LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA – This is Miha Turšič, a Slovenian artist who today spent his 15th day on a hunger strike to protest what he calls the “bureaucratization of culture” and the lack of state funding for the arts in this small alpine nation. In my experience –mainly through the stories of exasperation shared by colleagues and friends who work in the arts here—both are big problems.
This was taken at a press conference today at the national Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, where Turšič has passed, during the institution’s working hours, those 15 days, largely confined to a reconstruction of the Trieste Constructivist Cabinet, originally built in 1927 for an exhibit at the Public Gardens pavilion in the Italian port city.
The space, which includes futurist paintings and levitating sculptures, was a collaboration conceived by Edvard Stepančič, Avgust Černigoj, and Josip Vlah, members of the Slovene avant-garde, and Italian futurist Giorgio Carmelich, as an early study of space, gravity and motion. A year later pioneering space travel theorist Herman Potočnik Noordung, also a Slovene, published his ground-breaking study, “The Problem of Space Travel: The Rocket Motor“.
Fast forward eight decades to 2012, when Turšič was one of three co-founders of KSEVT, the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies, an institute promoting research in the fields of what they call “space culturalization”, whose facility is located in the Slovenian village of Vitanje where Potočnik’s family originated. As do Turšič’s reasons for taking the dramatic step he did on 30 September. And thus his connection to the cozy installation where he spends part of his day resting.
He’s doing well, he said, but tires quickly. He’s already lost eight kilograms over the past two weeks, a substantial amount for the already lanky 39 year-old, which is leaving him sapped. But he’s remained sharp and articulate as attention to his hunger strike continues to grow, and with it a media and political spotlight which has already resulted in appearances before parliamentary committees and visits by the Prime Minister and Minister of Culture.
When he embarked on his hunger strike, Turšič presented three key demands: the removal of the director of the Directorate of Creativity at the Ministry of Culture; the reformation of KSEVT from a municipal to a national institution; and that the share of the national budget for culture and art be increased to two percent.
There’s already been movement on demand No 2. At a ministry meeting on Wednesday (14 Oct), a proposal was presented to create a national space agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Economy of which KSEVT would be a stakeholder.
Demands 1 and 3 are much more complex, and will wait for another day. Turšič says they’re all but being ignored and isn’t leaving his day-sitting job at the Constructivist Cabinet any time soon.
If you’re interested in keeping up, I’ll be covering the story elsewhere as it develops, and also blogging about it on my newish professional site, BobRamsak.com. Below, a few more images. For editorial licensing, please see the images I filed for Corbis / Demotix.