Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Healthy Decadence: With a drawing by Alex as the Prime Example

Published by the Salt Lake Art Center as an insert to Catalyst Magazine

Healthy Decadence? Utah Art Through a German Lens

25 May 1998

A century-old barge rides at permanent anchor at the edge of the Danube just outside Belgrade. My friend Zarko Radakovic and I find a table in the sun. Most of the guests on the barge are drinking Jelen Pivo, “Stag Beer,” brewed in Yugoslavia since 1756. The shoulders of the brown bottles are rubbed white with hundreds of recyclings.

A middle-aged man docks a motorboat next to the barge and joins us at our table. His name is Vuk and he and Zarko have known each other since grade school.

“Two years ago,” Vuk tells us at one point in the desultory conversation, “short of money, I agreed to make a campaign film for Mira Markovic’s political party. She’s Slobodan Miloševic’s wife. It was kitsch, pure kitsch, and very effective. I had a whole sequence with neon lights that shot the word PROGRESS across the screen: PROGRESS . . . PROGRESS . . . PROGRESS.
It was a brilliant piece of propaganda. Since then I’ve called myself Vuk Riefenstahl. I learned everything from Leni Riefenstahl’s films Triumph of the Will and Olympia. She was a genius at making the people so small and the great leader so large. I don’t worry about having done the job. I needed the money and the country is absolute chaos anyway. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, it doesn’t change anything anyway. Absolute chaos, and so I just made the film and now can keep my boat running.”

 26 March, 1999
While bombs are falling today in Serbia, I remember last year’s discussion with the cynical film maker and ask myself several questions: What kinds of art please the powers that be? What kinds of art do rulers fear? What kinds of rhetoric do governing bodies use to suppress art that makes them uncomfortable? What is propaganda? And what kinds of art serve us best as citizens of a diverse, precarious, and changing world?         [the rest of the article here]