Zagreb – the Virgin City of Street Art

It’s hot these days in Dugave and not just because of the scorching temperatures but also because of the Street Art Museum that’s been hot “on the menu” for the last two weeks. We have all wondered why the sudden change of location from the city’s center to its most southern neighborhood, not exactly a part of the usual everyday route for many people. Dugave was a socialist project of the future where the idea of housing was based on the assumption of a more humane form of the layout organization as opposed to the rectangular disposition of other neighborhoods in Novi Zagreb. Towards the end of the 1970s the fields in Dugave were urbanized with objects made of concrete and financed by the state in order to enable housing for 120,000 new inhabitants that were to help the city’s industrial development, its science and administration. As evidence of the aforementioned, there are many large green areas that remind more of open fields surrounded by collective housing. We met with Ivana Vukšić in front of the “Octagon”. Ivana is the good spirit of Dugave; organizer, producer and Jack-of-all-trades of Street Art Museum, and she has walked us through the neighborhood in which the aroma of stuffed paprikas mixes with the smell of acrylic colors; showing us what has been done. So far, about 30 murals have been finished and a couple more will be done by the time of the opening. The neighborhood’s bike will also be presented at the opening and it will be possible to borrow its key which will be kept in the neighborhood’s most famous bar. *Ivana Vukšić (foto: Domagoj Blažević) Ivana believes in Dugave wholeheartedly and she is making good use of its potential: “Novi Zagreb is not a ghetto. It’s a quiet little town, especially Dugave. There are no more drunkards here than in the center of the city. There are a lot of green areas and space, a lot of families with small children, there’s no stress. However, one thing that does happen here is mental ghettoization. They are completely cut off from the city; some of them have never left the neighborhood.” She adds that the other day one of the people living in the neighborhood has come and threatened to call the police and the city authorities, demanding they leave. So, why all this trouble if nobody wants to accept it, what’s the point? And, so we’ve chatted a little about the “click” in the heads, activism in the works, ideas for the future. There are moments when it seems that the resignation has taken over Ivana completely, but then she gets word that a TV crew from Slovenia has come to shoot the works. Here’s what Ivana has to say: ON THE “CLICK” IN THE HEADS OF THE PEOPLE OF DUGAVE: “A click” is bound to happen. They see that someone is doing something here; someone has come to their neighborhood. Some Englishman has come to Croatia and the first thing he has seen is Dugave. The thing that’s missing is an association of citizens, there’s no more citizens’ initiative; meaning if you are unhappy with the situation and you want to change something, don’t wait for the city to give you the money to do it. No one seems to have the will to change something anymore, people have stopped sweeping their garages, their walls have been written and painted on, and they are completely overtaken by apathy. MUU is a living example that something can be changed because we are all volunteers. We want to build sort of a mini-bridge so that people that are not from around here can come here to take a look at what the artists have been doing, and while they’re at it, also have a cup of coffee. In a way, we are creating a reason for the people to come to Dugave, we are offering a cultural content. I have noticed that a heterogeneous spectrum of people has been visiting: an elderly gentleman with a big camera was taking pictures of the artists for “his personal collection”. He had found out about this online and he ended up spending half a day with us. Certainly nothing revolutionary is going to happen; like for example, Dugave is not going to become the most famous neighborhood in Novi Zagreb. But, once this whole thing is over, then the real life can begin, without our moving around. ONTHE 3D MAPPING BY THUS FAR AT THE OPENING: They have never done music with live picture before; they usually prepare it in advance, which means that even they don’t know how this will turn out. They have a bit of a stage-fright because we are announcing this as a big event, and it really is, seeing as this is the first time that it’s happening here in non-commercial capacity.  It will officially also be the last event at the museum. ON NEXT YEAR’S PLANS: The project has been applied to the competition organized by the ministry and the city for Siget, another neighborhood in Novi Zagreb, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We have worked well with the sponsors for colors, maybe next year we will come up with some additional stories and actions. Maybe even painting of a whole building. The thing is though, one year you get the money and then the next you get nothing, there are no guarantees, but the will is still there. I would like for us to have enough money to spend two weeks in Siget and a week on the coast. Also, along with the fact that it is beneficial to the community, my big wish is to turn this into a platform which will enable other collaborations to happen originating from our projects; which will help develop the concept of think-tank, brain trust in a small place. I want to get some legal walls in the city’s center seeing as we don’t have the money for the whole project. We have sent a request to Europa Cinema to let us paint their backyard in a way to make the Miškec Alley a kind of a street art alley. We have also started collaborating with the Faculty of Architecture and we may get one of the walls there as well. We almost managed to get BLU onboard as well, one of the most famous street art names, but due to a huge bureaucracy we didn’t have a wall for him. This basically means I can’t make any plans before knowing how much money I have, or even if I have any money at all. ON THE MUU BEING ZAGREB’S BRAND, THE CITY’S LANDMARK: That’s definitely my goal, assuming the collaboration with the city continues in that direction and they are willing to support it. Then, we can put Zagreb on the map of those world cities that “dig” street art. We could organize sightseeing of locations for tourists, but also bring other artists to work here, they all know each other. When it comes to this, Zagreb is the virgin city; these are the first street arts here. People find it exciting, especially foreigners, since they no longer find it interesting to create in the world’s big cities because no one notices it. But, here they have experienced real, genuine, reactions from people.  The role of our web is precisely that – communication; base of all the works people have been sending to us, a mini-virtual museum on the web. It would also include a tourist offer of the sort “get to know Zagreb through street art” and ultimately become autonomous, stop depending on institutions, and accumulate own money. ON ACTIVISM IN THE WORKS: When you look at the 60s and the 70s and compare them to today, you realize there is really no comparison between how much action in public areas there was then and how much there is now. This creates an impression that everyone here is happy, and that there are no grudges against society. In an ideal case Zagreb would be an urban city with a clear support for this type of art. There is a critical mass of people, designers, illustrators that want to change something, but for some reason they are not doing it on the street. The project has been organized also in order to inspire that criticism in public areas. Now, I’ve really started to realize the upside of living “in the country”, because if we’d started this in New York, no one would’ve cared. It’s not like we’ve discovered hot water, but probably not many people would go through this torture now if they knew. Here I’ve called on people based on my own sensibility, but I’m sorry that none of them seems to have a bit of more activist tendencies, to create murals with a political message. The group that is currently painting here is simply not interested in that; that’s not something they want to deal with. I’m hoping for that dimension in the future. ON THE BRANIMIROVA STREET PROJECT: Last year, it was practically a marginal project where it was important for me to have referential people on the panel; like Mrle, Kožarić, Rogina, Ilić and that’s why we came up with the competition that was like a test for people, and it was more about the basic meaning of medium, but also about making the public aware of this type of art. At first, in Dugave, we were only given the school and the kindergarten to paint on; and then when people realized we were benign, in the period of two weeks, we got many more walls. That sociological aspect, people whose surroundings are being “enhanced” is much more important in Dugave. ON STIPAN TADIĆ’S WORK: His work can be found on the building of the local board (it shows a group of smiling people of darker complexion in bucolic environment), and he will also put here some made-up biblical name and add unicorns, koalas, and cows. The working title is “Arrival of the blacks in Dugave”; he is possibly the only one that has that dimension of a provocateur, and I’ve heard that the people have already commented on why there are blacks near the local church. But, Stipan always manages to provoke in a way that makes it difficult for people to see through. ON THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF STREET ART: Art isn’t art because it’s illegal. We’re also not trying to take away the suspense from this, or destroy its wild side… You channel your creative energy and steer it towards the rotten tissue of the city. People continue to do what they want. *The attached photos are made by the hands and iPhone of Ivana Vukšić, Director of MUU