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An Interview with Nataša Serec at Red Dawns, Slovenia, March 2009

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46° 3' 5.1336" N, 14° 30' 21.4776" E

Debi Withers (DW): Please introduce yourself....

Nataša Serec (N): My name is Natasa and I have worked in Metelkova Mesta for 15 years. I was one of the people who squatted the place in ‘93 and since then and I am very very involved. This place was before was in use of the Yugoslavian army and then when they left the buildings were free and in the city many artists – this was in the beginning and many projects - artists and art producers got places for their work.

They gathered into this network for Metelkova because negotiations with the city were too slow and it was necessary to squat the place. I forgot also to say that actually they promised this place to our network but secretly during the night they started to demolish some buildings and then it was the action the next day to squat the buildings. It was the order of the mayor of the time to demolish. This place has now 11 open spaces and they do a lot of music and 55 artists has spaces, a music studio and a political group, an anarchist info shop and we had before also some women groups but unfortunately they left, one doesn’t exist anymore, it was a lesbian group, and one was a women counselling organisation. They left because of the conditions here, they had difficulties to work.

DW: Is there a lot of support between the radical political scene and artists in Ljubljana?

N: No I think not, this is very rare that it happens or on special occasions, for example in the festival like ours but otherwise not really.

DW: When you squatted the building in 1993, were you involved in art projects yourself?

N: No I was just young student and I wanted to escape from my small town and to find something in my life interesting so I decided to come here to study but I was searching for something to be really occupied, you know to produce and realise some ideas, so no I was not. I was immediately involved with organisation.

DW: You started off the Red Dawns festival....

N: Yes yes

DW: What was the collective like? Was it a group of people and what were your original motivations for organising the Red Dawns festival?

N: Actually it was me and my friend. She was from a lesbian organisation that doesn’t exist anymore...

DW: What were they called?

N: Cassandra. She was my good friend and she was also much better educated in the sense of to know about feminism and so on, and queer scenes. We were talking a lot, you know when we were working here and in the breaks, it came up after some discussions that here in Metelkova very important roles were being played by some girls and especially at the time there really was a lot of voluntary work and solidarity and so on because nobody got any money never; really. Then we realised that girls are holding up the whole space: the biggest music club there was a girl everywhere; the artists who did a lot of actions outside rebuilding because a lot of the buildings were demolished were also girls.

In the media it was always guys and we were not pushing ourselves at the front so I have here [ie, in the Kud Mreza office] a lot of press clippings and it is always, always guys you know. They were always in the photos, interviewed by journalists and so on. So we said, let’s show to the people that we can do it and that we are anyway already doing, so we decided to do a festival where we did everything alone. Organisation, design, technical stuff, everything. Often there was only one installation connected to feminism, queer, whatever, but the others it was just women artists.

At the beginning it was quite difficult to invite artists from Slovenia and this region to do something or sing lyrics connected to feminism. Sometimes we just had exhibitions and it wasn’t political at all but it was done by female artists and then slowly, slowly....we were always inviting people from abroad and now more and more girls here in this ex-Yugoslavia region also, and then all this group started and all this gay prides and now you have this festival in Sarajevo, in Bosnia, in Zagreb has queer festival and there are some smaller towns in Croatia as well, Belgrade has it, it’s all over you know. At that time when we started it was 2000, it was just really quiet and nothing you know.

DW: It’s interesting that Ladyfests started in North America at the same time as the first Red Dawns festival. Then you decided to continue for another year....

N: Yes then we decided just to, you know we liked it, and realised that it is just such a huge place to research. It was three years before we decided to be feminist and queer international festival and not a women’s festival. When Tea came into the organisation she was studying these themes so more and more deep we went, but before when we were not so self-confident about what feminism is and why we do what we want to do, then we didn’t name the festival like this. Also we were a bit sceptical or maybe a bit afraid about how other people would take this. On our blog ( there’s a link to the National Television show where people from the media were asking what feminism means to them and they were talking and it was all really negative, if they know what it is or if they don’t it is still.

Last year there was a big protest of some guys because we wrote that some workshops are exclusively for women and because this group GenderChangers wanted this. They already complained why are we doing this and why are we excluding. I feel bad because we don’t do enough to present feminism to people through our festival, people who we invite or the programme we show because our people are already coming to the festival, people who already know what is feminism and what queer is.

DW: If you look back, what is your favourite memory of the festival in the tens years of you doing it?

N: I was enjoying each second two years when we had the 8th festival. That festival was for me really brilliant you know. This was because we had the topic to say in fuck with the gender

DW: Gender Fuck?

N: Yes, gender fuck, and for me this was so so so interesting topic to discover it and to meet all these people who came and these performances, not just this, but private talks as well, and this was really very very the best until now for me. This topic was really really not known you know, maybe even not written in Slovenian and for me also to discover you know many things I’d never heard of them. This was a big kick from our small festival to Slovenia in general.

DW: What do you think the main achievement of the festival has been?

N: It’s hard to say but we opened some topics about which there’s not much written or said, or people don’t talk or it’s still kind of taboo here. This is important. For example, this year we have porno movies and different porn movies, why different, why why? To try to give some answers on these thousands of questions. The second I think it’s important to encourage female artists to research more these kinds of topics. Also we give chances you know, on the stage, five days where they perform and express themselves.

DW: What do you think the main failures of the festival are, if you were being really critical?

N: The failures for me is that we are just in Ljubljana, just in capital and that we are allowed just 5 days a year and then nothing anymore because then I and the girls who are working will do something else, they will not be so connected anymore with the topics the festival is presenting.

DW: I think that’s a failure of all forms of organisation....How do you perceive Red Dawns in relation to other queer-feminist activism that is happening?

N: I think that we’re very similar you know. Um, I mean with some Ladyfests... but Ladyfests are also very different, what they are doing in America it seems more mainstream and sometimes it seems more anarchist, but I don’t like this ‘lady’, I don’t know why they gave it this name or where it came from but I hate it, why you give it the name Ladyfest, it’s for me stupid. When people ask me, ‘is this your red ladyfest?’ and I’m like ‘Noooo’. Sometimes we are looking for participants and we check other Ladyfest programme and we find them.

DW: Just to go back to the name, who came up with the name ‘Red Dawns’ for the festival?

N: Me and my friend who started the festival. We were also talking about this Rote Zora [a West German feminist terrorist group active in the 1980s, see ‘Interview with Rote Zora’ in Dark Star Collective (ed) Quiet Rumors: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader, Oakland: AK Press, pp. 101-107] , we also knew about this German book about this brave girl with red hair and we liked that she was Croatian. I think that the name is nice, it has the smell of something revolutionary, you know, red dawns, something is coming up that is revolutionary, giving some hope, a bit romantic maybe, I like it.

DW: What are your queer-feminist plans for the rest of the year? What will you do when the festival is over?

N: Then I have so many other things to do. We will have an evaluation and this we will do like we do every year which I think is really cool, and I think it will be very important because we will decide about next year, or how we can be more active, not just these five days, but the whole year. I think this would be more effective if we do it like this and we have regular meetings, we can go wherever we want and many things that you can do and you don’t really need a lot of money, almost nothing you know. We can get into other youth centres all over Slovenia and I think that this is important to reconnect with the whole of Slovenia.

Many thanks for the interview!?

Nataša Serec
Debi Withers and Elke Zobl
03/05/2009 - 03/08/2009
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