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Alienation Effects

Performance and Self-Management in Yugoslavia, 1945-91

Branislav Jakovljevic

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan Press
Published: 01/2016
Pages: 382
Subject: Performing Arts - Theater/General
Print ISBN: 9780472053148
eBook ISBN: 9780472900589


In the 1970s, Yugoslavia emerged as a dynamic environment for conceptual and performance art. At the same time, it pursued its own form of political economy of socialist self-management. Alienation Effects argues that a deep relationship existed between the democratization of the arts and industrial democracy, resulting in a culture difficult to classify. The book challenges the assumption that the art emerging in Eastern Europe before 1989 was either 'official' or 'dissident' art, and shows that the break up of Yugoslavia was not a result of 'ancient hatreds' among its peoples but instead came from the distortion and defeat of the idea of self-management.

The case studies include mass performances organized during state holidays; proto-performance art, such as the 1954 production of Waiting for Godot in a former concentration camp in Belgrade; student demonstrations in 1968; and body art pieces by Gina Pane, Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic, and others. Alienation Effects sheds new light on the work of well-known artists and scholars, including early experimental poetry by Slavoj _i_ek, as well as performance and conceptual artists that deserve wider, international attention.


“A brilliant and much-needed book relevant to debates in art and performance away from hackneyed Western European/American ideas of neoliberalism and late capitalism—or the tendency to ignore shifts in political and economic structures altogether while mystifying trends in art. One of the most rigorous and original books on performance… . In a way that few academic books achieve, it movingly weaves personal history with incisively theorized political, economic, and art/performance histories.”
—Amelia Jones, McGill University