In 2021, the Danube Dialogues festival of contemporary art featured a conference on “Society and Art in a Forced Reality”. Conferences and professional forums have become part and parcel of the festival programme, closely following it through the prism of visual art, philosophising and presenting conclusions on the characteristics of the world and the times we live in. Following previous years of themed discussions on “Art and Crisis”, “Art in the Age of (Un)Emotionality”, “Art in an Environment of Global Insecurity”, the particular phenomena evoked by the pandemic crisis with its social, political and moral repercussions are crucially important for man’s existence.  The situation obliges us to re-examine our concept of the world as it is now, particularly in the domain of art and its role in the social environment. As Joost Smiers says: “Art is a field in which emotional incompatibilities, social conflicts and questions of status collide in a much more concentrated way than happens in everyday communication.”

A discussion on a theme of this kind, then, is of exceptional societal importance. The conference’s success was confirmed by the list of participants: philosophers, art and media critics from Bulgaria (Dr Venelin Shurelov), Romania (Dr Diana Marincu), Japan (Tomohiro Okada), Singapore (Dr Adeline Kueh), South Africa (Vuyisile Mshudulu) and Serbia (Dr Sanja Kojić Mladenov, Slavica Popov, Dr NatašaTeofilović, Dr Divna Vuksanović, Svetlana Mladenov, Mileta Poštić and  Ivana Sremčević Matijević).

The fact that participants from several continents spoke both in situ and online, and that the conference was broadcast via a special platform by the highly-reputed Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, confirms the universality of the theme and the shared interest in its thorough analysis.

The conference concluded that in the post-pandemic stage of the crisis, we will live in a changed, other or “new normal”, with altered ideals of democracy, attitudes towards capitalism, learning, everyday relations with one another, and on the position of man in this world that has been forced upon us.  What is sure is that man needs art, its aesthetic system, its ethics, its sensitivity.  Art of its very nature endeavours to find a sound answer to all societal events, upheavals and tensions.  This requires a precise aesthetic system, a clear idea and image and an appropriate ethic, since the morality manifested in art reaches deep into the mind of the observer and confirms his belief in his own humanity, the humanity he must hold on to in order to survive.

 “Art and Society in a Forced Reality” drew the attention of the professionals, the broader public, and cultural institutions.  It was a serious, well-prepared conference, a timely observation on the neuralgic happenings and tendencies of today’s world, a valuable and meaningful event that showed just how important and necessary the field of art is to all of us.