It is claimed that Belgrade Waterfront, an ultramodern construction project on the inner city banks of the River Sava, will transform the Serbian capital into a global metropolis within the next 30 years. It is supposed to generate multifaceted opportunities in the realms of commerce, places to live and work as well as transport and leisure. This development is intended to attract the interest of foreign investors and create an international hub for business.
Alongside investment by the Serbian government, the Abu Dhabi based real-estate company, Eagle Hills, will contribute 68% to the €3.5 billion project. The promise is that this will benefit the economy through new jobs. However, it is unclear whether this influx of money will have any real impact on most ordinary people in Belgrade, who on average earn €400 per month.
The plans will influence the entire infrastructure of the city. The new ‘quarter’ will further gentrify Savamala, one of Belgrade’s oldest districts, whose residents will be uprooted and smaller businesses evicted. Social segregation can already be seen in the evacuation of the refugee camp Miksalište. Critics fear that the project will infringe citizens’ rights, breaking laws and violating the constitution.
The question arises whether the project is socially acceptable, given that it has been extensively financed from the national budget.
Following intensive preparatory workshops, in April this year my classmates and I from the course ‘Culture and Identity’ at the University of the Arts Bremen (Germany) went on a ten-day trip to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Each student developed an individual project on location, responding to the broad theme of transition. We spent the past months editing and writing about our works to put together a group publication, comprising of media such as graphic design, photography, essays, interviews and illustrations. It is called White City, which refers to the translation of Beograd, and will be published this autumn.
Since I used to live in London for many years, I have maintained a strong interest in gentrification processes. My personal work focuses on cultural themes in urban spaces, incorporating issues of housing, redevelopment and displacement.
Researching through archives and journals, I engaged with the implications of urban restructuring in a post-socialist state. I proceeded to investigate Belgrade’s district Savamala, landmarked as historical, on the threat of gentrification and commercialisation. During fieldwork, my intention was to visualise the juxtaposition between the developing and the decaying against the backdrop of the phenomenal construction project 'Belgrade Waterfront'.
Future aims for the work
In the beginning of October, this work will be shown in a group exhibition at the Dong-Won Gallery in Daegu (South Korea), as part of the Net Photo Festival, in collaboration with the Daegu Photo Biennale. Our Master’s studio will exhibit the photographic works produced in Belgrade. In addition to it, we will present a dummy of our group publication.
I am currently working on a short-run edition for The rumours are true. However, I would like to extend this publication with diverse interviews by next year.
The plan is also to exhibit this body of work in Belgrade in the future.
Is the series finished?
The rumours are true is work in progress.
Belgrade, one of Europe’s oldest cities having a turbulent history, has attracted my interest as a vibrant metropolis. I attempt a further spatial analysis of Savalama, the ancient part of the town, once derelict and neglected. Stretching along the riverfront, the former industrial area has undergone rapid gentrification to become a creative hub over the past years. As a component of global integration, it has in it the momentum to become a determinant in the new urban landscape. I would like to explore the dynamics of physical and social change as well as the effects of political and economic transformation.
Anything else you’d like to include.
I would like to thank Peter Bialobrzeski as well as the Goethe-Institut for making it possible for a fellow student and myself, to travel to South Korea to showcase our work in early October.