Photography and text: Marina Nikolic
It was a sunny day in the early summer of 2014 where I met Dragana Brankovic for the first time.
At that time I was in Belgrade to complete a photo project about the new creative development of the city and been running around in circles, couldn't find the beginning. Raquel, a gifted painter from Brazil, told me about her other girlfriend who also has Serbian roots and "crazy good” project in an old factory somewhere in Serbia at some lakes. So I contacted her and we agreed to meet for a coffee. Dragana lived for the last six years in Brazil. She looked like a Brazilian and had that enviable relaxed swag.</span>
We talked about our educational experience. I told her I finished studying photography in Munich and she studied Art at Bauhaus in Weimar. After doing an exchange Project in Belo Horizonte in Brazil she managed to stay there for 6 years. In her hometown of Bela Crkva, she organized an artists colony in an abandoned wood factory. She got grants from Serbian government for the project and managed to invite international artists. This year Brazilian artists were coming to participate in the project. I took a few days of to visit them in June. But instead of two days, I stayed two weeks and couldn't get away from that place as a source of inspiration.
The location of the factory Pobeda (Victory) was built after the WW2. The good times. It went bankrupt in the last Balkan war in the nineties, to be re-activated for making coffins supply for the war and then it got closed again. Dragana discovered these run-down premises again in 2013. The factory is located directly at the lake and she had an idea to transform these rooms into art workshops and a place of cultural exchange. Her project got the portuguese name "Agora" which means “gathering place” or “assembly” in latin.
When I arrived, I wanted to know immediately, what the "work program" was and who does what and how. I met a group of Brazilians who enjoyed their relaxed day and looked at me as an odd German-Serbian. I have to admit I stopped being particularly interested in modern art before I came to this place. But here I had the opportunity to spend time with brilliant and talented people and see how they create. I started listen to their thoughts and realised that the creative process itself is interdisciplinary connected. That year of 2014, not only a bunch of brazilian artist but also a young German architect and a digital designer from Montenegro participated as well. Similarly to myself, they were also trying to redefine their creativity. We exchanged views of the world and helped each other in the work process. Above all, I learned to let go of the pressure of delivering a perfect outcome and just simply worked.
After these two weeks I got back to Belgrade and could easily finish my project.
The following year I came back to Agora and met new people at the exchange again.
Thank you Dragana for changing my view of time.