In short and in a nutshell, Matrijaršija (pronounced: mah-tree-yar-shee-ya) defines itself as an autonomous cultural centre. However, each of these definitions (both autonomous and cultural and center) is more a problem than a solution. We could say that Matrijaršija is first and foremost a place. Yet, Matrijaršija, in its present form, represents a materialization of a much larger network of production, action, poetics, cosmogonies, contextual positionings, convictions, fluid yet solid and complex platform of artistic, existential and theoretical practices. Even though it refers in the opposite direction to Patriarchy – the highest institution in the Serbian Orthodox Church and guardian of the hierarchical establishment, Matrijaršija can at best be associated with impossible binaries, flawed or faux feminisms, suspicious undergrounds, corrupted elitisms, extroverted autisms…
Matrijaršija was created in 2014 when two formal associations (Turbo Comix and Artiljerija) and several informal groups came together, along with constant collaboration with Art Brut Serbia Association, several close friends and numerous collaborators. The perplexing (non)structure of Matrijaršija includes the Novo Doba Festival crew and its Fijuk distribution network, as well as informal art collectives Mubareć, Dedice and Bitlsti. This weird order of things created a space for non-institutional, art brut, non-aligned, fringe or outsider art, for authors who did not perceive themselves as artists, who were both discursively and factually beyond the borders of existing options the artworld had to offer, even beyond what was considered possible. Matrijaršija is therefore an impossible place – what happened before its existence was even possible or conceivable had been happening for years, and even though Matrijaršija appears as a quite natural continuation of those activities, they could have very well taken place elsewhere.
Though it might not have been clear from the beginning, today it is certain that the goal of Matrijaršija is to become a powerful generator of turbulent art (specific visual and musical art practices leaning towards artists who work outside the existing rigid system of education, production and presentation of art), as well as different ways of communication with the audience. During its first couple of years and trying out different models of organization, today Matrijaršija is dominantly focused on creating a material basis for production (in terms of space and time, as well as motley and maverick ways of funding) and a clever platform for planning, expanding and protecting the strategies for exhibiting artworks in relation to the venue and the audience.
Matrijaršija is currently a patchwork of various individual and collective living art phenomena from Belgrade, Serbia, the region and the whole of Europe. During its seven years of existence it had become a center of congregation for various authors who joined its non-structured network, as well as acknowledging and encouraging particular existential and working practices, which more and more are coalescing into a specific type of custodianship and preservation of the semi-public status of this type of art and the thriving network in which it exists. Regarding organization, the activities that take place in Matrijaršija include work on its annual program (both exhibitions and performances), the artist-in-residence program Prekomanda (Transferal), and non-stop activities in several of its studios and workshops: screen printing, graphics and music.
Poetically and categorically hard to define, the creative output of Matrijaršija is dedicated to recognizing the codes of social roles and structures, in order to allow for their recombination (art and exhibition practices combined with turbo-folk music; urban, intellectual art combined with other fringe territories – music, politics, the media world, the politics and religion of the media world). The absolute apogee of these decoding activities that take place in Matrijaršija is reached through friendship and interaction with the members of Bitlsti (a group of young guys with various intellectual disabilities), who make the arbitrary nature of every code blatantly apparent, even the most unquestionable ones like language, and who bring immense joy when they release us from their chains.