essay about authorbibliographyartist's influences
02. September 1945
Ex Yugoslavia

Raša Todosijević is one of the main protagonists of the Belgrade group of conceptual artists.  In the early seventies, during the dominance of traditional media and uncritical modernism, this group began to use new media, video, performance, actions, etc., to provoke and question the structure and functioning of current art practice, and society in general. Young artists (Marina Abramović, Era Milivojević, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović, Gera Urkom) gathered in Belgrade's Student Center, where a new form of artistic expression was conceived, later called Nova umjetnička praksa (The New Artistic Practice).

According to Dejan Sretenović, while Marina Abramović primarily applied aggressive methods using her own body and testing her own limits, Todosijević's aggression during his performances was directed outward. Was ist Kunst? (What is art?) is one of his most often performed pieces, in which Todosijević continuously and aggressively shouts the titled question, at another person (usually woman) who sits still in front of him. The piece connects totalitarian behavior and builds a victim-torturer relationship, making irony of the current philosophical and theoretical question, "What is art?". Todosijević explained the performance with this statement: "My performance is not based on the desire of demystification, but wants to irritate the negative in a person in order to point it out - bile after my performance is the negative in you." Only afterwards is it possible to speak of subversive affirmation, a method that by literal application of a system of behavior points to its negative connotations. The performance was carried out with different variations during the period between 1976 to 1981.

Todosijević's performances are marked by provocative and aggressive behavior, often flirting with sadism. Examples are the performances: Vive la France – Vive la Tyranie (Long live France – Long Live Tyranny, 1979), Decision as Art (1973), Pijenje vode (Drinking Water, 1974).

In the performance Umetnost i memorija (Art and Memory, 1975) the artist, wrapped in a scarf and looking like a terrorist, shouts the names of all the artists he can think of in that moment. Todosijević declares: "The original performance Art and Memory exists only in the consciousness and memory of the people who were present during its realisation. For me personally, there is only one history of art and that is the art recorded in my memory."

In the first half of the seventies, Todosijevic created artworks in which he explored the medium and process of painting, for example, untitled works created in 1974, that belong to so-called elementary painting. The cycle started in 1976, Nula dies sine linea (No day without a line), also belong to the same elementary painting procedures. The work was performed in various museums and galleries. Todosijević demystifies the artistic act itself, ironically connecting it to the act of work and "hand excercises". During the seventies, he created a number of collages in which he questions authority and authorship in the world of art.

He also mailed postcards with a photograph of his bust on which the word YES is inscribed, to numerous galleries, museums and individuals, thus identifying the artist and the artistic act.

Todosijević's texts "Što su linije" ("What are lines"), "Umetnost kao kritika društva" ("Art as a critique of society"), "Umetnost i revolucija" (Art and Revolution"), Edinburška izjava (Edinburgh Statement), "Sa ulice: pred uvod u istoriju" ("On the street: the introduction to history"), are among the most important critical writings on art in the region. In the Edinburgh Statement dated 1975 Todosijević marked those "who benefit from art". The statement consisted of a long list of participants in any event present on the art scene, including even exhibition guards, and speakers who read the news on television.

In the nineties, Todosijević appropriated advertising methods, such as newspapers, posters, radio, etc. and began a series of pseudo-advertisements, advertising: the great fictional Todosijević Art Academy, a fictitious corporation Todosiyevitch-Malevich, celebration of the 150-th anniversary of the fictional school Dragoljub Raša Todosijević, etc. Todosijević used obvious lies in conventional media language,  in order to subvert the principles of advertising.  

In the cycle of installations Schlafflage, created between 1978 and 1984 (literally meaning "Sleeping Flag") he created autonomous incomprehensible symbols, for example, a dead carp on a plaster surface, sticks stabbed into gypsum, etc. In yet another cycle of installations, drawings and sculptures, started in 1989, Gott Liebt die Serben (God loves the Serbs), Todosijević makes irony of nationalism by bringing is kitsch aestheticism to the forefront. In 1998, in Belgrade and Čačak,  he served to his guests the Serbian national dishes – beans, bread and beer, on a table shaped like a swastika. In addition to numerous installations on the swastika shaped tables, for example in Ljubljana, Berlin and Belgrade, the artist added letterings thanking himself in the name of the citizens of each city.

Raša Todosijević was born in 1945 in Belgrade, where he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1964. He has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Serbia and abroad, and published several books. His works are included in numerous museum and private contemporary art collections. In 2011 Todosijević will represent Serbia at the Venice Biennial. He lives and works in Belgrade.

essay about author