International Conference "Pushing Forward: Balkan Migration Route. Update. Solidarity, Art, Culture and Education for Social Change"

International Conference
“Pushing Forward: Balkan Migration Route Update. Solidarity, Art, Culture and Education for Social Change”
18–19 June 2019, KIBLA Portal, Valvasorjeva 40, Maribor, Slovenia

In the scope of Risk Change (2016–2020) project, Association X-OP in collaboration with Civil Initiative InfoKolpa, presents an international conference: “Pushing Forward: Balkan Migration Route Update. Solidarity, Art, Culture and Education as Social Activators”, which will take place on Tuesday, 18 June (4 p. m. to 8 p. m.) and Wednesday, 19 June (5 p. m. to 8 p. m.) at KIBLA Portal, Maribor, Slovenia.


The conference will focus on the recent conditions, developments and reports in the context of the Balkan Migration Route(s) highlighting the police violence, systematic violation of human rights by denying the right to asylum to migrants, as well as criminalization of solidarity and racists media discourse. International activists, scholars, journalists, cultural workers and volunteers working directly with these urgencies will present the pressing situations in the Western Balkans and wider European context.

On the other hand, the conference will address and rethink the role of transdisciplinary art, culture and education as practices of radical knowledge production as means of building relations between people from various cultural backgrounds.

Risk Change, a 4-year project (2016–2020) reflects and co-constructs migration policies in EU and wider in innovative ways. EU is building internal walls (Hungary, Bulgaria, GB and France), without a common strategy on migration and human rights. Mass media stages problems: once asylum seekers are victims, then potential terrorists; some media represent racist non-migrant policies etc. A broader view is very rare.

Art, science and culture are able to rise above simplistic humanitarian or extreme right-wing approaches and point out a complex relationship of local spaces and global forces. RC aims to create, connect, compare, disseminate and promote contemporary EU interdisciplinary art related to social studies and migration. The project covers the field of contemporary interdisciplinary culture, art and creativity connected to science, especially social and applied sciences and ICT. RC entails interacting with different target audiences, esp. building connectivity between new-coming migrants and settled inhabitants of multicultural EU communities.

Production: Association for Contemporary Art X-OP
Co-organizator: Civil Iniciative InfoKolpa
Co-production: ACE KIBLA



International Conference
“Pushing Forward: Balkan Migration Route Update. Solidarity, Art, Culture and Education for Social Change”
18–19 June 2019, KIBLA Portal, Valvasorjeva 40, Maribor, Slovenia

Tuesday, 18 June 2019
Pushbacks, police violence and criminalization of solidarity between Sarajevo and Vienna

4 p. m.—5.30 p. m. Panel 1: Documenting state violence
Moderator: Miha Turk
A panel with representatives of three groups that are committed to documenting and exposing the practice of pushbacks by Slovene and Croatian authorities and its consequences.

*Civil initiative InfoKolpa (SI) / Matej Zwitter, Lucija Klun in Iza Thaler: Presentation of the Report on the illegal practice on Slovene-Croatian border.  
The presentation is focused around a presentation of the results of civil monitoring of police procedures on Slovene-Croatian border. The report is the outcome of an activist/journalist project, which attempted to provide an answer to the question of whether Slovenian police is in fact selectively and illegally denying the right to the asylum procedure. We wanted to verify whether the police are illegally and forcefully handing over migrants who are applying for asylum in Slovenia to the Croatian police, and thus breaking national and international laws. The report confirms our suspicion that the Slovene police is in fact not following proper procedures. For this reason, we prepared a public petition, which can be read here:žba/ni-še-gotovo/javni-poziv-k-prenehanju-kolektivnih-izgonov-na-južni-meji
Your signature (name and last name) can be sent to the address:

*Centar za mirovne studije (HR) / Maddalena Avon
The presentation mainly covers the topics of the last published report by the Center for Peace Studies (CMS) from Zagreb on "pushbacks" and violence on Croatian borders: it provides an overview of the role of CMS, and how Croatia's Ministry of the Interior (MUP) reacts to it with different forms of criminalization and mystification of our everyday work. In addition, Maddalena Avon talks about our different strategies, which include field work, advocacy, and legal procedures against the perpetrators of this illegal behavior.
Publications of CMS:

*Border Violence Monitor (DE) / Chandra Esser, Jack Sapoch
Presentation of the repertoire of violence utilized by EU/Croatian authorities during the routine pushbacks, which have become a hallmark of EU's securitization of borders in the western Balkans. This is a dynamic which is often alluded to by advocacy groups and international media which vaguely refer to this state violence with phrases such as "savage beatings" and "vicious assaults". There is no available analysis of these specific tactics and the intentionality of this sophisticated violence. The goal of this presentation is to present and contextualize the techniques and strategies of pushback procedures within the EU border regime, in order to develop a greater understanding of the intentionality of this violence and the procedural nature with which it is communicated onto the bodies of people-in-transit.
Latest report by Border Violence Monitor:

Panel 2: Challenging the Legality of Push Backs: A case from Austria
5.45 p. m.—6.45 p. m. 

*Border Crossing Spielfeld (A): (Ahmed Shamieh, Petra Leschanz and Brigit Roth) 
Pushbacks have been conducted by Austria since 2015. In the past, they were met with protests from the Slovene government. At that time the organization Border Crossing Spielfeld helped organize a lawsuit against the Austrian government and the courts ruled that such actions are against the Schengen Code. Two representatives of the organization present the details of the case. Ahmed Shamieh (Syria), one of the plaintiffs in the case against Austrian pushbacks, participates in the discussion. 

Lectures: Current conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina
7 p. m.—8.30 p. m.

7 p. m.:  Dimitar Anakiev, dr. med (SI)
Dimitar Anakiev is a physician and an activist/volunteer who recently volunteered in Bosnia and Hercegovina (Anakiev is also president of the association Doctors for Asylum Seekers, former regional president of Doctors of the World and a member of various other organizations).  Based on his experience, Anakiev, along with other NGO's, recently made a declaration, stating that the conditions of migrants who are stranded in Bosnia should be considered a humanitarian crisis. Anakiev explains how migrants are NOT treated in BIH, how the legislature is deliberately denying them the right to seek medical treatment, and how medicine is subordinate to politics.

7.30 p. m.:  Dr. Niđara Ahmetašević (BA)
Niđara is an independent activist, researcher and journalist from Sarajevo. Her lecture focuses on the conditions in Sarajevo and Tuzla with special emphasis on how organizations and the funds of the EU are shaping the aforementioned humanitarian crisis.
The presentations are followed by a short Q&A with the panelists and a standing dinner. 

8.30 p. m.: A Discussion with migrants
The discussion focuses on the difficulties of integration that migrants face in Slovenia, including long-term asylum procedures, lack of job opportunities and legal help, poor access to health care, preschool education, and the real-estate market. It also addresses issues of closed borders, police brutality, pushbacks, and other adversities they encountered on their way or during their stay in Slovenia.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Visual Culture, Art and Education for Social Change

5 p. m.
Introduction and presentation of Risk Change project (2016–2020)

5.30 p. m. Lecture
dr. Irfan Hošić (University of Bihać, BA): From Pixelated Trauma to Didactic Wall

This presentation focuses on the subject of migrants/refugees/apatrids and their current social situation in north-west Bosnia, particularly the city of Bihać. The lecture is divided into three parts: the first gives a brief overview of the political position of migrants in the mentioned area, followed by a presentation of their digital visual imagery (from the migrants' perspective) collected during the spring of 2018 in camps in Bihać and the surrounding area, and finally conversations about the utopian artistic project Didactic Wall, created by Bosnian artist Mladen Miljanović. The three perspectives can serve as a starting point for artistic and cultural engagement, an exchange and crossway between cultures, improvement of the situation in terms of human rights, and democratization of south-eastern Europe, western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Irfan Hošić completed his PhD thesis at the Department of Art History at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. His field of research is the art of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 20th and 21st century with a focus on aspects of crisis. He was a co-curator of the Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). In 2013 he was a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan, in 2017 at the University of Paderborn, and in 2019 at the Florida Gulf Coast University. Hošić is an assistant professor at the Textile Department of the University of Bihać, where he teaches Art History and Modern Art and Design. He also works as an art critic and a freelance curator.

6.15 p. m. Lecture and presentation
Irena Borić (HR/SI) and Matiwos Tumzghi (ER/SI): Sedmi glas / Seventh Voice

Irena Borić and Matiwos Tumzghi are presenting the educational program Sedmi glas / Seventh Voice. The emphasis is on the political dimension and emancipatory potential of non-formal education, which provides an opportunity for active (individual and collective) participation in the public life. At the same time, the significance of such programs for intercultural connections and integration is highlighted.

Sedmi glas / Seventh Voice (allusion to Berger’s Seventh Man, the migrant worker and the fourth estate) is an educational program consisting of a series of lectures, theoretical and practical workshops, reading sessions and collective visits to various cultural events and institutions. The program is conceived in a way that provides an opportunity for members of different ethnic minorities and migrants to develop their own critical voice through the process of writing about art and culture. The aim of the program is to enable participants to better understand art, its language, analyze various social phenomena and the current historical situation, and through this, to develop the relevant competences in the fields of media literacy, critical literacy and art criticism. The project is organized by Pekarna Magdalenske Mreže Maribor. Project Sedmi glas / Seventh Voice is co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia and the ESF of the European Union.

Irena Borić is an art historian who works as a curator and critic. She has collaborated on the projects Srami se! [Shame on You!] (2013) and net.cube (2015-ongoing) and (co)curated numerous exhibitions. She was a member of the biennial collective of the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts: Birth as Criterion, Ljubljana, Slovenia. She has participated in curatorial residencies in Helsinki, Finland (2011), Celje, Slovenia (2012) and Vienna, Austria (2015). She is a member of the Croatian Section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

Matiwos Tumzghi is a teacher from Eritrea, where after finishing his secondary education he entered military training for a period of two years. After that he enrolled in the University of Asmara to study education, specializing in mathematics, chemistry, physics and psychology. After graduation he taught mathematics for 10 years. He enjoys solving math problems and teaching. He came to Slovenia in 2018. He currently lives and works in Maribor.

*After the lectures a short Q&A session will follow.

7 p. m. Guided tour through the group exhibition Karta situacije (Situation Map)
Artists: Nataša Berk, OR poiesis, name:, Simon Macuh, Eric Orbino, Vlado G. Repnik, Max Abend

Karta situacije (Situation Map) is a group exhibition by artists participating in the artist residency program of the international project Risk Change (2016-2020), who have travelled during two years to several European cities (Żejtun in Malta, Novi Sad in Serbia, Marseille in France, Budapest in Hungary, and Rijeka in Croatia).
From the perspective of seven artistic positions, the exhibition is an attempt at mapping and responding to the current, although historically continuous structural changes, with an emphasis on contemporary migrations and the complex, stratified forms of human mobility. Their causes and consequences, triggered and conditioned by the unstable geopolitical power relations, technological advancements, and environmental changes, have been the focus of participating artists, who respond to them by applying various audio, textual, performative and visual strategies at the level of personal, intimate, and collective experience.

Tuesday, 18. 6. 2019, photo: Urška Lukovnjak, Gregor Salobir

Wednesday, 19. 6. 2019, photo: Urška Lukovnjak, Gregor Salobir



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