CoBA at UCL in December

Continuing UCL Ex-Yu Society’s “Conversation with…” series Ana Russell-Omaljev and Branislav Radeljic talk about their paths to CoBA, its history and the idea behind its creation. Their initial idea was to engage people through art. The conspicuous absence of state efforts to promote culture from Ex-Yugoslav states left an unmet need. Further motivation is found in the desire to change the stereotypical view of the Balkans: aggressive, unpredictable, explosive, passionate, powder keg, tragic and epic in its own way – that crazy, brutal exotic corner of Europe. CoBA show Balkan artists’ talent and professionalism, showcasing new artistic practises that developed while the region was largely sidelined. Balkan artists are now being increasingly recognised in the World’s art markets as adopters of modernist trends with a unique culture, identity and community. Artists in Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo and beyond carefully observe what is happening in Vienna, Berlin and Paris. London is the ideal base for COBA because the Balkan–UK connectivity is still fresh and allows space for creative exploration – to prove that this particular art can escape its local context and speak the universal language. Ana and Branislav further addressed the issues of relationships between the state and art in the Balkans, the promotion of ex-Yugoslav culture and arts abroad, and current difficulties and opportunities of cultural production in post-Yugoslav states.

In the last two years, CoBA hosted several exhibitions in London including: Interruption and Point of View at The Library, St Martins Lane, Six Artists of the Balkans at Gallery 106, Fulham and Heterotopia at Dering Street, Mayfair. Forthcoming COBA projects include ‘Conversation with Marko Ilic’, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow from UCL SSEES, on the topic of Yugoslavia’s alternative art production between 1968-1989 at the Serbian Embassy on 22 February 2018 and ‘South East European Future Festival (SEEF) in October in London.