Fostering broad and deep cultural ties is particularly relevant for a close partner and EU candidate country like Serbia, and I do feel a lot of current interest in engaging with Austria on many topics
While some of the great moments of this year’s cultural programme provided by the Austrian Cultural Forum in Belgrade are already behind us, October and November are months when the music-loving Serbian public seeks out new feasts. This was just one of the many topics that we discussed with Adrien Feix, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Belgrade and Cultural Attaché of the Austrian Embassy to Serbia.
The cultural and artistic programmes that you run very often serve to remind us of certain important historical periods during which we shared a common destiny. In this period of hyper history, how easy or difficult is it to use culture as a medium to discuss the topics today occupying our minds?
Culture, as we at the Austrian Cultural understand it, is a very broad term that encompasses not just the arts, but the entire system of customs, values and social conventions in which we live. Culture is the precondition for dialogue related to ecological, social and international topics. This is why Austrian Cultural Fora worldwide include sciences, human rights. Fostering these broad and deep cultural ties is particularly relevant for a close partner and EU candidate country like Serbia, and I do feel a lot of interest in engaging with Austria on all of these topics at the moment.
What would you highlight from the programme prepared by the Austrian Cultural Forum for this autumn and the coming winter period?
A few highlights are already behind us, such as the Austrian Film Festival in Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad, which featured two exceptional guests and a great film selection prepared together with Professor Janković from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. October and November are generally strong months for music, and the public will enjoy a strong Austrian presence at the Belgrade and Pančevo jazz festivals and at NOMUS, but also Austrian DJs performing at Novi Sad’s Club Tunnel.
Novi Sad, as European capital of culture, is still very much in the focus of our programme, with Gerhard Flekatsch’s Cabinet of Wonders exhibition appearing at different cultural stations, Austrian participation in the Art Brut exhibition of the Capital of Culture and the exhibition of Lower Austria at the Museum of Vojvodina, which will remain on display throughout November.
Your early October programme included a notable opera workshop for children and a poetry festival. In this age of digital art and various digital contents, how open are today’s young people to content based around these classical arts?
The feedback we received from Sonja Šarić‘s opera workshops is overwhelmingly positive. Children are open to all kinds of art forms, provided they are shown why such forms are interesting and relevant.
Most of the language courses for adults are available online, while experience has taught us that children need the experience of a classroom
The same goes for poetry: the International Poetry Festival Belgrade shows how lively poetry remains and this year again attracted a great proportion of young people. There really is no difference between “popular” and “classical” arts for us. Arts in general should be valued, nurtured and updated continuously.
We have just entered a new school year. To what extent do Serbia students take advantage of opportunities to study in Austria?
Serbian students are very attracted by the proximity, quality and affordability of studying in Austria, with around 1,000 of them currently enrolled in higher education in Austria.
This is, in some sense, the continuation of a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, when Serbian artists, scientists and engineers studied in Graz or Vienna, but it also shows the vitality and openness of contemporary Austrian higher education institutions, which offer numerous stipends specifically to students from the region.
This also leads us neatly on to the issue of language studies. How many students pass through your German language courses each year and are those courses available online?
Austrian language courses are offered by the Austrian Institute Belgrade, a state institution with the highest standards of quality for teachers.
Serbian students are very attracted by the proximity, quality and affordability of studying in Austria, with around 1,000 of them currently enrolled in higher education in Austria
Around 600 students enrol every year, about 1,200 internationally recognised exams (ÖSD) passed. Most of the courses intended for adults are available online, while experience has taught us that children need the experience of a classroom.
How widespread are your study courses among young people and how often do they attract businesspeople seeking to develop ties with Austria, or workers wanting to continue their careers in Austria?
The courses at the Austrian Institute are very popular among both children and young adults wanting to learn German as part of their general education, and with professionals who are looking to work in Austria. The Austrian Institute offers highly effective intensive “Sprint” courses for professionals who need to learn basic German in just a few months.
You have a permanent call for cooperation with the Forum that remains open throughout the year. How often do you gain new partners from Serbia?
We are often approached by new partners with ideas to cooperate directly, and we try to respond positively if the idea suits our mission of connections with contemporary Austrian culture. Additionally, we are also extending and updating our network proactively, meeting with cultural professionals and artists throughout the country, new connections and developing projects. We are also on ecology and sustainable development, as well as on strategically developing partnerships in this field.
We are focused increasingly on ecology and sustainable development, as well as on strategically developing partnerships in this field
We are often approached by new partners with ideas to cooperate directly, and we try to respond positively if the idea suits our mission of making connections with contemporary Austrian culture
Culture, as we at the Austrian Cultural For a understand it, is a very broad term that encompasses not just the arts, but the entire system of customs, values and social conventions in which we live