forth year: 2001/2002 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition / course participant's texts


Simona Zorko
The Round Table 'Cultural Spaces: Metelkova Mesto (Metelkova City) and Art Academies'



The round table 'Cultural spaces: Metelkova Mesto (Metelkova City) and art academies' arose in co-operation with the Peace Institute as a part of the accompanying programme to the exhibition entitled Media is a weapon, use it! It is somewhat not truly worthwhile constructing meanings for something that has already taken place and to by all means connect its contents with the exhibition thematic(1), however in the broader context of our project we can understand it as a simple wish to enable the articulation of the concrete local social - societal problematic alongside the action Grafitti Writter carried out by the Institute for Applied Autonomy.



Together with Aldo Milohnič and Tomaž Trplan we formed the concept of the round table. Its primary purpose was to present the spatial issue of the cultural and artistic practices in Ljubljana in general, and link this to the issue of the planned solution of the spatial problem of the three academies (Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, Music Academy, and Academy of Fine Arts) with the new building in the Metelkova area. The main reason and the basic starting point of the round table was the Letter of intent dating from the year 2000, signed by the University of Ljubljana, the Ljubljana Mayor, the Minister of Culture and the Minister of Education and Sport. For some reason this letter somehow neglected to notice the fact that Metelkova Mesto has already developed social, cultural and artistic activities.

Therefore the round table was developed also under the influence of the following issues:

  • How do the actors of the non-institutionalised (live) culture perceive their future role in Metelkova?
  • Which are the most urgent problems of the three artistic academies and what are the possibilities to solve their spatial problems?
  • Is a constructive dialogue and harmony between the artistic educational institutions and the numerous forms of non-institutional sub-cultural practices at all possible?
  • How does the town municipality of Ljubljana perceive the existence of the social-cultural centre Metelkova Mesto?


Participants and a Short Summary of the Presented Standpoints

Taking into account the problematic to be discussed, we came up with a list of participants(2) with whom we wished to achieve a confrontation of various interests linked to the broader Metelkova complex.
Bogdan Lešnik who had the role of the moderator, started off by expressing his expectations that the activities that are currently taking place on Metelkova will also remain there.
Bratko Bibič presented the results of a two and a half years long research on the premises for non-institutionalised (independent) culture. He analysed the spatial problem within the context of two discourses: cultural policy and town planning. He drew attention to the legal system safeguards, which discriminate the producers of non-institutionalised culture in their possibilities of managing public infrastructure.
He presented the case of Metelkova Mesto (in which we are actually dealing with the already fulfilled operation of non-institutionalised culture) within the broader frame of macro processes of the town planning renovation plans for this part of town. Shedding light on the various capital, town and state interests in such a way only showed in what sort of a marginal situation Metelkova Mesto is actually placed in.
As regards the planned new building he emphasised that Ljubljana plans to transform Metelkova into a cultural and educational centre and this on a symbolic level constitutes itself in the cross-section of two statuses: as a university town and as a town of culture. And, if the part where the spatial problem of the three academies being solved is relatively transparent, the issue of what sort of town of culture and what sort of culture it should be, remains open.
As the representative of the town municipality of Ljubljana Roman Lavtar firstly tried to establish the difference between the term non-institutionalised culture and the term Metelkova. However, in the continuation he did not manage to define this difference. He discussed the problems which the officials encounter when dealing with non-institutionalised culture and he presented their ways of financing. As regards the planned renovation of Metelkova and the spatial problem of non-institutionalised culture and non-government and non-profit organisations he, in general, defended the construction of multi-purpose buildings, which is in opposition to the domicile principle according to which a space is dedicated to an individual specific activity. He emphasised that the town municipality also sees the premises of the cinema in Šiška and Mostovna as the possible future premises for non-institutionalised culture.
Elena Pečarič, who works within the frame of the YHD, Youth Handicapped Deprivileged, did not start thinking about Metelkova in the sense of renovation. She passed on her experience of these premises as they occurred to her in the everyday life. For future definitions, her representation of Metelkova Mesto as a social phenomenon, is of key importance.
As the co-ordinator of Škratova čitalnica on Metelkova Tomaž Trplan discussed the spasmodic relation without a vision, which is held by the town municipality towards Metelkova Mesto. He emphasised that this is, as regards the division of power, an unequal relationship. On one side are the capital interests, professional organisation and an entire machinery of PR spokespeople, while on the other side stands a socially extremely weak structure.
As examples of unsuitable municipality behaviour he gave the power cuts, the demolition of the former school building which took place in 1997 and the inefficiency of the security services. He also showed the inability to listen to the true needs of Metelkova Mesto with the example of renovating the premises for ateliers.
He also presented the various types of productions and cultural and artistic creations which took place during the past eight years on Metelkova.
As the dean of the Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film and Television Meta Hočevar briefly, with a walk through history, drew attention to her constant lack of space and enlightened the problems of academies whose premises are on the list of denationalised premises. At the same time, she, as an architect, talked about the town strategy which is reducing the space for town creating activities (amongst them is also culture) in general, or in the best case is pushing such activities towards the periphery. As regards Metelkova she briefly described the 1995 public tender for the renovation of the North and South part and expressed the willingness of the three academies to co-habitat with the alternative culture.
As the Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts Bogoslav Kalaš amongst other issues emphasised that the situation which it currently holds in the centre of the town and in the vicinity of other cultural institutions is of great importance to the students. He also presented the characteristics and specifics of its operation (student exchange, graphic print collection, etc.).



In the discussion the issues as regards the characteristics of the projects (so far as well as in the future) for the renovation of Metelkova were discussed: what do the questionnaire, town planning and architectural tenders mean, in which phase are we dealing with the actual formation of the content, programme division of the premises, etc.
It became clear that, regarding the current state of the objects on Metelkova, only one is protected at the moment, i.e. the former prison building, which means that only in the future will it be decided as to which buildings will be demolished, and, in general, this can happen to all buildings. In general it was also presented that the future purpose of Metelkova is already defined (with the tender from 1995) in a sense that it is an area dedicated to culture and education, that in the next phase an architectural tender is planned and that Metelkova Mesto will have the opportunity to design a program, on the basis of which this tender will be performed.
The basic issue remains what will the manoeuvre space be like, to what extent and in which phase will Metelkova Mesto be able to define the conditions of its future operations; of course this is also linked to the field of managing the future infrastructure, where undoubtedly opposing interests will arise, as is already seen from the questionnaire that has been performed.

Andrej Morovič emphasised that from the side of the municipality there are no new facts or arguments, the problems are the same as they have been during the last years, only the from of representation is more elegant. At the same time he expressed his doubts, that the phenomenon Metelkova will be able to survive such a large manoeuvre as the moving of academies.

Aldo Milohnič admitted that he finds such a political solution tempting, and at the same time he raised the question why wouldn't such a political decision be adopted, which would preserve the specific identity of Metelkova Mesto.



From the side of the municipality and the state the following two issues are of importance for the future relations with Metelkova: firstly, the recognition of the fact that Metelkova Mesto is a fragile social structure, which amongst other activities also produces culture and secondly, that it is a model of urban operation, which is recognised as a special type of value within the artistic system. The recognition of this would mean a change in the relation of the municipality towards the Metelkova phenomenon in the sense that it would no longer interpret it as a degraded area or a pre-level of a certain necessary development in the cultural operation, which must yet win over the dominating forms and manners of behaviour. On the side of the municipality a qualitative jump is necessary and this move will be done at the moment when Metelkova Mesto will be recognised as a fulfilled and working urban structure. Even though it is disintegrated, amorphous, and often full of opposing standpoints, Metelkova Mesto should be an equal partner at all future decision making processes as regards the area, which is an indivisible part of its operation. As a community Metelkova therefore has two possibilities: formation of a programme which would be a base for the co-operation at the renovation process or persisting on a gradual improvement of conditions without any radical changes. As Bratko Bibič stated in his introduction the current activities are merely a format, notion, a form of a stronghold in which Metelkova has found itself already from the very beginning of the occupation of the area (1993). At the same time Bogdan Lešnik also spoke about the over 15 years long lasting struggle for space, the carriers of which found their stronghold on Metelkova. And so the self - reasoning will be dependent on the roots which Metelkova Mesto will recognise as its own, and on the basis of them the future decisions will be adopted.



(1)The exhibition focused upon the presentation of representative models of those operations of individuals and groups, who, with the aid of technology and media intervene with the dominant systems of the contemporary information society.


  • MA Bratko Bibič, co-worker of the Peace Institute Ljubljana, co-author of the Spatial problem of cultural activities in Ljubljana research
  • Meta Hočevar, dean of the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television
  • Bogoslav Kalaš, dean of the Academy of Fine Arts
  • Roman Lavtar, representative of the town municipality of Ljubljana
  • Elena Pečarič, YHD - Association for the Theory of Handicap, Club SOT-24, Town Metelkova
  • Tomaž Trplan, KUD Anarhiv, Co-ordinator of Škratova čitalnica (library), Town Metelkova


Ph.D. Bogdan Lešnik, psyhologist and sociologist of culture, co-ordinator of the Antropology of Everyday Life program at the Institutum Studiorum Humanitatis (ISH) - Ljubljana graduate school of humanities, editor of the magazine Socialno delo, president of the SCCA, Center for Contemporary Arts - Ljubljana board, Vice-chairman of Psychoanalytic Society of Slovenia.