On Bogdan Bogdanović’s Creative Work: An Introduction to the Oeuvre

Author: Ljubica Slavković

On Bogdan Bogdanović’s Creative Work: An Introduction to the Oeuvre



An Introduction to the Oeuvre 


BB: Introduction to the Oeuvre is the title of a two-day conference on creative work of Bogdan Bogdanović held at the Center for Cultural Decontamination as well as at the Faculty of Architecture on the 11th and 12th December 2015.

The idea for the conference was the outcome of a search of two students Irina Riđešić and Sonja Radlovački for a space to exhibit their project tobogDan (tobogDan) that they have done as a part of their facultative exam PaPs ( PaPs) on the Faculty of Architecture. Another contributing factor was that the students of architecture started got their original inspiration after a public lecture held at the Center for Cultural Decontamination where it was said that Bogdan Bogdanović was “the one that wanted to bomb Belgrade”. The dominant perspective on cultural work and heritage can be seen in a national frequency TV station’s request to report about the conference since “as an architect Bogdan Bogdanović is virtually unknown”.

The mention of the name Bogdan Bogdanović reminds some people of the architecture of monuments – the one in Jasenovac (Jasenovac), the one of Jewish cemetery in Belgrade or the one in Mostar, while others would think of a once mayor of Belgrade. Some even haven’t heard the name at all. There is a small minority that would remember their teacher, professor or colleague that had an unusual pedagogic and educational approach – the reforms on the Faculty of Architecture and the New School, his lessons in living, his heuristic games, his imagined civilizations and cities made in the Village School for Philosophy of Architecture and the mysterious world of Mali Popović. Those are the only ones that would think about the symbols, the space and the forms of Bogdanović’s Slobodište, Dudik, Prilep ili Travnik, about the Green Box, a cardboard box that recorded reality without censorship of self-censorship, and about the ideas that started at the Workshop for the Reparation of City. They can recall Bogdanović’s dictum that “language is thought same as the thought is an act” and his neologisms such as Little urbanism, urbicide or Mrtvouzice – tne untranslatable dead-nooses , as well as his thoughts on futile-builders and the inner architecture of the Useless Trowel, on “cities on big rivers and urbanists that cannot swim”. Such is the extraordinary polysemy of creative work of this architect that “wrote in order to know how to build and built in order to know how to write”.

Bogdan Bogdanović was a two-legged contradiction. The main topic of this, hopefully long-term and collective, research is Bogdanović’s creative work. The complete architectural legacy of Bogdanović is housed at the Architectural Center in Vienna, which is for the most of local residents so close yet so far away. Many of his memorials, his most known works, were outlived by their author – which is truly a rare phenomenon. His relations to heritage, towards culture and creative work, as well as their socially recognized significance, are an incentive to research and reestablish them. Bogdanović’s creative work is inspirational by the virtue of his works and processes of creation, by the multitude of anticipatory notions that are still relevant in present-day context, by his wide reach and his different thinking that produces authenticity and motivation that always opens a path to freedom.

“This kind of architecture is not a constructed edifice that will serve to represent man’s ultimate knowledge and his possibilities, his sense of beauty… No matter how beautiful, useful and amazing, that kind of architecture will only show man’s peak thereby determining the limit of human possibilities, of his mind and nature. This kind of architecture is actually the one that has always existed in humans, the one that is impossible to write down, to draw up and to build up. It is as such invisible and forever unfinished, continuously living, breathing and pulsating. Its aim is to motivate a person to rethink his/hers own nature and its limits. It is made of something inherent to humans from the prehistorical times, and therefore it permeates human subconsciousness and the suppressed archetypes. Playing with human unconscious it points towards a reflection on the meaning of life. It sets no boundaries to humans, but breaks them up instead and opens to the infinity.”

Bogdan Bogdanović

The two-day conference entitled An Introduction to the Oeuvre  was opened at the Faculty of Architecture with an exhibition entitled PoGLEDI. The goal was to give the audience an insight into the breadth of creative work and to portray Bogdanović’s own experience of the memorials by exhibiting his photographic works – mostly the ones previously unpublished. The audience was welcomed to an open discussion of the New School of Architecture where they had a chance to talk with the New School’s first students – the generation of 1972 .

The New School of Architecture was a part of a radical educational reform implemented at the Faculty of Architecture in the period 1971-1973, headed by Bogdan Bogdanović as the dean. This New School had the aim to cultivate an architect as a researcher that “produces” new knowledge therefore representing an alternative to architect as an encyclopedic character that would only reproduce the acquired knowledge ((1)). The implementation of the reform was entirely public and open to the general public by virtue of publishing bulletins. The reform was controlled by a tripartite commission comprised of the representatives of all the faculty groups – the faculty staff, the students and the graduates, i.e. young architects. The radical changes that the New School brought were short lived, but its witnesses – its students and associates are still alive, present an opportunity for correct the nonexistence of research of the New School legacy.

As a part of the project at the Faculty of Architecture, the hall 228 was divided into boxes after the spatial changes introduced by the New School in order to facilitate working in small units. Those spaces served for exhibiting the main ideas of the educational reform, as well as the memories of former students. After Marin Rajković gave an introduction about the first phases of the reform, there was a discussion with the present students of the generation of 1972 – Darko Popović, professor Dragan Živković, professor Zoran Lazović, Marin Rajković, Saša Crkvenjakov, Zoran Badnjević, as well as professor Mita Mladenović. The discussion was about the founding and the functioning of the New School, about the ideas and motivations, about educational reforms, about the then reformed school and the faculty today. Bogdan’s students and his colleagues also reflected on other form of activity of their professor and associate – on Bogdan as the mayor of Belgrade, and on his annihilation of taboos as well as his provocations to the establishment.

The event was concluded by screening of the television recording of the last lecture that Bogdan Bogdanović had given at the Faculty of Architecture: “Architectural Theory: Science or Gnosis”

*The final lecture that you gave in front of the packed hall at the Faculty of Architecture was a spectacle, as the people that were present claim. It was not only something to hear but also something to see: the lecture was written on a paper scroll 6 or 7 meters long fastened by wooden clamps. What is the main message coveyed by your final lecture entitled “Architectural Theory: Science or Gnosis”?

I have decided that I should, once in a lifetime, write down and read my final lecture. Nevertheless, right from the start I drifted away from the written text, yet slowly unscrolling the text. The role of paper fell down from the pedestal, unfolding further towards the first rows of the audience. Although the lecture lasted two and a half hours in continuity, the audience was patient and fully attentive. I was truly happy and proud. I could see in the audience behind the glare of the spotlights many of my dear brilliant students, no matter from what study year they were. Some of my former students with already acquired MA or even PhD. Much of the audience – as they are used to do in the lectures – made notes and sketched what I was drawing on the blackboard, although it was unnecessary since the entire lecture was recorded by a TV crew.

Now, let me explain something further. You asked me about the message that I wanted to covey in the lecture. Do you really think that a message written down on a 5, 6 or 7 meter long paper is easy to translate, transfer and comprise in a couple of words? Yet, I do not want to pretend. There was no special message to be delivered. It couldn’t have been one, since the meaning of my words was turned against all morals and all the moralists, against the aggressive, unilateral, stanch and literal knowledge. It is quite the opposite of this in the matters of spirit (and the architectural theory is ultimately a matter of spirit). Everything there is in the clouds of connotative images and personal reflections. Everything there is meaningful only if it is ambivalent, made in a complete harmony with the unrestrained polysemy. Therefore, the only type of message could be: There is no message, brothers, and you should not expect one. So, let’s leave messages and morals to the petty officers of the spirit.

It is only with the acceptance of the polysemy that we can get rid of the aggressive moralists that can sometimes represent much more danger from those petty officers of the spirit. It is only then that we acquire the right to be able to comprehend the world (the architecture of cities and civilizations) differently, in other way, alternatively. This other, diverse, completely different understanding of the world is my longstanding obsession that came about from the times of the Useless Trowel and culminates in the Circle with Four Corners.

Bogdan Bogdanović, Mud and Blood, 2001

The other part of the conference started in the afternoon in the Center for Cultural Decontamination with Ljubica Slavković’s introductory speech and it was followed by An Impossible Interview with Bogdan Bogdanović  by Jelica Jovanović. Sonja Leboš also delivered a lecture entitled Architecture as Applied Anthropology that presented Bogdanović’s oeuvre through the different aspects of his complexity: Bogdanović as a writer, architect, professor, sculptor, politician, and last, but not the least, an intellectual that takes responsibility for the society he belongs to.  The focus was, from his book Dead-nooses, on his work on public monuments dedicated to the Peoples’ Liberation Struggle during the Second World War all over the former republics of Yugoslavia.

The first day of the conference ended with a round table discussion that gathered Bogdanović’s friends, students and collaborators: Filip David, professor Zoran Lazović, Sonja Leboš, professor Vladimir Mako, and it was moderated by Snežana Ristić. The topics included various aspects from Bogdanović’s exile, his political activity and the urbicide through the meaning of his creative works and thedestiny of his legacy all the way to the changes brought by the New School and Bogdanović’s influence in terms of his educational approach that he is remembered mostly by and the effects he left in the lives of his students.

The second day of the conference in the Center for Cultural Decontamination was comprised of lectures delivered by international experts that have done their PhDs ether in honor of or influenced by Bogdanović’s work. Ivan Ristić presented Bogdanović’s drawings – The Drawing is Me, while Vladimir Vuković presented his literary works. Aleksandar Staničić focused on Bogdanović’s significance as an involuntary originator of the contemporary discourse on urbicide. Aleksa Korolija researched the modalities of perception of Bogdanović’s memorials, and a Viennese professor načine Erich Raith, spoke of Bogdanović’s  influence on the curriculum and the methodology at the Techical University in Vienna.

The ehxbition PoGLEDI was done in collaboration with the postgraduate and PhD students of the Faculty of Architecture of the Belgrade University. The research and art team: Borjan Brankov, Filip Čurlić, Milena Ivanović, Ivana Jevremović, Predrag Jovanović, Nemanja Kordić, Dušan Milanović, Hristina Stojanović, Aleksandra Subotić, Ljubica Slavković, Irina Riđešić, Sonja Radlovački

Art Council: Branko Pavić, Nemanja Kordić

Coincept, coordination and editing by: Ljubica Slavković

The author of the Bogdan Bogdanović An Introduction to the Oeuvre project: Ljubica Slavković

Visual identity: škart

The event was supported by Austrian cultural forum, TRADUKI i Ministarstvo kulture i informisanja Republike Srbije.

We are grateful to the people that collaborated on this project, Bogdan’s and our friends, experts all over the world inspired by Bogdanović’s work as well as the students and the postgraduates of the Faculty of Architecture that were inspired by this topic.

An Introduction to the Oeuvre is an invitation for a collective and long-term research into Bogdanović’s works and ideas. Hope you will join in:

More photos on: Bogdan Bogdanovic – introduction to the Oeuvre

A selection of the exhibited materials on: New School of Architecture 

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