Metelkova City (in Slovene: Metelkova mesto) is an autonomous social centre promoting alternative art in the centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia. It is positioned centrally, next to the railway station, on the site of former military barracks (the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army). Metelkova City was squatted September 1993 by Ljubljana’s Avantgarde artists. We publih here an interview with Terrah, who has been the major of Metelkova City from it’s beginnings.
KU: Define your position at the Metelkova City.
Terrah: I am a freelance artist. I am the Major behind the scene, without a wallet. This title was given to me after the war for Slovenian independence by Ljubljana’s skinheads. At that time they were much louder than today because of the awakened national self-consciousness. Metelkova is a city and a city needs a major. Ljubljana is the suburbs of Metelkova.
KU: Do you have a lifetime mandate, as marshal Tito?
Terrah: Well, no, I am retiring next year, as I will be retiring early due to my past work in the barracks and in the fields. After that I will be a consultant. The younger need to get a chance to prove themselves!
KU: Are there any rules at Metelkova?
Terrah: Once a month a forum decides on those. But we have managed that all the individual houses retained their local self-government. This means, that they decide on their own, but report back to the forum once a month. I am a painter and have here my own studio, other problems are solved by competent people. I try to consult, when needed. We are not fond of governmental referendums, where lay people decide on things about which they don’t have a clue.
KU: Is Metelkova legal?
Terrah: The bars are problematic, as they can’t be fully legalized because of present rules. Metelkova was a member of Trans Europe Halles even before Slovenia entered the European Community, so it was in Europe before Slovenia. And we pay for our electricity, water and sewage.
KU: Do you collaborate with the Municipality of Ljubljana?
Terrah: Municipality of Ljubljana owns the land on which Metelkova city is situated. They owned it as an exchange with the Ministry for defense for another land property — as a military object, Ministry for defense was the original owner.
KU: How could Metelkova become fully legal?
Terrah: We would have to create a jurisdictional body, so we could officially communicate with the system. But this would provoke events, that would limit our flexibility. It would destroy the essence of Metelkova city.
KU: What is the difference between Metelkova before and Metelkova today?
Terrah: In the past, more was happening, the thing was new, more than 1000 would come to an event and the mainstreem artists would perform for free. Even Dimitrij Rupel was active here within the project A thousand and one night.
KU: And now this is gone?
Terrah: Now we are in capitalism. The transition is over! Generations have changed. There’s thousands of turists, as we are close to the youth hostel Celica. The revolution always dies at the end. Metelkova has become, as the young have put it, Meta (a Slovene female name).
KU: And the clientele of Meta is?
Terrah: Anything imaginable.
KU: How about the art program?
Terrah: The clubs are working with full steam. But the fine-arts are lagging behind. Everybody is working on his / her own. That’s why we are trying to form the Union of Fine-Art Artists of Metelkova. So that the fine-art artists would have a cover organisation, as their problems are totally different than the problems of clubs or pubs. We try to establish a museum with a permanent exhibition and art sale facility.
KU: Are you unique?
Terrah: It happened, that punks from the Bronx had a concert in one of our clubs. After the concert they stayed for another day and this guy tells me: “Man, what you have here doesn’t exist in New York!” If a guy from the New York ghetto says that, than it is an important appreciation.
KU: You cover a whole range of arts, from literary events to classical music, punk concerts, movies and exhibitions…
Terrah: …ja, ja, it’s a depot of everything. We had a Pride parade and roasted a pig. Metelkova is a city and Ljubljana is becoming the suburbs, haha.
KU: How much is Metelkova related to homeless?
Terrah: Metelkova was founded for artistic and cultural activities and never was ment as a housing facility. But you can sleep overnight, as there’s a lot of space here. A few homeless people used to live here, but those are more of an examption.
KU: What do you wish for Metelkova City for the future?
Terrah: Not too much. I am interested in the dynamics of the street. Depends on who will take over. In any case, it is becoming an European hot spot. And the club life is rolling on.
Author of the text and the photograph of the original photography of Terrah is:
Peter Pitambar Pangerc – a journalist of Kralji ulice, a nongovernmental organization helping the homeless.