Marko Ilić

May 29, 2023

A Slow Burning Fire

The Rise of the New Art Practice in Yugoslavia

MIT Press 2021

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Writer and academic Anthony Gardner (NSK from Kapital to Capital, Politically Unbecoming) interviews Marko Ilić about his new book A Slow Burning Fire, which documents Yugoslavia's cultural output throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.

This first comprehensive study of the former Yugoslavia's alternative art scene tells the origin stories of some of the most significant artists of the late twentieth century. In Yugoslavia from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, state-supported Students' Cultural Centers became incubators for new art. This era's conceptual and performance art—known as Yugoslavia's New Art Practice—emerged from a network of diverse and densely interconnected art scenes that nurtured the early work of Marina Abramović, Sanja Iveković, Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), and others. In this book, Marko Ilić examines Yugoslavia's New Art Practice in light of the political upheavals of the 1980s.

Countering the usual binary of official versus unofficial art, Ilić shows that the Students' Cultural Centers were an expression of Yugoslavia's “third way” political and economic system, which was founded on workers' self-management. Ilić examines key actions, gestures, and propositions affiliated with the New Art Practice, including the conceptual and dematerialized art practices that emerged from Zagreb's Student Center Gallery, the struggle of Belgrade's Students' Cultural Center (where Abramović performed her career-defining Rhythm 5), to break into the international art scene, the pre-Žižek culture of Ljubljana, and Sarajevo's miraculous dokumenta, held in the midst of Yugoslavia's disintegration.

Produced by Sam Kelly; Mixed by Samantha Doyle; Soundtrack by Kristen Gallerneaux

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