Modelling Cultural and Art Institutions

by Biljana Tanurovska-Kjulavkovski (Author)
©2021 Thesis 226 Pages


How do we think and imagine cultural and art institutions nowadays? How they need to be transformed to meet the needs of the artists and professionals in the field?
This book examines the theoretical and practical tensions and questions related to cultural and art institutions in the context of North Macedonia and the wider region of former Yugoslavia. The author explores the needs in the art field of contemporary performing arts (post-dramatic theatre, dance, performance, choreography, etc.) and offers approaches to modelling and governing contemporary performing art institutions from the perspective of the independent cultural and art sector. The book proposes a post-modern cultural and art institution, or a co-institution, based on co-curation and shared leadership as opposed to the traditional or standard model of institution of arts and culture. The author offers an activist, self-organized and horizontal approach to governing, instead of vertical or top–bottom, and modelling based on shared policies and a participative approach, instead of authoritarian partocratic policy-making.
"Innovative and challenging analysis of the changing realities of the institutional cultural system. Conceptually sophisticated, compelling and with imaginative and ethically relevant solutions, this book is the timely response to the crucial issues in cultural management and cultural policy."
- Milena Dragićević Šešić, prof. emerita, University of Arts Belgrade

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Institutional horizon – imagining institutions
  • Traditional and contemporary models of cultural institutions
  • Institution making
  • (Public) cultural institutions
  • Governance of cultural institutions through the past and the present
  • The language of the post-institution
  • Imagining and modelling the future of the post-institution
  • Modelling the post-institution
  • Post-institution and post-managerial paradigms
  • Methods and tactics towards modelling of new institutions – internalisation of the critique and practices or a parallel agency of change
  • 2. Institutional imagination or a post-institutional paradigm
  • Organisation and institution
  • Strategic planning and decision-making in organisations and institutions
  • Self-organisation as governance and decision-making
  • Models and modes of institutions and organisations in performing arts
  • General models – standard model and collaborative model
  • Standard model (traditional/mainstream, homogenised managerial structure)32
  • Specifics of the standard model and its varieties of public, commercial, and independent theatre
  • Specific model of a public theatre: Repertoire theatre
  • Collaborative model (new models, heterogenic managing structure, self-instituting)
  • Models in the alternative theatre scene “collaborative – horizontal – model”
  • The alternative theatre in North Macedonia
  • 3. (One) perspective on contemporary performing arts
  • Dance, choreography and performance as context-related notions
  • Dance field basic differences and specificities
  • Dance, choreography and (theatre) performance in North Macedonia
  • 4. The independent sector as a potential for new modelling
  • Independent organisations as temporary zones of critical reflection (case studies of North Macedonia and the ex-Yugoslavia region)
  • Analysis of the independent sector in culture in the region – new tactics and strategies
  • New tactics and strategies for development in the independent cultural scene
  • Creation of new spaces – enhancing the visibility of the independent sector
  • Temporary platforms with institutions
  • Analyses and outcomes of both approaches (the strategies of creation of spaces and temporary platforms)
  • Collaborative approaches –associations, platforms, strategic alliances, networking and co-governing models
  • (a) First approach – new communities solidifying around space(s) reformation
  • (b) Second approach –new community solidifying around common goals
  • (c) Third approach-strategic alliances for creation of new space(s)
  • 5. Artist driven cultural policies vs top-down policies
  • Comparative overview of the EU and ex-Yugoslavia performing arts policies
  • Regional initiatives and contemporary performing arts (dance) in the cultural policies of North Macedonia
  • Cultural policy-making and development
  • Participative methods of policy making
  • North Macedonia – PPP and mixed or hybrid model112
  • Shared policy for a new public culture – from paternalistic to post-(modern) institution
  • From shared policies and participative governance to rhizomatic governance and institution modelling
  • 6. Performing arts institution – an agent of societal and political transformations
  • The performing arts institutions in North Macedonia
  • Proposal for conclusion
  • References


This book stems from my PhD research,1 which examines the theoretical and practical tensions and questions related to cultural and art institutions in the context of North Macedonia and the wider region of former Yugoslavia. It explores the needs in the art field of contemporary performing arts ((post-dramatic) theatre, dance, performance, choreography etc.),2 and it is engaged in the inquiry of alternative models of institutions which would support new working processes and their development.

Term ‘institution’ can either be related to very traditional or standard models of institutions in the field of arts and culture which are supporting production of traditional art forms in contemporary performing arts, or it can be imagined as an open form and collaborative model which enables critical reflection, and is in relation to the needs in the art field. The traditional, or as referred in this book, the standard model is related to the model of the public (theatre) institution in Western Europe which is rooted in the 19th century ideology of nationalism. These institutions have been positioned as “national authorities” which produce certain standards and art classifications (cultural canon) through what they communicate to public. From such authoritarian positions, state(s) created a certain context in which contemporary performing arts are developed, perceived and experienced as a ‘sub-system’ or a marginalised art form, as is the case in most of the ex-Yugoslav countries. For instance, in North Macedonia contemporary performing art ((post-dramatic) theatre, dance, performance, choreography and other forms of contemporary ←11 | 12→ performing arts) is situated in the sub-system classified as the ‘music- scene arts’ or theatre; without any acknowledgement of it being a unique art(s) form with its own specificities and needs. Thus, contemporary performing arts have mostly developed through civil society initiatives, organisations, platforms and collaborations which operate as ‘agencies of action,’ forming new systems, models of governing, operating, producing and disseminating. In relation to this Marvin Carlson (2000, p. 249) reminds us that the modern concept of the alternative theatre and its beginnings are recorded in Europe somewhere at the end of the 19th century, when a large number of theatre professionals and theatre amateurs succeeded to form small production houses, initially associations, and then organisations outside of the theatre establishment, with the aim to escape censorship, research new ideas and possibilities in dramaturgy, and address new or more specialised audiences.

This book attempts to rethink institutions in culture and art in relation to their working strategies, tactics, politics and practices. It will examine organisations, platforms and spaces, situated within civil society culture or within the independent cultural scene in ex-Yugoslavia and across Europe. This book creates a dialogue between diverse positions in theory from where the cultural institution and the notion of the institution are observed, bringing forward the specificities of the art field, but also emphasizing the context of relevance and impact.

The research contained within this book is inductive and based on an interdisciplinary approach, where theoretical readings incorporating sociology, organisation theory, institutional theory, critical theory, performance studies, management theory, field findings and other examples are used as “an analytical tool, a method of spatial and political criticism and articulation that can be applied not only to the art world, but to spaces and institutions in general” (Sheikh, 2006).

Bringing the perspective of the civil society (the independent scene) in ex-Yugoslavia as a prior, this book refers to certain historical and socio-political relations and specificities. The historical context of North Macedonia and ex-Yugoslavia brings certain specifics in work and action, which are related to certain organisations of labour (self-management) or ways of collaborating (social movements, activism etc.). The specific socio-political and economic context is also framing the position in which contemporary performing art is situated, as well as relations with European organisations, networks and institutions which are significantly affecting the development of the discourse around which ←12 | 13→ contemporary performing arts are produced, disseminated and reflected. North Macedonia, as well as ex-Yugoslavian countries, are depicted as ‘transitional’ societies; transitioning from socialist to capitalist and democratic societies. Some of the ex-Yugoslavian countries made an easier transition, while for some, transition brought, and is unfortunately still bringing, corrupt, nationalistic regimes, and criminal privatization of public property. Tension between private and public is present, especially since the public has been manipulated for the sake of the private profit of ruling political parties and local businesspeople. With this as a background, one of civil society’s (in culture) priority issues is the preservation and development of public spaces and the public sphere; the common and community spaces which hold historical and social benefits and which have been derogated during the period of the transition.

North Macedonia in the period between 2007 and 2017 was ruled by a right-wing party (a coalition led by VMRO-DPMNE) that privatised public spaces, institutions and the cultural sphere, developed conservative programmes in cultural institutions, and used them as a nationalistic platform for their political agenda. Their agenda had, in fact, a corrupted background, which was most evident through the Skopje 2014 project,3 an “architectural monster,” oriented towards the reformation of the city of Skopje into the “neoclassical” or “antique” style. This was done by erecting monuments, new buildings, and covering the old modernist buildings from ex-Yugoslavia with uniformed, kitschy facades. This process colloquially named ‘antiquization’ of the city and country, was promoted as a “reformation story” by the government which used it for manipulation of the citizens’ feelings of national belonging. The Government spent around 580 million euros on that project, while the average net wage in North Macedonia was around 300 euros per month. In such a political milieu, the National Strategy for Cultural Development 2013–2017 defined the role of the state as stimulating, enhancing, and promoting cultural relations in society and integrating the culture in the function of social development. Despite prioritizing traditional arts, the government opened one new cultural institution as part of the ‘arts scene’ or the performing arts scene – the Theatre Comedy.4 It is a genre theatre, the result of an ad hoc policy decision, made without consultation with the professional field or the public: a prime example of how state power ←13 | 14→ can be misused and public institutions can be ‘privatised’ by the party in power and used as populist or nationalistic platforms.5

Political parties and coalitions led by the biggest parties (the Social Democrats (SDSM) and the Conservatives (VMRO-DPMNE)) have been leading the country since North Macedonia gained its independence in 1991. They dealt with the questions of socio-political and economic transition, general negotiations over the country’s name dispute with Greece, integration in the EU, as well as the ethnical conflict with the Albanian minority in 2001. The socio-political, economic and ethnical atmosphere was turbulent and produced general dissatisfaction of the public. In such an atmosphere the right-wing party (a coalition led by VMRO-DPMNE), promising economic and national prosperity, established itself as a ruling party from 2006 until 2017. 2016 was the year of transition, which resulted in change of the political party in power with the Social Democrats finally acceding to power in 2017. This shift in power was largely supported by the civil society, which fought against the ruling right-wing government for many years through organised diverse socio-political and cultural actions. Those actions resulted in a social movement informally called the “Colourful revolution”; a name which emphasised the power of a certain community which can collaboratively act together.

Thus, the political atmosphere in Macedonia changed while this research was coming to its end. One of the first achievements of the new government in relation to culture (included in this book as an example) was the new National Strategy for Cultural Development of R. Macedonia ←14 | 15→ 2018–2022.6 In general, the strategy aimed to open possibilities to reform policies related to contemporary performing arts through the development of separate strategies in diverse fields (theatre, dance, performance, music, etc.). It has also brought some policy directions, explained later in this book, which can positively direct shifts and changes in relation to cultural and art institutions, to be supported by the new Law on Public Interest in Culture.

This book relates to public and, more specifically, to cultural policies, and uses examples from civil society, arts and culture, and art to emphasise that strategies and collaborative alliances of associations or collectives, informal groups, platforms and organisations, are seen as environments in which different systems of governing and/or organising can be deployed. Also, they are seen as environments where alternative models of institutions are developed, based on exchanges of resources, and human and social capital. Such institutions are built on the idea of collaboration, community, commonality, solidarity, equality and distribution of power. This perspective is related to a context-driven institutional model as an agency for socio-political transformation, or a producer of ‘sociality’. Such institutions produce socially and politically relevant content, rather than aesthetics that are indifferent to the social reality in which they appear and function.

This perspective offers the post-managerial paradigm in culture; a form related to what has been suggested as a collaborative or heterogenic model, a post-institution, co-institution, and self-organised system. The alternative method of forming such institutions is researched and advocated through participative governance and rhizomatic governance7 ←15 | 16→ (organisation), related to the concept of shared policies. By proposing this framework, this book aims to emphasise the perspective of governance and management in culture as a socially relevant and aware field that is not only driven by the needs of the market, but priorly reflects the society and the context in which it is situated. Therefore, the post- managerial paradigm aims to move forward the management of the cultural institution towards the field of “commons”, where a post-institution would be a relevant socio-political form that could be governed by shared policy making, through methods of participatory governance, or managed through a “rhizome” methodology based on collaboration, shared leadership, co-curating, and discussion. Such an institution should have an informed understanding of culture and art as public goods, and as one of the most precious social resources.

1Done in the period from 2010 until late 2017, some adjustments were made while editing the material for this book, thus the additional information extends the perspective until 2019.

2In this book ‘contemporary performing arts’ refers post-drama theatre forms, dance, performance, choreography (focus on dance, performance and choreography), as fields that are not related to traditional fields and discipline classification, but are developing as specific ways of expression and creation. Music as a field is not considered in focus in this book when mentioning “contemporary performing arts” since it is, a field with its own diversities and specificities which need its own focus.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 226 pp., 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Biljana Tanurovska-Kjulavkovski (Author)

Biljana Tanurovska - Kjulavkovski is cultural producer, activist in culture, researcher and a curator. She is co-founder of NGO Lokomotiva, Nomad Dance Academy platform (NDA), Kino Kultura (KK) - project space for contemporary performing arts and culture, among other initiatives. She is visiting lecturer on diverse academic programs, writes and publish articles dealing with of cultural policy, international and Balkan cultural cooperation, contemporary performing arts, curating and independent cultural sector. She holds a BA in the History of Art and Archaeology, an MSc in Interculturalism, Cultural Management and Cultural Policy from the University of Arts in Belgrade, and PhD from the Faculty of Drama Arts in Belgrade. In 2019, she won ENCATC International Research Award on Cultural Policy and Cultural Management for her doctoral thesis.


Title: Modelling Cultural and Art Institutions