Ticket to Fiction
Art & War in Belgrade
It is the summer of 1989, and three of us are standing
on the promenade in Split, one of the biggest seaports in Croatia.
Zvone is editor-in-chief of Omladinska iskra, an alternative
pan-Yugoslav magazine with an excellent reputation. He is also
a first-class rock photographer and our friend. The magazine
offices are in the penthouse of an old building and he has invited
us to stay there as long as we wish. In return, we’re to
do an article on Split, the way the two inland guys see it. The
way we saw it was—we loved it, but thought that Split needed
more laughter, more subversion. The city was too serious. So
we decided to pose nude in the heart of the city’s tourist
area, five meters from some expensive restaurants and a few steps
from the sea.
Right now while we smoke, Zvone is doing something
like push-ups on the pavement.
“Don’t even think of taking
the business into your hands here,” says Zvone, “they
will arrest us. What am I saying—they will arrest us
Stefan Lupino is a big European
photographic name of the time and he does push-ups always before
he starts a session. The parody is obvious: Lupino is a body
builder, Zvone is tall and thin. Lupino has this dark look of
a Balkan man, Zvone is blond. Lupino’s models are these
gorgeous Paris women, Mica the Turk and I are two skinny Serbian
“Look, Zvopino,” says Turk, “I
want my thing to look awesome in the picture. My grandchildren
will see it one day and I don’t want them to think that
I was a schmuck. No, my shmok has to look like a shmok, but not
me. Got it?” “Don’t even think of taking the
business into your hands here,” says Zvone, “they
will arrest us. What am I saying—they will arrest us anyway.”
“Correction: they will arrest you—we have
train tickets for tonight, remember?” says Turk. Here we
are, discovering that it’s not so easy to be nude models,
especially on the street. In the meantime, attracted by Zvone’s
athletics, kids start gathering around. “This is not good,” says
Turk. “You better call some of your girlfriends, Zvopino,
and get rid of these children.” The children leave, but
the parents gather, dangerously close. Zvone says, “It’s
now or never,” we take our trunks off and he clicks several
times. While getting dressed again, we can hear the mumble of
disapproval from the crowd around us.
Later that evening we leave Split. I have a week
of my holiday left, so I don’t go back to Belgrade to my
job as an editor of Rock! magazine until later, but when I come
back to work, the editorial secretary has already hung my nude
posters all over the place. Colleagues cheer loudly when I appear
and gather around one of the posters, pretending to analyse the
“You look, well, not quite respectable, if
you know what I mean,” says one.
“That’s because the Croats have these
special photo-filters to make us Serbs look smaller, I’ve
heard about it,” says another one.
“But you showed your dick to the Croats,
and that’s what counts,” somebody commends me.
I join the cheerful laughter, but I can’t
get rid of this feeling in my stomach that something is wrong.
I’ve had it for more than a week now. Because two days
before we left Split, Turk and I met this beautiful girl on a
lonely stretch of path by the coast and invited her for a drink.
She turned around and looked carefully to make sure no one was
watching before she said: “Guys, I’d gladly go, but
I must not be seen with you, understand?”
“Why?” I was confused. “Because
“No, because you are Serbs.”
It turned out to be my last visit to Split.
Arrive Where You Are", Banff Press 2000]
© 1998 Dragan Todorovic, All rights reserved.