Zoran Popovic was part of the circle of artists connected with the Student Culture Centre in Belgrade in the 1970s, and he was one of the first artists to engage with performance and body art there. One of his earliest performance pieces was Axioms, created in 1972. In this performance, the artist used his body to instantiate a mental concept and otherwise two-dimensional phenomenon. On a regular coordinate system, or graph, the artist identified eight basic elements, among them a line, square, circle, cross, diagonal and dot. He then literally embodied these mathematical elements, creating the shapes with his body. He did this by attaching a system of lights to his fingertips, with the cords running through his clothing and out to a nearby outlet. In a dark room, he moved his arms to create these figures, his own body and self disappearing into the darkness and receding into the background. The performance and movement was accompanied by Pink Floyd’s “One of these Days.”
Zoran repeated the performance several times, however each instantiation was invariably different. The first time he did it, he was facing the wall, but then he created a version where his back was to the audience – the negative to the first impression, which had been a positive. He later made a slide show of the work, which he would then project immediately following the performance – both a documentation of that performance and a separate work of art.
In many ways, the work recalls much of the conceptual and minimal art of that time. The artist recalls later learning of Malevich’s circle, square and cross, in which the Russian artist sought a more objective expression of the world. While much minimal art attempts to remove the hand of the artist, visually, Zoran manages to do this, as the artist literally disappears behind the stunning light show he creates. That said, the artist also mentioned that the light bulbs are located at the tips of his fingers because that is where he greatest energy is. The performative element of the piece means that the body cannot be denied, even if it is merely a ghostly presence. The artist may have removed his hand, but his energy and expression still remains.