We are sitting on a branch: solidarity or downfall

Devastating floods, fires, droughts, extreme temperatures and heatwaves, rapid extinction of species, global warming, rising sea levels, destruction and irreversible pollution of the environment (water, air and soil), pandemics, desertification and loss of arable land are only some of the symptoms of the growing ecological and climate crisis that has become part of our everyday lives. Despite this, social and political systems survive unimpeded, by inertia, reiterating the customary mantras: growth, development, progress, competition, merciless exploitation, profit maximisation, domination over nature (and people), ruthless rivalry, survival of the fittest. While scientists predict the accelerated multiplication of parallel crises, the system offers only cosmetic changes.

As part of the 54/55 Bitef, the conference titled We Are Sitting on a Branch: Solidarity or Downfall examines the symptoms, causes and consequences of the ecological and climate crisis, as well as its social, economic and political context and significance. How do we confront it, how do we comprehend it? Can it be curbed, alleviated, stopped? By what means? After nearly two years of a state of emergency, can there be a return to “normal” and is that return even desirable? Is the “new normal” necessarily only an endless series of increasingly destructive crises, or can it include a radical redefinition of what is normal, to offer an alternative interpretation of a good life and “developed” societies? What are social and political institutions offering to us? Can we reform them, repurpose them, or should we build others? What role does art play in this endeavour and what is the role of the theatre?

This conference represents a unique stage for cross-examining questions and dilemmas related to artistic production (in the field of performing arts), climate change, pollution, and the management of cultural institutions but also cities. The conference relies on transdisciplinary approach, so that participants in each panel come from different fields, allowing for the mapping of a broader image of the growing crisis, as well as the changes that must occur in order to prevent and alleviate it.

The conference opens with the question whether there is life after an apocalypse and whether a radical change of the dominant paradigm is possible. The second day is dedicated to debates on the ecological crisis and climate change, focusing on the causes of the crisis, the socio-political conditions within which it rises and with which it intersects with, as well as its increasingly apparent consequences. The third day of the program explores theoretical and practical approaches to overcoming the social and ecological crisis, with an emphasis on new policies and new horizons of local and global solidarity.

Following the conference, two workshops will also be held, on September 21 and 23. One will address the issue of how theatres can become ecologically more sustainable, and it is intended for theatre managers, technical directors, set and costume designers and other theatre personnel (Theatre as an agent of change: the possibilities of “green” transformation, Green Art Inkubator: Dr Vladimir Đurđević, Faculty of Physics, Dr Jovana Karaulić, Faculty of Dramatic Arts and Dr Ksenija Božović Marković, Faculty of Dramatic Arts). The second workshop will deliberate on how theatre festivals and other cultural events can reduce the ecological footprint as well as how they can completely change the paradigm and take the path of degrowth (Sustainability and cultural events: new approaches, Milja Vuković, initiatives For Less Waste and More Happiness - Zero and Low Waste Serbia and Wild Belgrade and Predrag Momčilović, Zajedničko Platform).

The conference will be held in Mira Trailović Square, in front of Bitef Theatre, and all content will be available in Serbian and English language.



17th September

From Expansion to Extinction: Apocalypse of the Status Quo
The dystopic future is galloping toward us. Increasingly frequent incidents - as signs from the future - are harbingers of a comprehensive ecological disaster. Or has it already arrived? The discussion that will open the conference examines the present as a “really existing” dystopia and raises the question if a turnaround, a radical change of the paradigm is possible.

Welcome speech: Ivan Medenica, Bitef Artistic Director

Franco Berardi Bifo (activist and philosopher, Italy)
Wim Vandekeybus (theatre artist and choreographer, Belgium)
Camila Nobrega (researcher and journalist, Brazil/Germany)
Srećko Horvat (activist and philosopher, Croatia)

Aleksandra Savanović (Zajedničko Platform, Serbia)

18th September

Ecological Crisis from a Global and Local Perspective
The panel will consider the local and global symptoms of the ecological and climate crisis, analysing the causes, spaces and actors in the struggle for alleviating climate changes and a healthier environment.

Vladimir Đurđević (meteorologist, University of Belgrade Faculty of Physics, Serbia)
Iva Marković (Program Director of the Organization for Political Ecology Polekol, Serbia)
Mladen Domazet (Institute for Political Ecology, Croatia)
Ratko Ristić (Dean, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Forestry, Serbia)

Predrag Momčilović (Zajedničko Platform, Serbia)

Colonialism, Migrations and Climate Change
The panel will address the topics of colonialism, migrations and climate change and related phenomena, as well as their consequences and heritage.

Amanda Piña (choreographer, Austria/Mexico/Chile)
Gulistan Sido (Professor, University Rojava, Syria)
Carlotta Weber (European Green Party, Belgium)
Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez (theatre artist, Mexico)

Milena Dragićević - Šešić (culture theorist, Serbia)

Society, Art and Theatre in a World Without People
The topic of the comprehensive social and ecological crisis, “the time of the apocalypse”, will be examined from the standpoint of philosophy and art, as well as the position of ecofeminism, so that theatre, as well as the field of culture, might be assessed in this context as actors and drivers of positive change.

Andrija Filipović (philosopher, Serbia)
Maja Pelević (dramaturge and performer, Serbia)
Boris Buden (philosopher, Croatia/Germany)
Giulia Casalini (curator and researcher, Italy/United Kingdom)

Marijana Cvetković (Zajedničko Platform, Serbia)

19th September

Development in a Society Without Growth
Growth has become the dominant paradigm in modern society - if you are not growing, it is a given that you are withering and dying. The concept of degrowth - or frugal abundance for the new era, as it is often called - appears opposite the narrative about the need for constant growth. The lecture will address how our societies can be transformed so that we live better and in line with limitations, without the excessive pursuit of growth.

Vincent Liegey (engineer, interdisciplinary researcher, spokesman for the French degrowth movement, France/Hungary)

Doughnut Economy Model
The lecture will be followed by the presentation of the doughnut development model, based on the satisfaction of societal needs without overstepping nature’s limits.

Mladen Domazet (Institute for Political Ecology, Croatia)
Miloš Kovačević (Zajedničko Platform, Serbia)
Predrag Momčilović (Zajedničko Platform, Serbia)

Cities as Drivers of Change
The discussion will address practical policies and examples of practices whose implementation can make cities greener and more sustainable.


Nataša Petrušić (Head of Department for Monitoring and Environmental Protection, Secretariat for Environmental Protection, City of Belgrade, Serbia)
Aleksandar Ćirić (Head of Department for Waste Management, Secretariat for Environmental Protection, City of Belgrade, Serbia)
Iva Ivšić (councillor in the Zagreb city parliament, Možemo!/Zagreb Is Ours coalition, Croatia)
Dobrica Veselinović (politician and activist, Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own, Serbia)
Pascale Bonniel-Chalier (member of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Regional Council, Europe Ecology - The Greens, France)

Igor Štiks (author and political theorist, B&H/Croatia/Serbia)

After the Pandemic: Sustainability of Cultural Production and Exchange
The panel will examine the issue of sustainability of cultural production and cultural exchange and the necessity for changing past production practices in this field.

Janez Janša (theatre artist and theorist, Slovenia)
Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez (theatre artist, Mexico)
Haris Pašović (theatre director, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Caroline Barneaud (producer, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Switzerland)

Moderator: Biljana Tanurovska (producer and curator, North Macedonia)