we began this project as an experiment: our idea was to use extension cords as a catalyst – to ask people to improve or assert some control over public space, to share with each other an individual sharing with another individual, or as individual sharing with The People. we imagined lots and lots extension cords going out of windows into neighbours windows, and coming out of other windows and going into the street.
while thinking and planning we met two people who had all ready done far more work than we could manage to do to improve a public space. Therefore, we decided to talk more with these people and represent their efforts – they did our project better than we could ever do…..
HOW IT HAPPENED
when we first found the courtyard, and the empty pool. we were excited – it was perfect. it had interesting architectural elements that have been unused for many years, there were teenagers there, hanging out. there were a few stores too – an erotic shop, camera shop, shoe repair, hairdresser.
we covered over 300 meters of extension cords with colorful tape, and hauled it all to the pool. we zip-tied one of the extension cords up in a long tangle, then we zip-tied another. we hung some Power To The People t-shirts on the extension cords. we taped some Power To The People posters to the pool walls. and nothing happened.
when people asked what we were doing, we tried to explain. sometimes, when we could speak english with each other, we found a sympathetic ear – but when it came time to ask if we could “plug in,” it always seemed like we went too far, asked too much.
people didn’t quite trust us. – and why should they? we’ve only been here, walking these streets for a day or two!
as we worked and struggled on this plan for inspiring sharing, we needed lots and lots of help. we talked a lot to the two guys from the camera store. they were friends with the woman who ran the erotic shop, so when the camera guys were away, we asked her for a little help here or there – for a place to lock our many extension cords and other things, and yes, for power.
as we worked, the woman and her husband (Jasmin Smuda and Bojan Smuda), sat and we talked and laughed. they told us a lot about Pancevo, and they said that if we had our event on sunday, they’d open the erotic shop so we could have power. when we left for dinner, they locked our things away.
hours later, we walked by and they were still there, and we began talking some more. they told us that they put up the street lights in the courtyard and powered them, with their own money. they pointed to the very intricate graffiti on all the walls, and said they had paid graffiti artists to come and paint there.
they described how there used to be someone who came and maintained the courtyard, but they stopped coming. there used to be water in the pool and light bulbs in the lights, but the city stopped paying for it.
they said that if they didn’t make the courtyard better, no one would.
INTERVIEW WITH BOJAN SMUDA AND JASMIN SMUDA, OWNERS OF THE EROTIC SHOP “KUPIDON”
we studied management, and we had the idea to find something that doesn’t exist here – and a sex shop is the only thing that didn’t exist in pancevo. i worked next door in the camera shop for two years before we opened the erotic shop, and then we rented this place. but after three months, i had to also take a job at a phone store.
when we got this space, it was very dark outside, and drug addicts slept there. then we put up these lights, and now it’s a lot cleaner. that was a year and a half ago.
then we met two artists, and paid them to make this graffiti. we paid for the graffiti, but for the lights, i convinced a few other shops to help pay to put them up.
the people living here were happy for the lights, but not for the paintings – they said the painters were criminals. they ask why we would pay for something like that. they’re very old fashioned!
the politicians of pancevo are not interested in this place. they won’t pay for water for the fountain. that’s problem. it’s been dry for twenty years. we’ve asked them for water, and they’ve said “no.” now people throw garbage from their windows into the fountain.
we’d like to make a mountain of rocks and stones here, with a waterfall – but if i did that, they’d throw me in jail!
we’ve asked many times for these trees here in the yard, and finally they came and planted ten.
this isn’t a political act – we’re very anti-politics! we like our shops and our people. politicians do nothing good in this town. nothing good in this world! for example, look at all the pollution. we can’t breathe here.
A FEW MORE THOUGHTS
jasmine and Bojan did something that we could never have done. we could certainly have painted graffiti and installed lights – we talked about the need for lights many times. but Jasmine and Bojan live and work there – they can power, and maintain the lights and courtyard every day, week, and year.
in the end, we have to return home to our own lives. they are – wonderfully – asserting an initiative and control towards their environment, improving it and their daily life. and they’ve succeeded.
this is precisely the difference between our actions. our plan was to create a moment of collective sharing and participation – possible and special exactly because it would be a temporary event. and, while Jasmine and Bojan have a commercial interest in improving the courtyard, our goals and ideas are aesthetic ones. while the objects might be the same – lights, power, paint, brooms – the outcome is exactly opposite: we proposed a a temporary “escape” from the norm and it’s problems and routines; Jasmine and Bojan have changed the terms of the norm, and created a new norm.
and now, this, the new norm becomes simply The Norm – and a new challenge begins: change it, improve it, and hopefully, find a moment to escape it!
Oct. 2008, Serbia – Curated by Dragan Jelenkovic
In collaboration Douglas Paulson. Listed as Parfyme.