Zoran Pantelic is a member of the artist group Apsolutno, which was founded in 1993 in Novi Sad. After his dialog tour at the World-Information exhibition in Vienna, he spoke about the current political situation in Yugoslavia.
Q: What is the situation in Novi Sad, now that the war is over and a new president elected? What is the reaction of the people?
A: The problem is that the people in Yugoslavia want to change everything overnight. They believe that the change starts and all of a sudden everything becomes better. But this transition is a very complex process. The fact is that at the moment we have a political crisis in Yugoslavia. Also, as we want to be a part of the community of European countries, we have to be open for dialog and work on our competitiveness. Times will be harder than people currently expect. But we are at the end of an era, in which it was difficult to survive, and in that sense it is starting to become better. And it is of course the right time to establish new ways of life. Because as the structures of political parties and the economy are not so clear, it is merely a question of who has a vision. For example on the economical level, everything looks very chaotic; the economy completely broke down. But if the Yugoslav government would be ready to enter into the transition, then the Western and developed countries would be open to support this process.
Q: The center nodes of communication in Serbia have been massively targeted in the war. Did the communication system at one point break down completely?
A: Not really. During the NATO intervention and the bombing of Yugoslavia 90 percent of the TV towers in the whole country were destroyed. But after this intervention, the first program of the state television could be received nationwide, because everything was diverted to satellites. The reception of TV and radio is quite O.K.; it is more a question of how we can use these media: who will appear on them.
Q: At the moment, who controls the media?
A: Right now it is the opposition, the winners against Milosevic in the elections. On one hand this is good, but on the other they don't provide any access to the media for the other parties like the Socialists. They insist on presenting "the other side", so we have a black and white reality. But people believe in it, because compared to the 1990s it is now possible to hear what is going on. I think, that this is an electoral shock therapy, which will not work later on.
Q: What is your opinion on the political program of the new government? Do you think they will keep their promises?
A: It is very hard to say. The question is what will happen to the opposition. Also, the unity of 18 parties might split into different lobbies and initiatives that fight for power. So, in that case everything is open. But I am not so optimistic; I think there are going to be hard times, especially next year. You were asking if they would keep their promises. It is not a question of promise to the people, but to the other European countries. This is much more important as they provide funds and support concerning the start of the transition process.
Q: You are going to establish a media center that will provide facilities and educate people. It sounds like this is the perfect time to do that.
A: Yes, now is the right moment. But because of the strange situation during the 1990s this initiative started much earlier. At that time on one hand new technologies were invented and on the other a deep crisis destroyed the structure of the country. Those two contrasting developments created a very big gap between the Yugoslav society and abroad. Now we basically want to establish a platform to collect and exchange information on how to deal with new technologies and new media. We also aim at creating some critical mass that is necessary to become a "normal" society.
Yet it is important to keep in mind what media mean and how it is possible to control the democratization process. Politicians have recognized that we are able to show the opportunities of new media for society, especially in the city. We are very happy that they want to support us and provide the space for this media center that includes a library and a mediathek. On the other hand we also want to establish a multimedia center, which will be oriented towards non-profit production. That means not only for artists, but mainly for artistic productions. Of course, it will be open for everybody to do research or whatever. It will be a meeting point for students, high school students, people who want to learn about new media and people who want to develop and realize creative ideas.
Q: Does the new government support the projects more than previous governments?
A: Yes. Right now they see the possibility to show society, that they are ready to open doors. With the former regime there was no dialog, we were always in front of a closed door.
Q: But you also have said earlier, that the new government wants to have the full control about all media? How does this coincide with the general interest to support the New Media Center?
A: As you know radio is always important for politicians. And every time we talk about the media education center it is a little bit frightening for them, because they know that media are something very powerful. We then argument that it will be orientated towards artistic production and the cultural identity of the city. When they know that it is not only a place for high-tech artists then that is much more interesting for them. On the other hand, if we just talk about media, it becomes very dangerous for them.