Maribor 2012 European Capital of Culture

March 2011

At the beginning of 2012 Maribor is to become European Capital of Culture. The basic concept of this ambitious project entitled »Reanimation of the City« has an innovative approach and it opens up some fundamental questions regarding the introduction and fulfilment of cultural substance in urban communities such as Maribor and the cities that have joined up to carry out the programme.

At the end of November 2010 in the mansion of Vetrinjski dvorec, headquarters of the project organiser – the Maribor 2012 Public Institute  the programme director Mitja Čander presented the project and entire creative and organisational team.

»Reanimation of the City« – the basic concept of the project

Maribor. Photo: STO

Čander adds to the classical role of Slovenian culture, which he believes has been historically one of predominantly ethnic self-defence and identification, some modern social elements: the functioning and influence of culture on the development of the city, the “construction” of the city as a human community with a sufficiently clearly defined and delineated urban area, and the linking of the old and modern into a complete entity that functions both in relation to the wider human community and to each individual. In this sense Čander (and his programme team) does not regard the European Cultural Capital as a template for bashing out numerous cultural events and shows, which take place but later leave no significant trace in the consciousness of ordinary people, but rather as a set of different events borne with equal weight by both the artists and the city’s residents. It is understandable that in such a context a major role is taken on by events that are not classically artistic or cultural, but their essence lies in a human association around some core that brings together and gives sense. Educational processes, sports, even farm work such as grape harvesting, fruit picking, cleaning the city – all this can acquire a new meaning that cultivates the city space into a new value.

Wishes 2012 would really change the city of Maribor

Mitja Čander. Photo:

Čander’s starting point for reanimating the city has been joined by the Maribor poet Andrej Brvar, who points out that in the 20th century, Maribor’s roots were cut three times and each time it was pushed into a new, arduous search for its own identity. This happened for the first time, says Brvar, backed up by Čander, after the First World War, when a lot of Germans left Maribor and the ethnic composition of the city changed greatly; it happened the second time in the German occupation during the Second World War, when the urban bourgeois character of the city disintegrated, and for the third time with the collapse of socialism or rather communism, when Maribor lost its proletarian and industrial character, and up to the present day the city has still not in fact found its new role. For this reason Čander sees the possibility of establishing a new identity through the European Cultural Capital project, which will be one of the most important and precious components setting the tone in 2012.

Several programme sections, younger management experts

The programme is divided into several programme sections, which for the most part are headed by younger management experts. Terminal 12 seeks to incorporate all artistic genres, from opera and contemporary dance, through classical and popular music, all the way to film, theatre, visual arts, literature and architecture. All the scheduled events build on the existing programs of theatres, galleries, cinemas, concert venues and other establishments devoted to art.

Keys to the City, Urban Furrows and Life at the Touch

Similarly meaningful names are borne by the other two sections, Keys to the City and Urban Furrows, headed by Mateja Rataj and Dr. Marta Gregorčič, one of the most ground-breaking experts in urban sociology. Keys to the City is a kind of intellectual manufacture within which around 400 events of various types will be created, and one of the main centres of gravity here is studying the history of the city and placing the components of that history in its modern life. Urban Furrows will break new ground in cooperation with various institutions, city residents and quarters, and in these milieus it will attempt to create new links and new energy between people. Thus, for instance, one part of this section will focus on local self-sufficiency, a digital seed bank and urban horticulture, which are areas that in the perspective of city life to date have rarely enjoyed any attention from the governing city authorities.

All this will be joined by another section named Life at the Touch, which will create a digital dimension of the entire project, and is being headed by writer and journalist Aleš Čar.

Text by Jože Osterman, Sinfo, January 2011