Goran Babić, poet, writer, playwright, journalist, conceptual artist and “sociopolitical worker”. The life and work of Goran Babić make for a remarkable intertwining of biography, art, history and politics.
He grew up in different parts of Yugoslavia and completed his economics studies in Zagreb, where he worked as a writer and politician until the beginning of the Yugoslav war drama, when he settled permanently in Belgrade. He has published almost a hundred books of poetry, prose, plays, literary criticism, as well as engaged and polemical texts, and his poetry has been included in many domestic and foreign anthologies. In addition to his literary work, Babić is also an accomplished author of television, film, radio, music and newspaper projects, as well as the editor of several magazines for literature and culture, among which influential magazines Pitanja and Oko stand out. Babić’s literary opus, his direct or indirect participation in important political and literary events and his professional closeness to the authors of new artistic tendencies make him an ever-present witness, unavoidable in any thorough research of literature and art in this region.
Having an uncompromising attitude, being committed to the anti-nationalist and socialist principles, to Yugoslavism, he engaged in polemics with various actors on the sociopolitical and cultural scene during the 1970s and 1980s, pointing out the dangers of hidden nationalisms and its possible consequences. Ever since the first works of poetry from the late 1960s, such as the poem “Aversion to Alcohol”, Babić was classified as one of the authors of a new and different poetic expression whose verses, in a critical-ironic approach to reality and carrying a rebellious tone, will be deeply ethically engaged and thematically oriented. This equally applied to his prose works, to the fate of the individual with the burdening, historical circumstances looming over. On the formal stylistic level, Babić is no stranger to classical lyrical expression or experiments in poetry, as in the case of aesthetical and conceptual framework of Matična knjiga (The Registry Book), a collection of visual-verbal research. In his literary works for children, Babić also introduced a special authorial style which, in a linguistic and thematic-narrative sense, went beyond the canons of children’s literature of that time, provoking negative critical reactions, as in the case of the poetry collection “Strašna djeca” (Scary Children), published in the early 1970s, the content of which the Croatian pedagogues deemed problematic in nature, which, in turn, resulted in the destruction of the entire circulation of five thousand copies. Today, as well as enjoying a cult status among the great connoisseurs of social and cultural events in the former Yugoslavia and among the true devotees of literature and leftist and Yugoslavist ideas, Babić’s poetic and prose work, also somehow, remain unknown, often inaccessible to the general public. Shadowed by the current literary and publishing trends, and during the last few decades, due to dominant nationalist discourses and historical revisionisms, literally marginalized in the collective memory, Babić’s poetry, novels, essays, dramatic texts and works in other artistic fields and, of course, their significance, are still waiting for a more detailed historicization, contextualization and evaluation.
The exhibition “A Sporadic Suspension of Time” presents a possible insight into the complex creative work of Goran Babić and that which is inseparable from him: the sociopolitical and cultural ambience of post-war Yugoslavia, whose evolution, existence and dramatic and tragic end will deeply influence the life path of the author himself. The framework for the exhibition, conceived and guided as a kind of work in process, is Babić’s (for this occasion) purpose-made book – a sequencing that leads the viewer/reader through a series of stories from personal history, anecdotes with poets, writers, artists, politicians, post-World War II remembrance, as well as political turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s, until the last decade of the twentieth century, which marked the beginning of serious political and social upheavals and changes for the former common state, and for Goran, the beginning of a new emigrant, existential and creative chapter in Belgrade. In addition to the aforementioned book, which is exhibited on all three levels of the Gallery – legacy of Milica Zorić and Rodoljub Čolaković, the cross-section of Goran Babić’s biography and art includes accompanying archival material, artifacts, more than a hundred titles of his poetry, prose, criticism, political essays, films, video materials together with the works (drawings, installations, ambiences, textile objects) of contemporary visual artists Darinka Pop-Mitić, Tamara Đorđević, Siniša Ilić and Vesna Vesić.
“If there’s one thing I’ve never been able to do (and it’s often being asked of me) then it was a need, a necessity, or a desire to explain the verses I wrote. I guess sometimes it seems to people that behind the verses, on the other side of the incomprehensible, there is the conceptual, the clear and the intelligible… Not even now, not even today, am I able to say a single meaningful word about my verses. In my opinion, poetry, after all, does not need commenting, and also, what would people whose job it is to explain the inexplicable do in that case? Should they be made not only superfluous but also absurd? But let this not be misunderstood – I am not pointing out what others cannot do when I myself cannot do it either. Equipped, therefore, even with an introduction such as this, which contradicts the nature of things, this little garland of verses moves into life, into emptiness. In the great universe, in that dark, cold, and icy night, every human cry is an infinitely great thing. Only in such circumstances do inaudible lyrical noises create an unbearable bang. It is the detonation that occurs when words burst, when the text explodes.” (Goran Babić, Alone in Front of a Mirror, from the book Manuscript Illuminator)
Goran Babić (Vis, 1944) was educated in Mostar, Metković, Rijeka and Zagreb, where he graduated from the Faculty of Economics in 1968. In 1969, he founded the Center for Social Activities of the Youth of RK SOH, which then published a number of books by young writers. Since 1973, he has been the editor-in-chief of the Oko magazine, dedicated to current events in art and culture. In the period from 1981 to 1985, Babić was in charge of culture in the Presidency of the Socialist Alliance of the Republic of Croatia. At the beginning of the nineties, he moved to Belgrade, where he still lives and works. His poems have been included in several anthologies, and have been translated into Albanian, English, Macedonian, Romanian and Slovenian. As he himself says, the most valuable things that will remain behind him are his three daughters, grandchildren and a great-grandson, and he sees himself as the last writer of the great Yugoslav literature.
The team of authors and collaborators:
Goran Babić, Maša Babić, Andrej Dolinka, Tamara Đorđević, Siniša Ilić, Miroslav Karić, Darinka Pop – Mitić, Ratko Pavlović and Vesna Vesić
Exhibition opening supported by:
Winery Patkov vinograd