In Belgrade… he came and left, but not altogether…
now, in this half-abandoned summery Belgrade,
are puzzling our citizens. Zen Buddhistic minimalist
street-art, or New York ads, or something completely
new to us…
Not like Belgrade's normal ads, loudly promoting
cars, and open sexism…
TRYING / TO LOOK / GOOD / LIMITS / MY LIFE…
Every piece has a different billboard of its own,
placed in a
different part of the city…
No semi-nude women, but blue areas / fences /
nowheres…I would rather get lost in that nowhere
than sit in some
fancy car with a carton of great cigarettes next to
Yes, and if I do that, then what?
So, the performance of this artist-designer, an
in New York, is called 'Things I Have Learned in My
Life So Far.'
Money does not make me happy; Being not truthful
me; Having guts always works out for me; Trying to
look good limits
my life; Everything I do comes back to me… And some
aphoristic wisdoms of this kind, which the artist
threw into his
lecture in the National Library. They also appear in
in the SUPERSPACE gallery on the Danube river.
While I listened to Stefan Sagmeister I had a deja
vu, as if
somebody threw a net on the top of our dirty loud and
Belgrade which I once loved so much… And I even know
Belgrade is not much like Barcelona or Rome or Vienna,
or New York or
Los Angeles, although Belgrade had all the advantages
of wild big
Belgrade refused to become that which was given to
that is an underground metropolis.
– It's a lovely city, says the designer.
– It doesn't lack for gritty charm, nods my American
friend, who is
used to Balkan hospitality but is still in business
for rakija and
-It is my city, in transition to nowhere, I say
suddenly, as if
anxiously protecting some handicapped child.
Designers like Belgrade, so do architects. Rem
recently again in Belgrade for the festival of design.
earlier in Sharjah where Koolhaas went to admire the
politics in that fundamentalist oasis, he spoke of
think it is still the much-repeated story by Le
Corbusier – Belgrade
is the ugliest city on the most beautiful spot in the
While I listen to these world stars of global
design, it occurs
to me that they know nothing of anything real to us.
What do they
know of mass graves, of spitting on the streets, about
sponzorushas…. Then I realize that they are not
snobs, but it is
me who is biased — or maybe they just as biased as I
myself am a
When Sagmeister threw his cosmopolitan net on the
of Southern Europe, as he calls the city, he got me
too. I listened
as if under a
spell to his simple stories about the wisdom he has
model public lecture.
For example, "Having guts always works for me" —
illustrated this with an anecdote in which he jumped
underground train in the very last moment, at a stop
that was not
even his own, to chase a little old lady with a nice
hat, in Vienna.
Just to let her know something that had obsessed him
on the train,
and that is, that the old lady looks GREAT in her
Or "Money does not make me happy". He described
shows that after earning 50 000 dollars per year, if
double that sum, nothing of significance changes in
And an awesome motto now: "Everybody who is
is interesting" — this one really made me happy!
His simple honesty towards people and the place
teleported me to my dream-city, a place which does not
a concrete city, nor does it have any name.
That dream city within me is the sister city of
cities of Italo Calvino, made of all the
masterpieces and the ruins
of world design and
world architecture, of people, insects, rats and
phenomena that must go without saying or remain
unspeakable, of fears
and incredible flights, water fire earth and
polluted air… the
inner stuff of us who live there…
Here I am in reality, gazing from a rusty terrace
in the Vracar
Belgrade, at the tall decaying building of a
I was born there, my mother worked there, my daughter
was born there
too… But that building was invisible for me until
pointed a billboard towards it saying: "Over time I
get used to
everything and start taking if for granted."
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Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:
– Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
– Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
– Carnival of Ruritania
– "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
– Faking Bombings
– Dispatch from Amsterdam
– Where are your Americans now?
– Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
– Slaughter in the Monastery
– Mermaid's Trail
– A Burial in Srebenica
– Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
– To Hague, to Hague
Scorpions Trial, April 13
– The Muslim Women
– Belgrade: New Normality
– Serbia: An Underworld Journey
– Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
– The Long Goodbye
– Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
– Slobodan Milosevic Died
– Milosevic Funeral