Return to a Balkan Avant-Garde
The interwar Zagreb journal Zenit (1921–1926) staged experiments with word and image, and included texts in two alphabets and in at least five languages. The small but ambitious group of artists and writers associated with the journal strove to evolve a radical, collective, and ephemeral new form of art. This early Balkan avant-garde sought to turn its double marginalization into an advantage. The essay argues that this deeply self-conscious avant-garde evolved radical notions of “marginal art,” anticipating debates in the Frankfurt school and ongoing today. The ideas of Zenit move beyond the historical avant-garde. This chapter raises broader questions about art practice and the cultural heritage of the twentieth century. The Balkan avant-garde offers an antithesis to the monuments of high modernism. Despite the evident differences, a profound continuity exists with other ongoing cultural debates about marginalization and competition with dominant cultures.
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