It has become one of Europe’s biggest music festivals. The current issue of the inflight travel magazine on Serbia’s national airline JAT goes so far as to call it a global event. They are not the only ones. The name of this barnstorming event is Exit (July 10-14), the venue Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, that beautiful Belgrade on Valium, to use an expression wedged in one of the tour guides. Held at the Austrian built fortress of Petrovaradin, it has become a tourist beacon, a noisy attraction if only for a few days.
Exit, for all its zany excitement, has another story. It’s that of carefully cultivated public relations. Serbia wants admission to the European Union, an inexplicable desire in the broader sense given the implosive potential that arrangement faces. The sense in Serbia is that dictate has followed dictate. Hand over the war criminals. Check. Modernise economic structures. Check. Have hearty festivals of noisy welcome. Check.
Such trumpeting, it is assumed, will get you far in the cultural stakes. And Serbia has been a victim as well as a villain of playing the culture game when it comes to gaining acceptance in the European community. Rogues one day become the fairy tale heroes the next. Roles shift; images dance and alter. The narrative of the brute has been replaced by the narrative of the party reveller.