On Villains, Aliens and Superheroes. On Other Stories.

Working encounters – On Other stories, villains, aliens, superheroes,
collective artistic research, reflections, notes, sketches, conversations

Editors: Bojan Đorđev, Siniša Ilić, Nataša Mačkuljak & Ivana Marjanović

Editorial note

At the end of the first edition of the Working encounters, we map the topics discussed through encounters and research, exchange of ideas and thoughts with participating artists as well as with guest artists Rabih Mroué, Barbi Marković and Želimir Žilnik. The topic and problem that are suddenly and inevitably embedded in the logic and structure of encounters and research, created by the Covid19 virus pandemic, is the ‘new reality’ of working online, with all its emerging rituals.

The possibility of a different order of terms and narratives from the title – other stories, aliens villains and superheroes, or alien villains, superheroes, antiheroes and other stories, suggests the complexity of the relationship between these terms and the society that assigns and needs those roles, leaving space for their interpretations.

We tried to question the binary division into ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘weakness’ and ‘strength’ through the figure of an alien, who stands outside the system, society, established norms, observes it, recomposes it or even develops even better performance for survival in society. An alien is thus an entity that can be the key to understanding the established, taken for granted social order around us.

The research process set the project moving through a spectrum of global topics, such as bodies in cohabitation with disease or structural change, bodies in the digital space, media personalities, popular culture and its images that construct or deconstruct stereotypes, class positions in society, written and unwritten rules of patriarchy, mythology, the history of resistance and the tradition of colonial relations and anti-colonial struggle.

The initial format of the Encounters was to bring together young international artists and spend time in one physical place. The pandemic took away the main feature of that format – live encounter, but by joint efforts using digital space, communication tools and ubiquitous phenomena of working from home, we still achieved some degree of togetherness, acquaintance and discussion, continuity of encounters and exchange of artistic practices and thoughts.
The topics that the research defines, draw our attention to the tension, pressures, saturation of society, the opening of new fields of struggle, and living conditions around us. The question of whether the new normal, post-covid reality, or whatever one calls it, is time to think about the skills that will keep us ‘alive’ online, but also the more demanding offline space of the struggle for survival, and how we will fight the transformations of public spheres and space, remain open.

Organized by the Create to Connect -> Create to Impact network in the form of Working Encounters

About Working Encounters

Cultural and media space is a terrain of proliferation as well as dispute and struggle regarding these topics: heroes and superheroes are everywhere, but whose heroes are they and for whom? From mythology, to antifascist and anti-colonial struggles and all the way to pop culture and media celebrities, the notions of hero and heroine carry many references and possible readings. The current heated debate on the future of life on our damaged planet, especially in light of the ongoing pandemic crisis, also creates its own heroic figures (in plural) looking beyond the “one and only” human. If, as Boris Buden says, society is no longer a medium for realising the utopia,* are superheroes the harbingers of society’s imminent apocalypse, or a piece of ideologically charged neoliberal propaganda claiming that society does not exist? Do we “need” superheroes so as not to expect anything from society, but instead pin our hopes on supernatural powers? If heroes are real and superheroes figures from folklore, vernacular and fiction, is this line separating the rational from the irrational so straight? What are other narratives and other stories?

Heroes and their nemeses – villains – are figures made of ambivalence, values and acts on the border of ethics and politics or “right”/“wrong”, politically “in/correct”. Who is seen as a “villain”, who is seen as “heroic”, “a hero” and why? What is the meaning of a hero in history and today? What are the differences between heroes in popular culture and in real life? What powers do heroes have? What do heroes reveal about the condition of the society that generates them? Are heroes only human? Who are the aliens within?

Situated and local views are important to us, but we are also aware of the interactions that are necessary for equilibrium, be it political or ecological. Who are the heroines in our history and life and who are the superheroes in yours? What are the threads that connect them, where do they meet?

On Villains, Aliens and Superheroes. On Other Stories is an experimental artistic online project that gathers fifteen international artists from around the globe, who are invited to respond to the topic.

As part of their shared research process and inputs, three renowned artists who have dealt with the topic in their practice are invited to present their work in public. They will be interviewed by the editors of the project:

Those three online talks will be open to the general public:

Bojan Đorđev, a theatre director from Belgrade, will moderate the first discussion on September 15, starting at 19:00, with Rabih Mroué, theatre and visual artist from Beirut, author of performances, videos, installations, and performative ‘non-academic lectures’, some of which also address the Lebanese civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East.

Mroué was introduced to Belgrade’s theatregoers back in 2011, when he visited with his performance Inhabitants of Image, engaging with the cult of ‘martyr’ heroes of the Lebanese civil war; this was organised by Walking Theory / Teorija koja hoda. Mroué attracted considerable international attention with his performance Pixelated Revolution, premièred in 2012 at documenta (13) in Kassel, which explores recordings of the Syrian civil war made by telephone, including one in which a man records his own killer as he fires the bullet.

In 2016, Mroué won the special prize of the 50th Bitef Festival for his performance Riding on a Cloud. His forthcoming work, Second Look, a TV series co-authored with his artistic collaborator Lina Majdalanie, was commissioned by the steierischer herbst festival, occurring this year under the title of ‘Panic TV’, where it will be premièred online on 24 September.

Mroué is a director in residence at the Munich Kammerspiele theatre and visiting lecturer at a number of art schools in Europe, including DAS Theatre in Amsterdam, where he was Đorđev’s mentor.

September 17, 19:00. Set up as an everyday chat, the talk between the writer Barbi Marković and the artist and curator Nataša Maćkuljak will be a stroll through Barbi’s novel Superheldinnen [Superheroines] and an analysis of their super powers as migrants in the city of Vienna. Mackuljak and Marković are both currently living in Vienna and come from former Yugoslavia.

September 19, 18:00. Ivana Marjanović, a curator from Belgrade, currently director of Kunstraum Innsbruck, will interview Želimir Žilnik, a filmmaker from Novi Sad. Žilnik has been active since the 1960s, from the Yugoslav Black Wave cinema movement on. Three of his films, featuring retiring female textile industry workers (Vera and Eržika), a Roma man deported from the EU to Serbia (Kenedi Trilogy), and a hundred-years-old World War II resistance veteran (One Woman – One Century) will form the point of departure for a talk about heroism.
Join us in our process of searching for and creating other stories On Villains, Aliens and Superheroes!


The first edition of Working Encounters was conceptualized and organized by a group of editors:

Bojan Đorđev,

Siniša Ilić (visual artist / Belgrade),

Nataša Mačkuljak

and Ivana Marjanović,

together with Dragana Jovović (producer / Belgrade).

Production assistant: Jovana Jankov

Design: Katarina Popović

This website & multimedia production: Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

Participating Artists, from different parts of the world and with multidisciplinary backgrounds in performance, visual arts and writing: Tamara Antonijević, Rodrigo Batista, Tamar Botchorishvili, Cristina Gagiu, Nicola Gunn, James Jordan Johnson, Jovana Kocić, Lea Kukovičič, Marija Marjanović, Rita Natálio, Ariadna Rubio Lleo, Zuzana Sceránková, Tanja Šljivar, Vanda Velagić, Mohamed Yusuf Boss, Jaukje van Wonderen and researcher Dan Podjed.

Create to Connect -> Create to Impact Network consists of: Bunker (Slovenia), ARTSADMIN LBG (UK), Drugo more (Croatia), Etablissement Public du parc et de la Grande halle de la Villette – E.P.P.G.H.V (France), Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos – CULTURGEST (Portugal), Fundatia Alt Art Pentru Arta Alternativa (Romania), Institut Umeni – Divadelni Ustav (Czech Republic), Museum of Contemporary Art – Tbilisi (Georgia), NTGENT (Belgium), Santarcangelo dei Teatri (Italy), Stichting Noorderzon Groningen (Netherlands), Stichting Theater Rotterdam (Netherlands), Stiftelsen Bergen Internasjonale Teater (Norway), United Artists Labour (Serbia), Scientific Research Centre (ZRC SAZU) – Institute of Slovenian Ethnology, Institute of Ethnomusicology, Institute of Culture and Memory Studies (Slovenia).

Working Encounters is supported by the Creative Europe program of the European Union and the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia.

More information about the project topic and project concept can be found HERE.

SAVE THE DATE: Final online presentations by participating artists: October 1–3, 2020.