MAY 23 — 26, 2024

Joining forces, reaching wider

In conversation with Lara Mejač

ETC. is an international art magazine published once a year with the aim of creating a medium for showcasing current international and local artistic production as well as establishing a common space in the field of emerging arts ‘from the Balkans to the Baltics’, as their tagline goes.

For the next three years, ETC. Magazine is taking over the artistic direction of LJUBLJANA ART WEEKEND. As our young platforms share many of the same viewpoints and objectives, we decided to join forces and connect the publication’s topic with our Art Weekend programme. 

During the preparation of this year's edition, which is thematically connected to the next issue of the magazine, titled Selling Out, we sat down with ETC.’s curator, Lara Mejač, to talk about this year’s programme as well as their vision for future editions.

Conceptualising and conceiving any art magazine is a formidable task on its own. For our readers who are not that well acquainted with ETC.’s unique format, could you explain its structure and inner workings?

The core team includes Ajda Ana Kocutar and myself as curators, and Hana Čeferin as the editor of the magazine. Working as a team is crucial, as it allows us to incorporate different perspectives on a chosen topic for each issue and the selection of the artists. Our activities are not limited to publishing the magazine; many of the projects presented in the magazine find their way into various exhibitions and presentations we organise throughout the year between the issues. Each issue also features a guest curator, which allows us a better understanding of other art scenes from the regions we are focusing on - this year, we welcomed a Latvian curator, Tīna Pētersone. 

Another key element of our way of working is our partnership network. The magazine was founded in cooperation with DobraVaga/Kino Šiška, Ravnikar Gallery Space, Galerija Fotografija, and Look Back and Laugh publishing house. These connections facilitate the collaboration of different actors in the local area and at the same time enable an international reach. 

What inclined you to accept the proposal of taking over the artistic direction of Ljubljana Art Weekend? What do you assume are some opportunities or advantages of connecting two platforms such as ours?

Our line of thinking when we were asked to step in for the artistic direction was quite similar to your platforms’ - not only do we have several goals we want to achieve in common, but we also work inside the same art infrastructure, meaning we will probably run into the same obstacles as well as opportunities. We have similar aims in reaching audiences, showcasing the local art scene internationally, as well as mapping the artistic landscape of the regions that we feel are often overlooked. We believe that through our group effort in putting together this year’s programme and by combining our audiences, we could in some ways contribute to the greater visibility of our local artists, art spaces, and professionals working in them.

The publication date of the third issue of ETC. is fast approaching. This year's topic is Selling Out - can you tell us more about this particular issue? How does the process of topic selection work?

We’re excited that the third issue is currently in print and is expected to launch by the end of March. When choosing a topic, we always start from our own position and choose matters that seem personally relevant to us at the time, as well as considering the focuses that currently preoccupy the younger generations of artists. 

In this year’s issue, we explore the conditions of work in the art world and beyond, the issues of commodification, the impossibility of exiting a system that demands more and more of us, as well as not working as a kind of resistance against the current situation. The artists included in this year’s issue are working in different mediums and are coming from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Because we believe this topic is very relevant and enables a wide variety of different perspectives and artistic positions, we decided to connect it to this year’s edition of Ljubljana Art Weekend as well. It was quite easy to apply the overarching topic of Selling Out to various events of the main curated programme, which, as mentioned before, in some shape or form deals with ideas of (free) labour, the question of working conditions etc.

Tell us more about the curated programme, what are some of the new features that can we expect to see in the third edition of Ljubljana Art Weekend?

Without spoiling too much, some of the main events we look forward to are the following: we are organising a roundtable with internationally renowned curators to discuss the impact of trends, working conditions, social networks and digital media on curating today. The participating curators will then also take part in meet cute, networking event with local and international artists with curators. We believe that this kind of format will create new connections between the local art scene and the international professional community, and new opportunities for prospective emerging young artists. New to this year's programme is the LJUBAW grant, which will be awarded to one of the artists participating in the Meet Cute, a networking event connecting artists and curators. In line with this year's ETC. Magazine and LJUBAW's thematic focus, we decided that the winning artist, decided by a public lottery, does not owe us any reporting or new production, but is encouraged to enjoy the grant in any way they see fit. Another Ljubljana Art Weekend format we are further building on are artwalks, guided curated walks conceptualised by different curators and artists, which will give the audience completely new insights into the artistic production in Ljubljana through the eyes of different art professionals. The curatorial team of the magazine is also preparing a large group exhibition accompanying the magazine in an off-space. 

Besides the curated programme, the key component to Ljubljana Art Weekend is, as ever, the initiative’s close collaboration with more than 25 art institutions, galleries and project spaces, which will provide compelling and diverse exhibitions, guided tours, workshops and other events. We believe this year's programme will open up new perspectives on our local artistic environment to guests from abroad, while also offering exciting events for local audiences. 

It appears as if Ljubljana is quite isolated from international artistic (media) spaces, and, perhaps more importantly, audiences. In your view, what makes Ljubljana worth visiting?

Ljubljana is a very unique space, both historically and culturally. It is a contained, walkable city that still offers a great selection of artistic events and everyone can find something to their taste. We hear from surprised guests time and time again, how the production here is thriving, but still it seems isolated from the international art scene. For example, younger artists from Slovenia rarely get a chance to show their works abroad and are too often even underrepresented in local public institutions. Nevertheless, Ljubljana has already proven that it can be an active participant on the European scene; just look at the Arteast 2000+ Collection (+MSUM), Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory and Igor Zabel Award, Manifesta 3, Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts and many others. I think the format of our magazine, as well as the initiative of Ljubljana Art Weekend, emerged because we noticed the lack of systemic policies to support local artists in their international endeavors as well as the need for an effort to reach broader audiences. We think we have the capacity to attract (more of) the professional public and we believe now is the time to do it. 

Lastly, what is your vision for the future of Ljubljana Art Weekend? How do you envision its role in both local and international spaces?

Firstly, we want to continue to strengthen our existing connections with the local actors and think about alternative ways to create new formats, sustainable structures and programmes that would be beneficial to the art sector as a whole. 

In the next years, we are also hoping to make lasting connections and exchanges with our neighbouring countries as well as decentralise the platform by including initiatives from other parts of Slovenia. With each new edition, we are further building upon our already-established media and other partnerships. We noticed we already have a loyal group of audiences that are returning each year, but there is also an encouraging growing interest in new visitors already planning their visit this year. In short, we (humbly) want Ljubljana Art Weekend to become a memorable event for contemporary visual art both at home and in the region and an annual event worth marking your yearly calendars for.