Dubai: The Neolithic community of Vinča, which lived 7,000 years ago in the area of today's modern Serbia, was the vanguard of technology; they were the creators of the world’s finest early ceramics, the first European proto-script, the first double-storey construction, the first factories for standardised production of goods, as well as art, weaving, clothes and jewellery manufacturing. The appetite for innovation and creativity in Serbia is deeply rooted in its history. To carry on the Vinča legacy, Serbia at Expo 2020 Dubai is preparing to welcome the world into its palimpsest of innovations.
“A melting pot of ideas and innovation, Vinča was the Dubai Expo of the Neolithic World,” said Ana Ilić, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia for Creative Industries and Tourism and Deputy Commissioner General of the Serbia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, in an interview with Gulf News. “Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity to send a strong message to the world about a modern and innovative Serbia that people may not know. It is an opportunity to present Serbia in our own words, sounds and images.”
Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity to send a strong message to the world about a modern and innovative Serbia that people may not know. It is an opportunity to present Serbia in our own words, sounds and images. Because of this, we see participation in Expo 2020 Dubai as an investment in our future and development, in our good economic and political relations with the whole world.
Fittingly, the theme of the pavilion is ‘Serbia Creates Ideas - Inspired by the Past, Shaping the Future’. According to Ilić, the pavilion will celebrate the wealth of inventions and ideas that spurred out of Serbia and allow an exploration of Serbia’s involvement in the creative, IT, education and health industries to name a few.
“The pavilion is a ‘time capsule’ uncovering not only Vinča and modern Serbia, but also ways of living harmoniously [in] the future,” she added.
Experience Serbia in virtual reality
Located in the Mobility District, the Serbian pavilion has a diamond-like structure that spans 2,000 square metres. The building, comprising three floors, is designed by A3 Architects, a Serbian architecture firm that has a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating urban landscape, design and art into their projects.
Influenced by historical Serbian architecture, the triangle-shaped facade of the pavilion imitates the pitched roof of a traditional Vinča dwelling. The Serbia Pavilion is designed to balance the past and present of Serbia’s rich culture.
One of the unique features at this pavilion is that you can the experience the exhibit from anywhere in the world. Anyone can log on to their virtual reality (VR) headset app (available closer to opening date on Exposerbia.rs) from home and tour the entire pavilion. If at Expo, you can pick up a VR headset inside the pavilion, choose from six special avatars and become your own character in a separate world.
Shattering the concept of physical boundaries, in this virtual form visitors can meet other avatars in real time and even schedule business meetings. As part of the virtual experience, they can also visit the numerous museums and exhibitions on display at the pavilion.
“The pavilion presents a unique dual platform for displaying Serbia’s stories – a physical pavilion in Dubai and a virtual or digital pavilion online – integrating timeless and limitless content with real space.
“We think this is particularly relevant for the Mobility District which creates connections to drive the world forward, breaking down the divide between the physical and digital worlds to build a harmonious, global society where information, ideas and goods are exchanged faster than ever before,” said Ilić.
Tour Serbian museums and scientific greatness
The visitor experience is neatly divided into four areas of the pavilion. Greeting visitors is the forecourt of the pavilion called ‘Serbia creates connections’, where hosting events will take place, decked with outdoor seating.
Moving on, the ground floor - called ‘Serbia creates ideas’ - houses a souvenir shop with Vinča-inspired goodies on sale as well as a café serving snacks and drinks. Following this hospitality area, the first floor is a specialised zone for business visitors called ‘Serbia creates opportunities’.
As visitors ascend to the second floor of the pavilion, titled ‘The exhibitions of exhibitions’, they are introduced to two permanent exhibitions that connect the story of the Vinča people and modern-day Serbia, finally tying it up with virtual reality.
"It makes the case that Serbia is the natural successor to the trade, artistry, technology and peaceful coexistence of Neolithic Vinča, whose territory we share,” said Ilić.
The first part is ‘Serbia creates inspiration’ that will showcase highlights of Modern Serbia, including the country’s e-government, e-education, e-agriculture programmes. It will feature themes such as: Trade and Economy, Community and Coexistence, Manufacturing and Technology, Creativity and Artistry, Education and Food and Agriculture.
“All visitors will be able to see how the genius ideas and mind of the greatest Serbian scientist still illuminate humanity,” said Ilić.
At the Expo 2020, Serbia will revive Tesla’s major inventions in digital form and display a 3D interactive view of Tesla’s lab in Long Island, USA. The Serbian pavilion will also run a daily school programme for students from across the UAE to learn about the genius of Nikola Tesla, in both physical and virtual reality.
Following this, the second part is a virtual reality exhibition ‘Serbia creates experiences’ awaiting visitors. It will showcase some of the greatest Serbian artistic, scientific, historic achievements and museums. Without moving an inch, they will be transported to Serbia, observing historic artefacts and inventions at the National Museum of Serbia, the Museum of the City of Belgrade and the Nikola Tesla Museum.
Ilić added: “Through virtual reality, visitors can experience the explosion of innovation and creativity of Neolithic Vinča, and explore the ground-breaking ideas from Serbia that will fuel the next stage of human development. Content includes Vinča, the great scientists Nikola Tesla, Mihajlo Pupin and Milutin Milanković, the cultural treasures of National Museum of Serbia, as well as Serbian tech, tourism and contemporary art and design.”
Serbian ballet, theatre and contemporary dance
The Serbia Pavilion has in store a multitude of events, activities and initiatives to promote the country’s innovative and creativity sectors to the world. An entertainment programme of music and performing arts, featuring around 30 of Serbia’s most popular acts across a range of genres including ballet, theatre and contemporary dance are set to engage visitors with their vivid performances at the outdoor seating and entertainment area of the pavilion.
The schedule runs across the six-month period with a special focus on Serbia’s national day on February 15, 2022, and Orthodox New Year on January 13, 2022.
“We also have a proactive business-to-business schedule. Expo 2020 Dubai is officially structured around 10 thematic weeks that aim to resolve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, so our B2B activities prioritise participation in those Themes Weeks, particularly where they reflect the nation’s economic, social and political interests,” Ilić said.
Eliminating touch points due to COVID19
Planning concepts and designs for the pavilion began as early as 2016, since then, a few changes have been introduced keeping the pandemic in mind. The removal of touch screens and other physical points of contact and a focus on increasing protocols for the rapid cleaning of the VR headsets are being implemented at the pavilion. In spite of the pandemic, the team is positive about the success of the coming Expo.
Stanimir Vukicevic, Ambassador of Serbia to the UAE, told Gulf News: “The World Fair will be the first global event since the outbreak of the pandemic, and that is why it is a unique opportunity for all countries including Serbia to present their technological and industrial innovations and achievements, talented people and successful scientists, success in digitalisation, economic and business opportunities, investment opportunities, their rich history and culture, tourism potentials. Lastly, showing how Serbia became one of the most successful countries in dealing with the pandemic and immunisation.”
The World Fair will be the first global event since the outbreak of the pandemic, and that is why it is a unique opportunity for all countries including Serbia to present their technological and industrial innovations and achievements ... Lastly, showing how Serbia became one of the most successful countries in dealing with the pandemic and immunisation.
- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.