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‘DOČEK’ AS A BRIDGE THAT CONNECTS

Two new years, two time calculations, two alphabets and two arts, through two programme concepts and two openings of the European Capital of Culture, will be a unique celebration in Europe. Therefore, the citizens of Europe, join us in the celebration of the intercultural identity of Novi Sad through a specially designed opening programme, which will celebrate the values of diversity through traditional and contemporary artistic expression at numerous city locations. By celebrating diversity and creativity, and through great performing spectacles, attractive light and digital forms of expression, as well as multimedia events, we will create a unique atmosphere that will serve as an overture for the exciting year of the European Capital of Culture title, filled with unique artistic and cultural programmes.

The transition from one year to another and the merging of two time calculations within ‘Doček’ were an occasion to think about time and energy, and through them about people, processes, spaces and programmes, in order to show how powerful culture can transform our experience of the world. The official opening programmes of the European Capital of Culture take place as we celebrate time – its measurement, as well as its symbolic and culturological meaning. At the beginning of the 20th century, only in one region in France were there four different ways to measure time, whereas just a few decades earlier there had been over 50. Then came a huge transformation: at 10 o’clock in the morning on 1 July 1913, a time signal was sent from the Eiffel Tower all around the world. Independent local times gave way to the global electric network. Thus was born the ‘world’s’ standard time, in other words, a normative measure of time that now determines when we wake, eat, read the news, move, go about our daily lives … and celebrate the title year as European Capital of Culture! Local times certainly had their charms, but the world submitted to a new energy: the impulses that travelled across the globe at the speed of light.

But there is more to it! Over a century later, in today’s global world, we are constantly rediscovering and creating the charm of the local, because ‘diversity is our strength.’ This is, after all, the belief on which our ‘Rainbow’ programme bridge rests. A century after the global standardization of time, the title of European Capital of Culture is a long-awaited framework allowing us to present the ways in which a pluralism of local values blends with common European values, and show not only how it is possible to move past the binaries on which many insist, but also how to live in and enjoy the passages that connect the divided shores of the visible and invisible. The Doček programme, like Novi Sad itself, is an expression of such a passage.

New Year’s Eve (Doček) in Novi Sad has a unique multiculturality: the New Year is greeted twice, according to the ‘new’ Gregorian and ‘old’ Julian calendars, on 31 December and 13 January. This dualism inspires us to consider the temporal aspect of Doček figuratively, from two culturological perspectives. The first, a ‘Byzantine’ or ‘Serbian national calendar’, follows the church calendar, which was in use in Serbia until 1881. According to this calendar, we entered the 7530th year of the world’s existence, which will last until the spring of 2022. This ‘national’ calendar takes us in the direction of tradition and its contemporary interpretation, programmes that take up the past in new ways, such as marking of the holiday in cultural stations, the opera Vladimir and Kosara, or the large spring gathering in Vrdnik to celebrate ancient natural cycles and the new year according to the folk calendar. The second calendar is the Gregorian, used in Serbia since 1919, and which over the last 100 years has become global: this calendar will help us demonstrate, through dffeerent aspects of the programming, how Novi Sad is a modern city with a long history reaching as far back as the Neolithic era, which we’ll see in an intriguing chronology of the area installed in Theatre Square in the city centre, along the line that once marked the beginning of Jevrejska Street.

Being aware of the complexity of the phenomenon of tradition, we wished to use their symbolism to turn the city into a festive space that will take Novi Sad residents and all their guests to the streets in honour of the European idea of cultural plurality – from 31 December until 12, 13, and 14 January, when, indoors and outdoors, various programmes that celebrate the New Year and all the new bridges that the European Capital of Culture is building among the people, will take place. On the last day of December, in Novi Sad, the New Year’s celebration will include not only the city centre, but also one of the main boulevards, as well as the Suburbium of the Petrovaradin Fortress.

Doček, according to the Julian calendar, 13 January 2022, will be marked by events in the evening, at over twenty indoor locations across the city, with the participation of over four hundred artists and musicians from Europe, revealing not only new music trends but also new spaces placed in the service of culture. For years, ’Doček’ has been discovering new locations where culture unites the incompatible: the most avant-garde band of the former Yugoslavia, Laibach, performed at the Serbian National Theatre; the world’s best trumpeter Dejan Petrović brought the sounds of his brass band to the Reformed Church; sevdalinka was performed at the Synagogue; brilliant jazz in Radnički Dom; and experimental electronic music was played in Matica Srpska. We’re proud of the fact that the following artists have performed during ’Doček’: the best young European jazz bassist Kinga Głyk, violinist Stefan Milenković and the London Symphony Orchestra’s first violinist Roman Simović, while the world’s finest opera bass, Alexey Tikhomirov, performed in Serbia’s oldest theatre. In 2022, we continue the tradition!

And from now on: as a part of the capacity building of both the stage and its international profile, ’Doček’ represents one of the most signficant segments of the entire years-long enterprise of Novi Sad as European Capital of Culture. One might say that ’Doček’ has succeeded in using a rather unassuming part of the calendar year to draw scores of foreign and Serbian artists, residents and visitors, and breathe new life into the city in a cultural, social and economic sense, all the while stimulating development of the city’s tourist potential. And so it is that the transformed, post-2022 ’Doček’ will remain the permanent legacy of the European Capital of Culture.

Of course, the crowning glory and main events of ’Doček’ in 2022 are the programmes of the European Capital of Culture’s double opening. We’ll bring together two time calculations, two openings (outdoors and indoors), two alphabets (Cyrillic and Latin), two arts (visual and performing) and two programme concepts, Energy and Time. The fifth ’Doček’ will feature a large-scale multimedia exhibition inspired by energy and time, and indeed two world-class scientists, Nikola Tesla and Milutin Milanković, whose work will be symbolically presented through various artistic expressions and through several exhibition concepts. In that manner, we will transform the scientific perspective of these two phenomena – energy and time – into art, express and thematize them through their cultural aspects.

With their themes, values and metaphors, all ’Doček’ programmes announce the Novi Sad – European Capital of Culture’s year-long programme: ’4 New Bridges’. In the words of the authors of an interesting anthology on the Danube, which will be featured in the Danube Sea programme arch of summer 2022: ‘The Danube, with its bridged landscape, is inscribed in our European, as well as our diverse national and regional, memories’. Bridges cross borders and master the river as an obstruction between two shores. They have always presented challenges and been the dreams of mythographers, writers, historians, adventurers, military leaders and engineers. Diversity is our strength means that our idea of new bridges isn’t just an expression of a dream that connects the opposing, or transcends dffeerences – it’s something more. We hope to show that the bridge or passage itself is a good place, a symbol of the strength of European culture, and its unitas multiplex as the inscription on countless creative energies in real time and space. Similarities bind us, but differences are what can give our unity purpose. The passage or bridge is a place in life full of meaning, which establishes the border and balance between order and chaos. Novi Sad 2022 means that people’s invisible energy and time, through their processes, build into visible spaces and programmes. That’s why we’re grafting energy and time – ’4 New Bridges’!