A Postmodern Bastard (Or: What I’ve Learned at College)

   I, Stefan Stefanović, son of Gojko and Mirjana, born on October 13, 1990, hereby admit to being a postmodern bastard, an illegitimate and unloved son of the culture that celebrated its 100th birthday on June 28, 2014 – St. Vitus Day. It all began with a big bang, the echo of which still reverberates in my room as I write these words.

   Nowadays, there is no Young Bosnia, since our youth and vitality have encountered fatal errors during download. We lack the necessary patches to mend the burnt parcels of life and the conversion process is terribly time-consuming. Even if they handed us weapons, we would find ourselves incapacitated to shoot, for there are too many tyrants. The Balkan Peninsula is a pirate file in the European and worldwide network. We are not weary, but quite the opposite – we are jaded. Tedium has eaten us to the bone, since we reside in the crevice separating the virtual and real world, between what we’ve been taught to be true and what we perceive to be true. We are torn among Mother Russia and the Deceptive Europe and while wavering from one faction to another, we have merely come full circle and swallowed our own tails. We are terribly bored and since we have already seen everything on TV and downloaded all internet content, we rest assured that all of this is plain foreign propaganda, we consider ourselves the worst nation possible, yet we display hubris and take pride in our magnificent history we’ve crammed up during schooling, yet never fully studied and comprehended.

   Returning to ourselves is thus no self-absorbed act or an example of maligned egotism, but instead a fundamental need to preserve common sense in a schizophrenic world and above all, maintain happiness. The postmodern society taught me that it is no longer improper to highlight your qualities, talents and success, but that it is considered advantageous and signifies quality. This is why I am expanding my CV and establishing the “Sobakaists” artistic circle. I plan on creating a magnificent manufacturing workshop using my interest, desire and talent as building blocks.

   All of it seemed futile and improbable up until recently, since I was an obedient student of literature, passing my colloquia and collecting ECTS credits as if they were football player cards and I believed, oh I was so firmly assured, that my degree would be of significance in the world. I spent more than half of my life in an educational system where I was taught that I would earn a significant life reward by acquiring a college degree. My parents urged me, as had many others, to obtain a degree and hold onto it “just in case”. We were schooled to rise above competition, be the “best at what we do”, convinced that we all deserve spacious offices and subordinates which is why so many of us were born into this world in the meantime. I realize there is no room for my degree and me.

   Nevertheless, knowledge is never futile, however obsolete it may seem in the contemporary world. A humanistic education will probably bear no financial significance in the future, but it will continue to wield influence on both the macro plan and the micro plan of existence. Based on the novels I have read and the narratives I have analysed thus far, I can’t help but notice that reality has been very much alike postmodern novels for quite some time – we have been thoroughly taken aback by the discovery of a plagiarized PhD, all the while knowing that no document is reliable, that all of this is a scheme of the Librarians, and that the entire course of history as we know it is perhaps a well-composed story. What is one PhD in comparison to the entire history of a nation? Furthermore, what was once considered grotesque and nonsense humour in literature now is dreadful reality, as I witness the foundation of countries on the basis of forged documents, the creation of languages in defiance of all rules I’ve come to know while studying the history of language and entire ancient cultures being copied and modelled so as to establish a tenuous and transparent present. Historiography, although ridiculed in postmodernism, is now an efficient means of manipulation. The Balkans now resemble a testing ground.

   Where does art belong here? Merely one hundred years ago, art had the capacity of inspiring people to change the world for the better. Now it is marginalized or sold cheaply for the purpose of entertainment. This displacement is the consequence of the very behaviour of artists – degrees and titles are given more importance than ideas or works of art. Postmodernism has swallowed up its tail and got trapped in a vicious circle of contemplating the purpose of creation, the status of text in relation to the world and vice versa, the status of world in relation to text. Throughout this debate, reality is gradually overpowering fiction and attaining a surreal and abstruse quality. Art can’t keep up with reality and the artist becomes lost in this crevice.

   It is time to return art into the present. I entered the world of literature riding Basara’s bicycle but I am no longer welcome in this circle. The bike chain has snapped very long ago and would require me to turn the pedals purposelessly. There are no other paths I could pursue, since I see Albahari hitting a wall of text and deliriously parroting “Who’s writing this? Who’s writing this?“ Petković writes superbly on subjects that are irrelevant and elusive. The spirit he is evoking is a thing of the past. Vladušić discerned a new field of creation and certainly deserves recognition for introducing contemporary technology into literature and exporting literature into contemporary technology, but his fiction is dull and exemplary of the fact that faculties of philology transform apt readers into average authors, or transform superficial readers into self-proclaimed authors in the worst case scenario.

   Sobakaists perceive the Zeitgeist. Sobakaists celebrate traditional historical values, they are educated, professional students of postmodern society. If Joyce (whose works remain in the realm of the unknown) demonstrated that Odyssey is the literary tradition of mankind, is there anything preventing Sobakaists or me from appropriating any kind of artistic content? I am certainly not the first to attempt it! Banksy has created an entire culture of street art by carefully selecting and blending numerous traditional painting elements with his own ideas. He managed to set up the foundations for future visual artists in his line of work, regardless of whether his art may be considered “great” or not. His contribution consists of transporting “great art” into the real world, rescuing it from galleries and the self-important bouts of intellectualism. Thievery Corporation has been doing this for quite some time now in the sphere of music. By employing the elements of diverse music styles, combining and blending them into the desired context, they create high quality music on the basis of world music heritage. If we can learn something from postmodernists, it’s that the entire world is our home and a source of inspiration.

   I do not wish to be a meat mincer, I do not desire to misshape thousands of quotations in order to create my own work of art. Sobakaists will not dabble in that. I have no concerns whether this will be appreciated art or just a blank fired into the air, another insignificant branch of art under the name of Sobakaism (pasmaterism). If time is a true indicator of the value of a piece of art – then we are facing a serious problem, since earthly existence is limited and even eternal optimists realize we won’t live to celebrate the two hundred year anniversary of the big bang.

   In general, literature and art have always been exploiting a few significant topics, e.g. life and death, love and the question of God. Did anything change after several thousand years? Life as we know it has a virtual doppelganger. How are we expected to write about reality when our lives are externalized and adapted to suit other people’s perception, and no longer geared towards inner growth? How are we supposed to write about love with the presence of cyber-sex and free pornography on the internet? And where is the connection to God, where is the link? If for nothing else, the Sobakaists’ significance rests in the fact that they will bravely tackle this and many other issues.

   I believe that literature harnesses enormous potential, although we are overwhelmed with the cries of worrywarts, complaining about how no one reads books anymore. However, statistics demonstrate a different set of facts – if Vidojković, Basalo, various TV show hosts and stars achieve a circulation of several hundreds of thousands of books, in several editions, we have to challenge the statement that no one reads anymore. It is apparent that there exists a huge number of readers out of reach of contemporary literature, since it is confined in a tiny world, a small space comprising teachers and students of literature. Art must offer something to the world or its purpose is at stake. Maybe proper art senses moments in time and offers the world what it currently lacks. If freedom was scarce in medieval times, the renaissance offered it. If the contemporary world is in need of vitality, joy, reason – art is here to offer it.

   I am a postmodern bastard and it would be too heavy a burden expecting me to do it all by myself. Being an illegitimate child, I am used to living a marginalized, unlawful and unkempt life which is why I will not appease the masses nor stand on hind legs in order to obtain other people’s praise. What postmodern society taught me – that is precisely who I am!

   I wish to carry out an experiment. If I were to write solely for my sake, I would create a very subjective poetry, an ego-maniacal poetry wherein all my inherent traits intertwine and beckon each other. If anyone out there should find in it even a speck of enjoyment, usefulness or whichever element one finds in art – this means that there is no difference among us, since another person felt moved by such a personal story and could find it relatable. If this fails to happen, if I remain but a frantic lunatic in an empty field, waving about and beckoning, if no one empathizes with my work, if no one feels compelled to stop and examine my work – this means that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of each other as beings, for if someone creates with honesty, spurred only by instinct and spirit, and not a single person identifies any general values or empathizes with it, this means that our individualities are too overpowering for us to continue our existence, for if we don’t comprehend what makes one person special, we do not grasp the concept of humanity as a whole. If that is the case, then art itself is falsely interpreted, for we shall never comprehend the individuality of the author, but will continually project our ideas into their work. In that case, it doesn’t matter any longer, for I pursued the one thing I couldn’t live without. I played the game of life.

translated by Tamara Jovanović

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2 Comments

  1. “Живот има свог парњака у виртуелном свету – па како писати о стварности, када је наша стварност реализована према споља, ми прилагођавамо наше животе за излоге кроз које нас други виде, а не кроз унутрашње грађење. Како писати о љубави после сајбер секса и бесплатне порнографије на Интернету? И где је веза са Богом, где је „линк“? Собакаисти ће се храбро суочити са овим питањима.” – Врло привлачно. Хтио бих да сарађујемо, а ако буде како треба да буде, онда бих да се “учланим”…
    Поздрав!

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