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Mileta Prodanović: Time Beats in a Black Hole

The eighties in Yugoslavia – a country that was in all aspects ‘in-between’ (between the East and the West, between communism and capitalism, between professionalism and amateurism, between Heaven and Earth, between sanity and insanity) –were a kind of golden era. The art created then in Yugoslavia could stand in comparison with any international production at that time, rock-n’roll played here could have captivated the audience at any of the world’s stages. With the fall of the Berlin, wall circumstances went through a change – a part of the European continent that once stood behind the Iron Curtain gradually emerged from almost half a century-long shadow, its western part decisively stepped towards the union while space ‘in-between’ became a sort of a black hole. This cosmic body, as described by the theory of physics, is a space of convergence, a space of unthinkable gravity that ‘sucks’ in everything around it. It is difficult, therefore, to envision which types of life parameters could be inside it. And Belgrade in the nineties was some kind of high gravity zone in the minds’ eye, a zone the communication with the outside world was impeded, zone difficult even to peek into.


The community of similar and yet different nations called Yugoslavia disintegrated with a thunder of bombs in a series of local wars. For people observing everything from a distance and in simplified categories offered by an over more accelerated global media, all of this was just another war brawl, a disaster for hundreds of thousands of people, an area that should be confined in order to prevent the spreading of madness.


At that very time, when the entire country slowly sank into the space of the irrational by end of 1992, following the concept and in the production of the FIA Art Group, and published by the printing-house Publikum appeared a big wall calendar for the upcoming year of 1993.  An idea built at that time, only to be upgraded in the course of almost ten years, could be summarized to be a joint work of artistic and production group and company for the production of printing material. The Calendars, products catching our eyes every day, are the result of this symbiosis.


A year, whose dates were intentionally printed in hardly legible digits on pages of Impossible the first Publikum Art Calendar in the third, shortened Yugoslavia, was marked by hyperinflation. general poverty, daily emission of newer and newer banknotes with ever more zeroes, with the export of the war to neighboring, and of young and bright people to overseas, countries. ‘Impossible’ was the word too often spoken by so many people in Serbia in the nineties: war, mass degradation of people, absolute social pathology – all of that seemed to people that were growing up in a completely different environment to be absolutely impossible. But Impossible was also a title of the almanac of the Belgrade surrealist group, which had an important place in European art context at the end of twenties and thirties. Overlapping references from Belgrade dadaist-zenithist and surrealist avant-garde in the twenties and thirties with certain aspects of life in Serbia in the nineties did not stop only at the title and concept of the first calendar: those to follow (LA Vie Mobile, L’impossible. Antiwall) were influenced by the same idea. That was the way to make correspondent contact with carefully chosen historical reference and with that one the current social moment was promising.


No less important part of the art project Impossible was its launch – held among the ruins of the once-prestigious gallery “Sebastian” in the main Belgrade street. This first launch of the Publikum calendar was, by many aspects a “forewarning” of what the whole country would go through in the following years.  Including ruins, of course.  Always organized on an unexpected site, to begin within an amusement park, through cellar photo studios and deserted memorial museum, a center of the State cult of the deceased president Tito, launchings have become a tradition of its own, something to look forward to. In so much as the art calendar became a clear sign of being part of the “urban” aspect of Belgrade, so it was a presence at these happenings.


Over 3.000 visitors on the launching of the Wired Man XX00 edition, held on 15th of January 2000, crowded space with people and energy (which all made a sharp contrast to general social apathy that marked times after bombing) announced, that masses of people would play an important role in the months to come. Again, it all appeared as a kind of premonition – events that followed in the society have opened a space for radical cut, for next of the art calendars from a “black hole”. There is no doubt that in the long process of regaining of smile for Serbia, that culminated those October days of the year 2000 there is a part of positive energy that Publikum Calendars of the New Art and Contemporary Life have been creating for ten years. They have already overcome their first intention – a fusion of a perfect artistic and advertising medium in an attractive and mass product. In this sense, the calendar is outgrowing its original geographical and artistic framework. In the same way the whole country, after a ten-year-long nightmare, is taking a step out into an open exchange with the World, so are the names of international artists of various profiles entering the matrix labeled as ‘Made in Serbia‘.


Speaking of countries and nations on limes – the frontier. Arnold Toynbeo has long ago concluded that such geographical (and spiritual) positions in times of the decline of civilization represent misfortune for those who live near these borders since under the circumstances all that could befall them are mostly wars. The position on limes, however, becomes fertile in times of major growth of civilization – as la those times it is a place of creative exchange, unusual synthesis, and major ascents. This seems to be the moment in which local time-beats stop, in which the clock stops going counter-clockwise for the people in Serbia, and mutual communication with the world begins. The trace of the moment stays recorded on pages of the calendar for the first year of the third millennium.


Published in the Publikum Calendar “Antiwall”, 2001

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