Central European Avant-Gardes and Their Utopian Journals, Part II

Last week’s blog post addressed the significance of the journals, or little magazines of the Central European avant-garde, that were influenced by utopian artistic movements in the region and often served as disseminators of their ideas. That short piece was mostly focused on the activist magazine Út, published in Hungarian on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Another such example is the Slovenian journal Tank published by Ferdinand Delak in Ljubljana and edited by him and artist Avgust Černigoj, born in Trieste, that till 1918 had belonged to the Habsburg Empire, and after the war was annexed by Italy. Tank first appeared in the autumn of 1927, representing all that was new and dramatic in Slovenian avant-garde. The journal lasted through two issues – no. 1 ½ and no. 1 ½ -3, and the declarations that opened the first issues, especially Černigoj’s “moj pozdrav” (my greetings), explicitly recalled Micić’s utopian Zenitist program:

 “long live new art = collective …/our art is the creation of the spirit/our friend who fights for new ways of life is a spiritual hero! …/ tank is the organ of our aspirations and our spiritual struggle…/ tank is the organ of the new artistic generation.” (quoted from Levinger “Ljubomir Micić and the Zenitist Utopia”, p. 271 in Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930.)

Delak and Černigoj were heavily influenced by Russian constructivism and the Bauhaus, political ideas of proletarian revolution and Italian Futurism. Černigoj was eventually expelled from Ljubljana and the Yugoslav state as politically dangerous, but he continued with his activities in Trieste. Delak remained in Ljubljana and pursued a career in theatre. Micić’s magazine Zenit that was first published in Zagreb (1921-1923) and then in Belgrade (1923-1926), was also banned in 1926 as Communist propaganda, and Micić went from Belgrade, via Rijeka and Trieste (meeting Černigoj) to his Paris exile, where he did manage to publish in French his novel Barbarogenius Decivilizer in 1938, a continuation of his “balkanizing mission” via his favourite trope – the Barbaro-Genuis (see Lev Kreft pp. 286-287 in Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930.)

Throughout the remaining decades of the 20th century the brief existence of these journals (and for that matter movements) was mostly ignored by the local communities where they were developed – the national museums in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia only started showing interested and archiving their works in the 1980s. However, their works, as Benson and Forgács note, were important part of the global modernist movement, and their (utopian) works and ideas were circulated and received attention outside of their national communities. For example, the first international presentation of the Slovenian avant-garde, including Tank, took place in 1928 in Berlin, and their work was the journal Der Sturm, a German avant-garde art and literary magazine founded by Herwarth Walden (Kreft p. 287). Similarly, as already mentioned, there are formative connections between the Budapest-Vienna based group and magazine Ma and the Novi Sad-based Hungarian/Yugoslav magazine Út. While these magazines, as the primary means of existence of their often-time utopian movements only lasted a few years and in all cases were banned by the states where they were being published, they were undeniably trans-European phenomena, whose philosophical, political and artistic heritages were preserved precisely because of their trans-national connections.

Iva Dimovska

The covers from the two published issues of the magazine Tank.
Source: https://www.avantgarde-museum.com

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