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International Reflective Writing


Milica Tomic: Serbian Performance Artist

Milica Tomic works and lives in Belgrade as visual artist, primarily video, film, photography, performance, action, light and sound installation, web projects, discussions etc.Tomic's work centres on issues of political violence, nationality and identity, with particular attention to the tensions between personal experience and media constructed images.

"If we want to grasp the significance of Milica Tomic´s art, it will be important for us to focus on her artistic procedures. The model of reasoning which Tomic develops for her work is the key: it lends general validity to the topics and content she dealswith, thus transcending the respective political occasion and pointing to both past and future. (...) Tomic does not comment from a seemingly neutral "correct" viewpoint, looking inside from the outside, but turns herself into part of the scenario so as to trigger an analytical process from this unstable position that is always also rooted in the imaginary."Quoted by Silvia Eiblmayr, introduction to the catalogue "Milica Tomic", Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria

In her video work ”I am Milica Tomic” (1998/99), which was also adapted for the internet, the artist deals with the question of her identity through such statements as, ”I am a Serb and Othodox Christian”. She opposes the demand to be part of the ”sane” population and decides to speak publicly from the position of the injured in order to reveal the trauma underlying certain contructions of identity. Tomic stands before us in a white slip; she is radiantly beautiful with a heavenly glow about her. The sentence ”I am Milica Tomic – I am Serbian” is followed suit by the statement ”I am Milica Tomic – I am Korean” or ”-I am Norwegian,” etc. She repeats this 65 times, substituting different languages and nations each time. I am Austrian, I am American, and so on. With each sentence a new wound appears, so that by the time she finishes, she is completely covered in blood-spounting gashes. After all 65 recitations, everything closes up, her body is intact once more, and the whole thing starts all over again. Exploring the nature and the emergence of identity, Tomic creates a host of conceivable identities which stand in for an imagined society of pluralities. Through this imaginative gesture, the artist calls into question the borderlines between the circumscribed spaces of national and religious belonging and the recent spectre of globalized individual experience.

In her video work ”xy – reconstruction of the crime” (1997), she refers directly to the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia and to the violation of Human Rights by Serbian police. In her symbolic reconstruction, the artist shows the 40 people who were shot by Serbian police in Kosovo in March 1989 while demonstrating against the abrogation of Kosovo´s autonomy. Tomic points to the fundamental problem of reconstructing a crime and discusses the interrelation between a reality co-produced by the media and fiction.

Source: ME Contemporary (Copenhagen)

In conjunction with the exhibition Global Feminisms, feminist artists from more than fifty countries discussed or performed their works in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art Forum. These artist talks took place during the Center's opening weekend March 23-25, 2007. Video courtesy of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation.


Stevan Raičković

Born in Neresnica (Serbia) in 1928 to a family of teachers, Raičković spent the war years as a refugee and did not complete his secondary schooling until 1947 in Subotica. But this was two years after he had published his first poem, Majka nad zavejanim uspomenama (A Mother amid Snowy Memories). Five more years would pass before a collection would appear, years he spent in Belgrade for the most part as a student of philosophy at Belgrade University. Raičković's poetry was regarded as too "gloomy" to satisfy the demands of Socialist Realism made on Belgrade publishers in the postwar years. It was only after meeting Oskar Davičo in 1948 that Raičković was able to see his the publication of his first collection of poems, Detinjstva (Childhoods).

Raičković later found employment as an editor for Prosveta. He quickly broke into the first ranks of modern Serbian poetry with his tremulous verses and extraordinary melodic solutions to problems of versification. From book to book, he created his own unique individual voice, modern but steeped in the traditions of Serbian poetry.

The fundamental characteristic of Raičković's poetry is spontaneity: resonant and melodic, the poems are frequently written in the manner of a confession or a personal letter sent to a loved one or a friend. Raičković's poems insist on periods of silence and solitude, and give poetry a new sound. The outstanding lyricism of Song of Silence (Pesma Tišine, 1952) was immediately noticed, and Evening Ballads (1955) is today accepted as a classic work of intimate lyricism. In Tisa (1961) Raičković creates variations on the theme of the river Tisa, where he happened to be once again many years later, rehearsing the muffled voices and distant sounds of his childhood. His sonnets, Stone Lullaby (Kamena Uspavanka, 1963) showed that Raičković had mastered the sonnet, giving it a new personal tone. In post-WWII Serbian poetry, Raičković is a lyricist of the highest order. Raičković also translated the Shakespreare Sonnets (1966) and those of Petrarch, as well as six Russian poets, including Aleksandar Blok, Josip Mandelstam, Ana Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak (1970). His literary output continues unabated in the new millenium. A ten-volume edition of Raičković's collected works appeared in 1998.

Belgrade Is Alive
(Greetings from Hiroshima)

Open letter from Stevan Raičković

The black (half dead) telephone began ringing in my apartment the day after the bombardment of Yugoslavia and Belgrade began. A couple of moments passed before I succeeded in figuring out who had called me, and especially what kind of message I was being given.

"Stevan, good?" - was as much as I could make out... and I sensed in the accented, un-Serbian pronunciation that the speaker was obviously upset... it was a Japanese variant of our language... which is not entirely unknown to me.

"Good!" - I replied.

We repeated the same question and answer several times...

It was a woman's voice from Hiroshima, on the other side of the world, a woman whose last name is Nakajima... the sole surviving grandmother of my grandchildren, Adam and Ana. They are the children of her daughter, Miwako, and my son, Milos... who live in Brooklyn...

Mrs. Nakajima learned this single Serbian word, dobro (good), from her daughter, Miwako... This word had a variety of meanings for her... and it did not literally have reference to only disposition or health... but also to life, raw life...

And the next day, exactly at noon, my black telephone rang again.

It was the same voice from far away Hiroshima.

"Stevan, good?"


This time Mrs. Nakajima's voice was even more upset, and she kept repeating herself... but added a new expression:

"Belgrade, good? Belgrade, good?"

"Good! Good!" - I repeated several times. I was deeply touched.

On the third day I was on my way to the Serbian writer's house... located at (the former!) Francuska (French St.) 7... when the air raid sirens started screaming, which now meant a dangerous period of renewed NATO bombardment of Belgrade.

There was a protest taking place at the writer's house called Five Minutes to Twelve.

At a dramatic moment like this, I had intended to read in this illustrious hall of ours a pathetic old sonnet of mine called Stone Lullaby... but I refrained from verse...

I instead shared with my fellow authors this newest experience of mine... It seems to me that I ended my story with these words:

"Now it is exactly noon... in my empty apartment on St. Sava Street, the black telephone is ringing in vain, with two urgent questions from distant Hiroshima: is Stevan well?... and is Belgrade alive?...

As I am writing all this down... I recall the one Japanese word that I do know, which my son, Milos, drilled into my head a couple of years ago:

Arigato... (thank you)...

Stevan Raičković, 27 March, 1999

The Village of Prkos

On December 21 1941, terrorist collaborators with the Nazis in Croatia massacred 470 Serb inhabitants of the village of Prkos. The Serb poet Stevan Raickovic wrote this epitaph (here in an English version) for a monument in their memory:

Amidst the war we never touched a gun

But we all fell by the executioner's hand.

Once we were living people, women, children,

Now we're nothing, neither dust nor shade.

And none of us will ever come again.

We lie here in the night of no return.

Appearing only now and then in Prkos

Transmuted into dew or grass.



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