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The Subversive Pedagogy of Belgrade Surrealism

Published on: June 9, 2023

Tuesday, June 13, 18h

Center of Illustration / Vodnik Homestead, Stritarjeva ulica 7, 1000 Ljubljana

The Subversive Pedagogy of Belgrade Surrealism

Talk by Aleksandar Bošković (Columbia University, New York)

Aleksandar Vučo and Dušan Matić's The Fine Feats of the "Five Cockerels" Gang

The 1933 collaborative surrealist book The Fine Feats of the "Five Cockerels" Gang marked the end of the historical avant-gardes in Yugoslavia. It was written by two prominent Belgrade Surrealists - Aleksandar Vučo, who wrote the verses, and Dušan Matić, who authored the preface and created the collages and the accompanying prose texts that "explain" them. The Fine Feats is one of the examples of avant-garde photopoetry books for children and a rare example of a surrealist "novel in verse" with photomontages.

The lecture introduces the lesser-known practices of the Belgrade Surrealists, explains their inclination towards the renewal of children's literature, focusing particularly on The Fine Feats, and discusses the aesthetic and ideological concepts that the Belgrade Surrealists developed and put at the service of the Revolution. Using these surrealist concepts - the wall, the marvelous, spacing/doubling, and the interval - the latent meanings and emancipatory potential of this socially significant pedagogical project are elaborated. Finally, the author takes a close look at some of Matić's collages and accompanying prose texts from the book and their subversive, "Aesopian" role within the symbolic economies of contemporary Yugoslav society. The lecture concludes with an account of the historical trajectory of the Belgrade Surrealist Circle and subsequent editions of The Fine Feats in socialist Yugoslavia.

Aleksandar Bošković teaches in the Slavic Department at Columbia University and specializes in avant-garde literature and experimental art practices examined through the lens of comparative media. He is the author of The Poetic Humor in Vasko Pope's Oeuvre (2008) and co-editor of The Fine Feats of 'Five Cockerel's Gang' with Ainsley Morse (Brill, 2022) and Zenithism: A Yugoslav Avant-Garde Anthology with Steven Teref (forthcoming at Academic Studies Press). His articles have appeared in scholarly journals (Apparatus, Cultural Critique, Digital Icons, Književna istorija, Russian Review, SEEJ, Slavic Review) and in several edited volumes. He is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including the Collegium de Lyon Fellowship (2019-2020).

The guest lecture is part of the public program announcing the 2024 exhibition Biba Buba Baja: Creating (for) socialist children, which presents the results of the research project Picturing Modernist Future: Women Illustrators and Childhood Conceptions in Socialist Yugoslavia by the Institute of Culture and Memory Studies of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in collaboration with the Center for Illustration and City of Women.

The project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska -Curie grant agreement No. 101024090.