Aspirations, Tensions and Failures of 1960s' State Cultural Policies

Sweet 60s / seminar

The seminar Aspirations, Tensions and Failures of 1960s' State Cultural Policies deals with the issues of cultural policies and state representation as viewed through the phenomenon of large-scale exhibitions, biennials and film production from the 1960s and 1970s. Post-WWII decolonisation brought about increased desire and attempts to create communication and exchange among the countries of the peripheries, beyond and contrary to the mediation of the Great Powers, on a political level witnessed by the rise of the non-aligned movement, formed in 1961. At the same time, newly sovereign countries were looking for forms through which to represent themselves, and for ways to build new cultural alliances. Some of the questions the seminar aims to explore are: How is the state represented and how is the idea of nation being positioned through culture? In what way did the state cultural policy work and change in different geographical areas throughout the 1960s? How have these cultural policies historically influenced the cultural institutional setting and artistic agency? In what ways did the language of the avant-garde interact with the language of nationalism? What was the interrelation between state support and censorship? The seminar attempts to research in what way the influences of the processes started in the 1960s still reverberate today, and it tries to create new approaches to deal with the questions of auto-histories, self-positioning and reinterpreting art history.

The working language of the seminar will be English.


The seminar is a part of the Sweet 60s project, organised with the support of the European Union Culture 2007–2013 Programme.

The Sweet 60s project is co-organised by, Vienna; Anadolu kultur, Istanbul, and WHW, Zagreb

Supported by:
Ministry of Culture, Republic of Croatia
City Office for Education, Culture and Sports
Trust For Mutual Understanding
National Foundation for Civil Society Development
Allianz Kulturstiftung
ERSTE Foundation

Special thanks to
Fritzie Brown and CEC ArtsLink


Friday 9 December

17 – 19 h
Film and Collectivity

Nebojša Jovanović
A curious case of Stalinist propaganda in the 1960s: ‘Sarajevo Documentary School’ in the optics of totalitarian paradigm

The presentation focuses on the so-called ‘Sarajevo Documentary School’, a group of filmmakers whose documentaries were a fundamental part of the production house Sutjeska Film in the 1960s and early 1970s. The starting point will be a recent historical account that dismisses these documentaries as didactic Stalinist propaganda. The presentation critically engages with this account, arguing that the SDS cannot be described only in terms of Stalinist propaganda, but that we should drop the Regime/Propaganda versus Artist/Art dichotomy, and it reductive perspective, altogether.

Rasha Salti
Trouble in Mind: Revolution and the New Arab Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. Preliminary Thoughts

In the 1950s and 1960s, revolutions and coup d'états swept through the Arab world, seating political movements and regimes that fought for freedom from colonial or semi-colonial European rule, for social justice and equality. These 'revolutions' overturned the social order, forged new political realms, and articulated a new vocabulary for citizenship and subjectivity. They inspired a new cinema, instigating filmmakers to experiment with narrative and non-fiction forms and explore a new language for subjectivity. The presentation investigates two questions; firstly how the notion of ‘the people’, or the ‘national we’ was redefined in Algerian, Egyptian, Moroccan and Palestinian cinema; and secondly how the new film idiom engaged other fields (poetry, literature and the visual arts) and experimented with narrative and non-fictional forms.

19.30 h

A series of films shot in 2005–06 in Damascus, Syria, offer a different perspective on what might come to pass in a place where people live between the competing forces of a repressive regime, a growing conservative Islamic movement, and intense pressure from the United States. This period of time was marked by momentous events: Rafiq Harriri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, was assassinated, the Syrians were put under pressure to withdraw from Lebanon after a 30-year occupation, the ‘Cedar Revolution’ came and went, elections were held in Iraq, followed by a descent into civil war, and Hezbollah strengthened its position in Southern Lebanon. These events reverberated in Syria and gave rise to widespread anxiety and anticipation around the potential for imminent change, regime change, internal reform, internal collapse, civil war and the increased power of conservative Islam.

We will live to see these things, or, five pictures of what may come to pass (2007), 47 minutes

Not a matter of if but when: brief records of a time in which expectations were repeatedly raised and lowered and people grew exhausted from never knowing if the moment was at hand or still to come
(2006), 32 minutes

(2008), 7 minutes
Produced in collaboration with Rami Farah.

Saturday 10 December

12 – 14 h

Cultural Policies Beyond Development

Nancy Adajania
Registers of Participation: Two Cultural Experiments in 1960s India with the Contemporary
This presentation concentrates on two state initiatives, one dedicated to the creation of an institution with long-term potential and international scope (the Triennale India, initiated by the visionary writer and editor, Mulk Raj Anand), and the other a cycle of fellowships modelled on the ‘genius’ grants intended to support the individual and even idiosyncratic projects of mid-career artists (the Jawaharlal Nehru fellowship awarded to the painter Akbar Padamsee, who started an inter-arts experiment called the Vision Exchange Workshop 1969-1970). The former initiative addressed exhibiting and discursive practices; the latter dedicated itself to studio and research practices. Both initiatives staked out India’s claim to participate in the cultural space of a 1960s global contemporary.

Bassam El Baroni
The Trajectories of Edification in Art and its Institutions: The Case of Egypt
Egypt's art history of the past eighty years or so reveals a highly complex web of moral and aesthetic thoughts constantly reformulated and realigned in relation to the internal and international political environment. Edification can be defined as the building up or construction of a moral, intellectual, or spiritual improvement and instruction. The talk explores, in an associative and experimental approach, the possible trajectories of the concept of edification from the intellectual/artistic practices of pre-Nasserite Egypt to the country's present day contemporary art. Using the state sponsored Cairo and Alexandria biennials, as well as a wide and varied set of examples from modern and contemporary art in Egypt and beyond, a question begins to emerge: how far away from the idea of Edification is contemporary practice?

14 - 15:30 h

15:30 - 17:30 h
The Role of Travelling Exhibitions in State Representation

Porter McCray
MoMA and International Program
‘MoMA and International Program’ is a story about the emergence of the post-WWII International Program of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This programme facilitated a series of exhibitions of American modern art that circulated Western Europe during the 1950s. In the summer of 1956 one of those exhibitions Modern Art in the USA arrived in Belgrade then capital of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia and for the first time brought works by Rothko, Motherwell, Pollock, Newman, Gorky, De Kooning, etc. to this part of the world. It was the only MoMA circulating exhibition of American modern art ever shown in a socialist country. This also happens to be the last exhibition in which Jackson Pollock featured as a living artist.

Ljiljana Kolešnik
Yugoslav Federal Agency for International Cultural Projects
The talk will be about the work of the Yugoslav Federal Agency for International Cultural Projects, exploring its policies and intentions, as well as the cultural impact of its projects in the 1950s and 1960s.

18 – 20 h
Official Film Production and Its Tensions

Branislav Dimitrijević
The Return of the Worker in ‘Black Wave’ Cinematography in Yugoslavia
Already in the early 1960s and especially in the second half of that decade, a generation of filmmakers, mostly influenced by cinéma vérité and nouvelle vague, advocated a move to ‘critical realism’, challenging the ideological context and triggering an official counter-attack, which in the early 1970s ended this most creative stream in Yugoslav film, known as the ‘black wave’. One of the features of these films is their empathetic relationship with the disillusionment of the working class, which was previously a central ideological subject of the revolution but subsequently became a social formation that fell into the gap opened by the political struggle between dogmatic hard-liners and liberal reformists.

Lívia Páldi
The Balázs Béla Studio (BBS)
The talk will present the Balázs Béla Studio (BBS) – a unique organisation, not only in Eastern Europe but also beyond it – which started first as a film club in 1959 and two years later was re-established as a film studio that worked both inside and outside the structure of socialist state film production. In nearly five decades it (co-)produced more than 500 films in all genres, from short features and lyrical documentary films, through long documentaries, major feature films, experimental films and video, to animations and documentation.



Nancy Adajania is a cultural theorist, art critic and independent curator, based in Bombay. She is the joint artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale. She has written and lectured extensively on extended sculpture, new media, public art and transcultural art practice (including at Documenta 11, Kassel; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Transmediale, Berlin and BAK, Utrecht). Adajania has edited a monograph, Shilpa Gupta (Prestel, 2010) and co-authored with Ranjit Hoskote, 'The Dialogues Series', an ongoing series of conversations with contemporary Indian artists (Popular Prakashan/foundation b&g, 2011).

Bassam El Baroni is a curator and art critic from Alexandria, Egypt. He is the co-founder and director of the non-profit art space Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF) and was co-curator of Manifesta 8, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Murcia, Spain, 2010, which he co-curated under the name of ACAF. Recent exhibitions and projects include Fifteen Ways to Leave Badiou, 2011; the ongoing collaborative archive project The Arpanet Dialogues, started in 2010 with Jeremy Beaudry and Nav Haq; Trapped in Amber: Angst for a Re-enacted Decade, co-curated with Helga-Marie Nordby at UKS, Oslo, Norway in 2009; Cleotronica 08, an international media art festival in Alexandria, 2008.

Branislav Dimitrijević is a lecturer in history and theory of art, writer and curator. He is Senior Lecturer at the School for Art and Design (VSLPUb) in Belgrade and collaborates with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade. With Branislava Andjelković and Branimir Stojanović he co-founded and coordinated the School for History and Theory of Images, an independent educational project in Belgrade (1999-2003). His curatorial projects include: Murder1 (CKZD, Belgrade, 1997), Konverzacija (MOCAB, 2001), Situated Self: Confused Compassionate, Conflictual (Helsinki City Museum, MOCAB, 2005), Breaking Step – Displacement, Compassion and Humour in Recent Art from Britain (MOCAB, 2007), FAQ Serbia (ACF, New York, 2010). He was curator of the Yugoslav/Serbian pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2003 and 2009.

Nebojša Jovanović is a doctoral student at the Central European University in Budapest (Department of Gender Studies), where he is writing a thesis on gender in cinema of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Yugoslav socialism. He holds a degree in psychology from the University of Sarajevo and an MA in Gender Theory from the Central European University. He works as an adjunct lecturer in psychoanalysis and film theory at the University of Sarajevo’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies.

Ljiljana Kolešnik is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Art History in Zagreb, Professor of Doctoral Studies at Zadar University, and Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Split. Her general field of interest is art and ideology in the 20th century, focusing on the situation in the former Yugoslavia. She is presently researching the modalities of cultural and artistic exchange between Yugoslavia and the Third World, and the notion of modernity exported to ‘underdeveloped countries’ in the 1960s. Her recent publications include Between East and West - Croatian Art of the 1950s (Zagreb, 2006), Work of Art as Social Artefact (Zagreb, 2006) and several articles dealing with the art, politics and popular culture of socialism. She is author of the concept and a member of the curatorial team of the exhibition Socialism and Modernity: Art, Culture, Politics 1950-1974, currently on show in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.

Porter McCray was the Director of the International Program of the Museum of Modern Art during the 1950s. Many years after his death he reappeared in public as an adjunct to the Museum of American Art in Berlin, giving lectures primarily about his contemporary reflections on travelling exhibitions of American art, with which he has been associated for many years.

Julia Meltzer has directed and produced five award-winning documentary projects. Her video work with David Thorne, including It's not My Memory of It, We Will Live to See These Things and Not a Matter of If but When has been awarded prizes at the European Media Arts Festival, Transmediale, and the Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival. Recent art work has been exhibited at Modern Art Oxford, Steve Turner Gallery, HomeWorks IV in Beirut, and the 2008 Whitney Biennial.

Lívia Páldi is a curator, and director of BAC (Baltic Art Center) Visby. She worked as chief curator at the Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest between 2007 and 2011, where she organised numerous exhibitions, including Other Voices, Other Rooms—Attempt(s) at Reconstruction. 50 Years of the Balázs Béla Studio (2009), The Producers (2008), Mircea Cantor: Future Gifts (2008), Deimantas Narkevičius: History Continued (2007), !REVOLUTION? (concept with Ulrike Kremeier, 2007), and Dreamlands Burn Nordic Art Show 2006 (with Edit Molnár, 2006). She was a contributing editor for East Art Map magazine and book organised by the artist collaborative IRWIN in Ljubljana (2002–5). She is one of the curatorial agents for dOCUMENTA 13.

Rasha Salti is an independent film and visual arts curator and writer, working and living in Beirut and New York. From 2004 to 2010, she was the film programmer and creative director of the New York based non-profit organisation ArteEast ( where she directed two editions of the biennial CinemaEast Film Festival (2005 and 2007); she also co-curated The Road to Damascus, with Richard Peña, a retrospective of Syrian cinema that toured worldwide (2006), and Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s until Now, with Jytte Jensen (2010-2012) showcased at the MoMA in New York. In 2011, she was one of the co-curators of the 10th Sharjah Biennial for the Arts, with Suzanne Cotter and Haig Aivazian. In 2011, she joined the team of programmers of the Toronto International Film Festival.

David Thorne is a Los Angeles-based cook and artist. David’s work in collaboration with Julia Meltzer ( has been exhibited in major film festivals (Toronto International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film Festival), museums and art centres (Sharjah Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, The Wexner Center, Modern Art Oxford, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Palazzo de la Papesse). From 2005 to 2007 David collaborated with Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Ashley Hunt, and Katya Sander on the project 9 Scripts from a Nation at War for documenta 12.


supported by:
Allianz KulturstiftungThe Education, Audiovisual and Culture Agency Executive Agency

supported by:
Allianz KulturstiftungThe Education, Audiovisual and Culture Agency Executive Agency