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Babylonian Language Confusion

09.05.2022 Saša Ilić

The great explosion that took place in Zurich in 1916 with the appearance of Dada as a reaction to civic aesthetic forms of pre-war art permanently marked the art and literature of the first half of the 20th century. Many avant-garde magazines were launched under its influence throughout Europe. In Yugoslavia, Early avant-garde periodicals were related to the cultural climate of post-war Zagreb and Belgrade. Zenit magazine (1921-1926) was launched in Zagreb (in February 1921) by Ljubomir Micić (1895–1971), an avant-garde artist. From 1923, the magazine was published in Belgrade, which lasted until it was banned in 1926 with the editor being forced to go into exile. Among other Yugoslav periodicals of the time, there were Dada Tank (1922) and Dada Jazz (1922) (published by Dragan Aleksić (1901–1958), an avant-garde artist) and Dada Jok (1922) (edited by Branko Ve Poljanski (1898–1947)). Based on basic postulates of the European avant-garde movement, Ljubomir Micić founded the authentic Yugoslav avant-garde movement – Zenithism (zenitizam) – a unique blend of Russian Futurism, German Expressionism, Dada and antiDada, with traces of Balkan Luddism reflected in the figure of Barbarogenius, whose purpose was to decivilise Europe and pave the way for new values. A distinctive amalgamation of poetry and pictures, signs and their negations, scripts and languages, as well as the intertwining of poetry, painting and architecture, marked the artistic concept of the magazine. Issue No 5 of Zenit (5 June 1921) contained the manifesto of the movement in German – „Zenitistisches Manifest“. It was written by the French-German poet Iwan Goll (1891-1950). The complete manifesto of Zenithism („Zenitistički manifest“) was published the same year, as a special issue of Zenit. It was written by Micić, Iwan Goll and Boško Tokin (1894-1953) (a poet and film critic from Belgrade). The Manifesto introduced the quest for the New Man and abolished the division of people by the nation, with the exclamation: “We are all European, American, African, Asian and Australian!” Avant-garde art demanded an aesthetic revaluation of the world. To achieve this, a new language was also necessary. Consequently, orthography received an entirely new place in the new artistic constellation. The examples that follow have been selected from the abovementioned Yugoslav avant-garde periodicals. They belong to the tradition of historic avant-garde, which was still not even defined as such at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead, it merely followed the stream of radical negation and confrontation with tradition, which led to the establishment of a new connection between signs and images.

Translated by: Tatjana Domazet