Misa Savic is a musician, and my interest in his work stems from his association with the Student Culture Center in the 1970s, and his interest in combining performance and music. Although not a visual artist, he has long been interested in the connections between art and music, and, specifically, the ways the performance could influence music. Given that SKC was in close proximity to the Music Academy, where he was studying, he began hanging out there for the same reason his visual artist colleagues did – because it was a relatively free space, where young artists came to discuss various issues. It also had a good library, where one could access magazines and publications on more recent developments in art. At the Music Academy, like at the Art Academy, history stopped nearly 100 years prior, and contemporary art and music simply weren’t taught.
At the 1976 April Meeting at SKC, Misa performed his minimalist composition, entitled Twenty-four Hours, which involved the artist playing one chord, consisting of six tones, repeatedly every second, for twenty four hours. He described the performance as a positive experience, and commented that it was after the first hour that the piece really got going. As it went on, it gained momentum, and he recalls that about 500 people were there by the end. After the final chord was struck, people asked for just “one more minute,” as a joke.
Among his influences, Misa mentions John Cage, who was more important for him in terms of theory than actual music. The student publishing center in Belgrade were able to publish a book of Cage’s texts into Serbian in the late-1970s. Misa also noted the Robert Wilson and Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach, which was staged in Belgrade as part of the Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF), and part of the European tour of the opera, when it premiered in 1976. But the musician also notes the influence of visual artists, most notably Joseph Beuys, whose work he was exposed to during the SKC April Meetings.
The artist even created three short pieces dedicated to Beuys, after he died in 1986. The first is entitled Goodbye Josephine, and the work consisted of the hat that Beuys used to wear spinning around on a turntable, producing no sound. The second was a self-portrait of sorts; the artist held a mirror in front of his face, producing a self-portrait, which lasted until the artist could no longer hold the mirror – 7 minutes. Finally, there was a 30-second piece of a more erotic nature, which showed a close-up of the artist sucking on a toe. All of these pieces were video performances, created for the video camera, however all of them were lost.
The artist laments the fact that the spirit of that time is also forever lost. Like Rasa Todosijevic, the artist felt that at the time, these young students were trying to create a new type of art, but, also like Rasa, feels that nothing actually changed. My meetings with artists such as Branko Miliskovic and Vladimir Nikolic seem to prove otherwise. Artists continue to find new and innovative ways to persist in asking the same questions that were put forth by those at SKC in the 1970s. Although SKC is no longer the communal meeting place it once was, its avant-garde spirit is alive and well in the art of Serbia, and Misa Savic is part of that legacy.