (‘kvaka’ in Serbia) from the doors, the club’s founders found an inspiration for its name. Kvaka’s programme includes art exhibitions, Kvaka 22 museum with exhibits from the period of the former Yugoslavia, concerts, DJ gigs and live performances.
For the fans of Japanese dance Butoh, there is Butoh Theatre, and if you like contemporary music, by all means visit Spectrum East, a concert venue established by harpist Milana Zaric and her husband. The aim of this establishment is to promote a blend of classical and electronic music. This initiative was inspired by a similar concept taking place in Manhattan’s Loft in NYC.
Another venue deserving of a mention is definitely Dorcol National Theatre. This alternative theatre was established in a forgotten and neglected space in the Lower Dorcol. The opening play was dedicated to a prominent Jewish family Baruh who fought against Nazis during the Holocaust and used to live in this historical part of the city. In close proximity to Dorcol National Theatre is also an indoor venue called Oktobar which is popular with students of left-wing inclination and it serves for debates, presentations and movie screening.
Not so far from Oktobar, in Terazije Square, there is Zvezda New Cinema. Zvezda was one of the first cinemas in Belgrade, however, with the onset of the economic crisis in the 1990s and privatizations after the 2000s, the cinema was sold to a private enterprise and left abandoned and neglected. Subsequently, a group of enthusiasts decided to squat in the old dilapidated and seemingly long forgotten cinema and now they are screening movies and holding debates on its rooftop and in the indoor hall. Admission fee is dirt-cheap. Watching the cult classics and new films on a hidden roof top is truly an extraordinary experience.
Last but not least there is Ciglana Klub Teške Industrije, which is located further from the inner-city, in Visnjicka Banja. This huge brownfield was turned into a club, exhibition space and a concert hall. Every year, Ciglana hosts the Devet Festival which focuses on art, design, creativity and music.
(Still in Belgrade, 20.11.2017)
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