“Real Presence” set off in 2001, when Serbia undertook the path of democratic changes after ten years of crisis and cultural isolation. Parallel with processes of democratization, this manifestation acted with the goal to sustain the value of culture as a field of coexistence of differences, as well as to open up channels of communication and artistic exchange between Serbia and other cultural contexts and encourage post-war generations to articulate and express their creative visions, ethical attitudes and positions towards reality in the multitude of its aspects.
In the last 8 years “Real Presence” involved more than 1500 young artists from 59 countries, from more than 100 art academies and therefore can be considered the biggest international workshop currently operating in the Balkan. With its activity it contributed that Belgrade become again an active link within cultural network of the region and it stimulated great number of collaborative artistic projects that dealt with issues of identity and diversity, urgency for the communitarian engagement and most of all, preciousness of direct, personal experience in the process of knowing the other.
This is the legacy but at the same time the starting point for every next edition of “Real Presence”, that seeks to re-edit its inner dynamic but also remains coherent to its basic conceptual and organisational guidelines that shaped its originality and uniqueness. “Real Presence” is focused on the concrete artistic practice and functions as permanent laboratory in which cross-cultural dialogue and art production are closely interlinked. As annual event “Real Presence” maintains its basis in Belgrade, but it also seeks to expand the radius of action and interact with institutions and manifestations in other European cities. In 2002 it was one of the organisational partners of Staedelschule in Frankfurt for the “Gasthof” – encounter of European art academies that gathered about 200 students and professors in the occasion of Manifesta 4. In 2005 “Real Presence” was realised as parallel event within official program of 51° Venice Biennial in collaboration with FDA - IUAV, in 2007 within 10° Istanbul Biennial and in 2008 it was hosted by Castello di Rivoli – Museum of Contemporary Art and within its program was presented by Yoeri Meessen and Adam Budak the 7th edition of European Biennial Manifesta held in Trentino / Alto Adige.
“Real presence” means being aware of “here and now”, and for artists it means being receptive and engaged in the surrounding context, functioning as a sensor capable of capturing inputs and contents, experiences and stories that can be analyzed, elaborated and narrated through different artistic media.
Therefore, different context and cultural / geographical provenience of participants provides different content of the workshop, and in this case, specific geographical constellation of involved partners furnish additional sources for thematic articulation of the project. Notions of borders and boundaries, openness and closeness, inclusion and exclusion were as a subtext, interwoven in the core of this manifestation from the very beginning, since it is originated in a country which is struggling with its recent past and uncertain political present, still on the borders of EU. Overcoming the sense of closeness and exclusion is still an urgent issue in Serbia, that matters especially for young generations. Overcoming barriers and boundaries is still intellectual and existential need. Encounter of young artists coming from different cultural backgrounds, stimulated to share ideas and engage themselves in collaborative projects, is an antidote to this condition.