The organizing team of the Dis-patch festival has announced the full demise of the Belgrade-based annual festival, the only event which, over the course of the last ten years, has offered a different approach to contemporary (electronic) music and the investigation of audio-visual and synesthetic concepts in Serbia. As the organizers are stating, the idea of ending the festival has been haunting its activities for a number of years now, mainly because of the inability to reach any kind of sustainable functioning. Despite the fact that the festival was maintaining high professional and productional standards - which was confirmed by numerous significant guest artists over the years - the rise of the significance of the event in local and international spheres was in no way followed neither by the appropriate support from Serbian cultural institutions nor the "socially aware" corporations - to the contrary.
Soon after its founding in 2002, Dis-patch was warmly welcomed on the international scene, hooking up with important individuals and other festivals from the "contemporary scene", but the situation back home was fairly different. Despite the high artistic and productional results, since year one the event was going through a constant fight for survival. Each new edition was basically starting from scratch, although in the context of the program the event was unstoppably developing, making significant international partnerships. Beside minor and non-consistent financing from the city and state cultural funds (never reaching 20% of the total budget), in 2009 and 2010 the Ministry of Culture of Serbia has not granted any support for any of the 5 projects proposed by the organization including the annual festival event, while the Department of Culture of the City of Belgrade, its town of birth which it extensively promotes around the world, has let the festival without any status or support in 2010.
The (non)financing of the event in the last two years, as well as the paradox that this was the period in which the Dis-patch production has demonstrated strong capacity and potential with no feedback whatsoever, are just some of the reasons which added up to the decision of closing the festival down. For example, in 2009 Dis-patch has realized 45 different programs - most of them self-financed or with absolutely no official support - which goes way beyond the annual output of most of the Serbian cultural centers. The festival was "awarded" for these efforts by the rejection of all of its projects at the next Ministry of Culture open call for projects. In the context of the more recent political reality of Serbia, the even more recent senseless government "reconstruction" and the general social-political climate, there is too little hope that initiatives like this one can survive on any kind of "healthy roots". Obviously even more so if they are aspiring to high professional and artistic values and standards. All of these facts combined are making the efforts around developing, or mere maintenance of such an event in Belgrade completely futile.
Dis-patch was a pioneering event not just in local terms, bit also in the context of the region of SouthEast Europe. Together with the Belgradeyard Sound System radio shows and other related activities, it functioned as a unique educational platform for promoting bold musical projects, and the first event in Serbia which strongly promoted the visual aspect of music performance and synesthetic concepts. By combining the historical legacy of electronic and avant-garde music, actual trends and everything in-between, as well as the "clashes" of these different aesthetics, it was leading the audience through a unique and complete experience. We should also not forget the responsible relationship towards the audience, via low admission fees and numerous free of charge and educational programs open to the public. Practically all of the artists who played at the festival were presenting debut shows in Serbia, including the likes of Jamie Lidell, Murcof, Caribou, Monolake, Noze, Deadbeat or Vladislav Delay/Luomo. The festival in Belgrade presented no less than total of 200 shows, presented by 300 authors, around 30 workshop programs and lectures, 5 exhibitions, 5 Artist in Residence/Focus programs and several significant (world) premieres. The performances and works have been presented at numerous locations in Belgrade and its surrounding, with authors coming from more than 20 different countries.
The Dis-patch production has also realized numerous other collaborations in Serbia (the concert series Post-Piano, the RGB City, interactive installation, regional music seminar Synaesthtics, KidsPatch mini-festival for kids and many others…), and has also been presenting Serbian, as well as musicians and video authors from the region, through more than 20 guest programs at prominent European and American festivals. It has been one of the founders of the festival network ECAS/ICAS, while most recently it kickstarted a "nomadic" multi-annual project ViceVerse together with the like-minded Communikey Festival from Boulder, Colorado. The Serbian state has not invested any funds into supporting these international activities in the past 10 years, which were promoting local contemporary artistic output, despite the fact that many proposals had been send to the address of Minisitry of Culture.
Instead of the 10th edition which will never be held, soon the work on the "9 Lives of a Festival" project will start. By mid-2012 it should result in man extensive bi-lingual publication and an accompanying exhibition which will summarize the documentations, results and reflections on the decade-long Dis-patch experience in the local, but also the wider global context. At the same time dealing with theoretical and practical aspects of the festival as a format and its significant roles in the context of local cultural/artistic communities, this will be the best way to round up the "Belgrade phase" of Dis-patch.
Over the course of 2011, D-p will mostly be active through guest programs - at the Belgrade events Share Conference (April) and Mikser (May), and then later in the summer as part of a new festival which is starting up in Montenegro. In the meantime, most of May and June will be dedicated to the 2nd phase of the ViceVerse tour project, which will take the team all around the continent. End of the year will bring another edition of the KidsPatch Festival for New Children's Creativity, while already in April of this year the well-known Honest Jon's label from London will be releasing the debut album from Vladislav Delay Quartet, which had been recorded at the vintage studios of Radio Belgrade as part of Dis-patch festival program in 2009. The festival itself will be transformed into a sort of "nomadic festival", which will be bringing its specific sensibility and approach to, and sharing it with partners and audiences alike, wherever on the planet they may be.
The final demise of Dis-patch was celebrated in Belgrade under the moto "End Is Always the Beginning" with a special DIS-PATCH BURIAL party, featuring Felony Flats, DJ Wo0))), Grimmowski, Piece of Shh... and DJ Moodswinger. You can check out the photographs from the party here, and download the full 6-hour long mp3 recording here.