NOT RED, BUT BLOOD! / NIJE TO CRVENA, TO JE KRV!
Krvava smo platna preko zemlje razapeli,popucalim noktima po gorama zakačili,po gorama i po putevima,preko svih guduraod naših smo kožaslikarska platna razapeli,mi, moderni Rafaeli…K.D. Kajuh, Preko smrti stupamo do slobode
Not Red, but Blood!
Yugoslav Communist, Partisan, and Revolutionary Poetry
Not Red, but Blood! establishes a connection between Yugoslav communist, revolutionary, and Partisan poetry and performance – artistic practices related to the act of utterance, the eternal present tense. Immaterial and intended for performance – which cannot exist without the social and collective – poetry arose in the guerrilla warfare of the Yugoslav National Liberation War as one among many art forms: graphic art, comics, plays, and even choreography, as a form of struggle equal to armed resistance. Poetry is suited to guerrilla conditions because it is easy to distribute and needs little more than a clear vision of a new world and linguistic translation into rhythm and time. The lyrics not only depict the passion and struggle, but also become blueprints for a new world, a stimulus to keep going forward, to make the impossible possible, and turn an occupied country into a free country. As Partisans, these avant-garde artists were fighting side by side with the people, who were learning how to read and write by writing poetry. This fact posits Partisan poetry beyond the narrow debates about the autonomy of and the political in art. Through their self-reflected and precise poetry, these poets threw art right onto the battlefield, not as a substitute for politics, nor subjected to an idea, but as an inseparable part of it. Therefore, artistic creativity, revolution, and struggle are inextricably linked with the verses of Popa, Kajuh, Župančič, and others, and this is the ‘red thread’ that shapes the text of this performance. Another, more theoretical red thread of this performance and our engagement with Partisan art is Kako misliti partizansko umetnost (How to think Partisan Art), a comprehensive study by Miklavž Komelj. Komelj’s book focuses on the rupture that the Partisan movement caused in art in the process of building collective subjectivity, which opened a void where, in the near future, the ‘nothing’ and ‘all’ of The Internationale, will meet.
Not Red, but Blood! is a sort of exploration of the possibilities of translating revolutionary poetry into a performative gesture. The task of the three performers is to search for an embodiment and social situation for this poetry today. They approach it by analyzing it, searching for its rhythm, listening and surrendering to it, acting as mediators, as instruments and interpreters. They speculatively place it into the coordinates of a performance, a collective time and space, the public sphere of today, which generally treats revolutionary ideas with, at best, postmodern cynicism and anti-ideological hysteria. Despite all the prejudices and clichés about socialist realism and propaganda, as well as contempt for communism, communist, revolutionary, and Partisan poetry remains a powerful artistic expression and is inextricably linked to the revolutionary and avant-garde ideas of creating a new, better world.
Responding to a statement by a journalist from Cahiers du cinéma that there was a lot of blood in his film Pierrot le fou, Jean-Luc Godard laconically answered: “Not blood, but red [dye]”. For the purposes of the title of this performance, we opted for Not Red, but Blood!, a paraphrase of Godard’s response from an interview that Ana Vujanović made with Marina Gržinić for Walking Theory journal and an eponymous video by Marina Gržinić, as a re-politicisation of Godard’s position, who systematically addressed the question of что делать? in the art of cinema. Our title does not exactly refer to the relationship between art and fighting, because Partisan poetry – “red”, so to speak – emerged alongside fighting – “blood”, so to speak – and as part of the struggle, not as a substitute for it. Also, it could be further clarified by adding a third element, for instance: it is either red, or blood, but certainly communism.
The textual basis of the performance follows the logic of anthologies of revolutionary poetry from the Yugoslav socialist era. In them, poems were usually ordered chronologically, starting with poetry from the interwar period, then moving on to poetry written during the war, and concluding with poetry made immediately after the war, which extolled the fallen and their sacrifice. Communicating, nevertheless, with the present moment, we decided to present the poetry in our performance in reverse chronological order. The performance begins by paying homage to a country that is no more and to the dead who created it through struggle, then moves through the horrors of war, where the body was selflessly sacrificed as a material carrier of the idea, concluding with the pre-revolutionary tension, which we project into the present. As a part of the past, Yugoslavia contains more futures than the present moment, as do the great memorial complexes of the People’s Liberation Struggle; might the same apply to Yugoslav Partisan poetry? Komelj discusses the contemporaneity of Partisan art, which, unlike contemporary art today, does not adapt to the moment of its emergence, but addresses its own impossibility, symbolically articulating a change from impossibility to possibility. The power of the idea and ideology that initiated and guided the People’s Liberation Struggle, created poetry, built monuments … is precisely that which is missing at the present time.
The performance uses excerpts from the following anthologies: Pesniče, znaš svoj dug (Poet, You Know Your Debt), ed. Boško Bogetić (Belgrade: Rad, 1975); Poezija bunta i otpora (Poetry of Revolt and Resistance), eds. Zoran Gavrilović, Skender Kulenović, Stevan Raičković, and Svetislav Ristić (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1976); Ljudi (People), ed. Muharem Pervić (Belgrade: Komunist, 1969); and Ognjeni golub (Fire Dove), ed. Rafo Bogišić (Zagreb: Matica hrvatska, 1981).
The performance features works by the following poets: Kosta Abrašević (Red), Matej Bor (Treading, Treading), Branko Ćopić (Dead Proletarians’ Song), Oskar Davičo (Remembering the Captivity of Svetozar Marković), Mak Dizdar (Oblivion), Slavko Janevski (Echo of a Robber’s Song), Živko Jeličić (Mothers), Karel Destovnik Kajuh (To the Mother of a Fallen Partisan; Through Death We Enter Freedom; Our Song; Fierce Songs We’ll Sing), Jure Kaštelan (Songs about My Country; Typhoid Victims), Ivan Goran Kovačić (The Pit; Our Freedom; To Myself); Dušan Matić (A Lullaby for the Fallen Who Were No Older than Twenty), Vladimir Nazor (At Vučevo), Vasko Popa (The Eyes of Sutjeska), Jovan Popović (Sun in My Hands), Marko Ristić (Dawning Blood), Izet Sarajlić (Born in ’23, Shot in ’42); Aco Šopov (Love), Radonja Vešović (Sleeper; What Shall I Say to Your Mother), Slavko Vukosavljević (Kadinjača), and Oton Župančič (Poet, Do You Know Your Duty?)
 Miklavž Komelj, Kako misliti partizansko umetnost (Ljubljana: Založba /*cf: 2009), p. 193.
 Ana Vujanović and Marina Gržinić, “To nije crvena, to je krv!”, TkH: časopis za teoriju izvođačkih umetnosti, No. 9 (2005).
 Gal Kirn and Robert Burghardt, “Jugoslovenski partizanski spomenici: između revolucionarne politike i apstraktnog modernizma” (Yugoslav Partisan Monuments: Between Revolutionary Politics and Abstract Modernism), Jugolink: pregled postjugoslovenskih istraživanja, No. 1 (2012), p. 8.
 Komelj, op cit., p. 23.
Adaptation and direction: Bojan Djordjev
Scenic area: Siniša Ilić
Stage Movement: Selma Banich
Costume: Maja Mirković
Production: Dragana Jovović
Speech coach: Diana Marojević Diklić
Graphic design: Katarina Popović
Performers: Miloš Djurović, Stipe Kostanić, Ana Mandić
Production: Walking Theory – TkH
In co-production with the Center for Cultural Decontamination.
Financial support: Ministry of Culture of Republic of Serbia, Culture Programme of the European Union through the project to Create to Connect, Heartefakt fund
Thanks to: Milan Milovanović