Dissent of Zenitism – A Tribute

Artistic, Programmatic, Aesthetic, Political and Existential Critique of the World

The journal Zenit (Zenith) was a Yugoslav avant-garde review of new art and culture, initiated in 1921 by the poet and critic Ljubomir Micić. Until 1923, it was published in Zagreb, and subsequently in Belgrade. Zenit was sharply criticised, prohibited even, and accused of being Bolshevik propaganda agitating for social revolution. In 1926 after forty-three issues, the review was proscribed by the authorities.

During its relatively brief and controversial history, Zenit sought to convert negation into affirmation, to introduce experimental artistic creation, and to exploit all forms of contradiction and antinomies – described by Micić as “abstract metacosmic expressionism.” All of his ideas were summarized in the manifesto centred on the figure of the Balkanic/Slavic barbarogenius who defies the decadence of Western Europe. Its use of the term ‘revolutionary’, and antibourgeois, antitraditional, anticlerical, and antiacademic stance were the means by which Zenitism demanded total change in art and the world. This revolt against traditional middle-class values and their restrictive cultural and social criteria was a feature it shared with the European avant-garde. Zenit attempted to articulate a program that would lead to the formation of a movement with distinctly sociopolitical implications. By publishing articles in their original languages – Russian, German, French, English, Hungarian, Flemish, Italian, Czech, Bulgarian and Esperanto – Zenit was operating in an international context as a recognised member of the European reviews that promoted the idea of “Zenitism as a Balkan totalizer” of a new life and new art.

“Europe can only be born again, fertilized by raw power and new seeds, and certainly not be reborn itself from itself. […] Balkanization of Europe, in brief, means: the formation of a new type of culture and man with the stamp of Balkan ethics and Balkan direct humanity – which still means: creating a culture of life and not a culture of lies and paper – creating new life and in that life a new culture for all and not for the privileged, not for libraries, galleries and museums. […] Barbarogenije is a carrier of no sentiment, but of raw vitality – pure faith – unadulterated soul – with an open and good heart, which is full of all-human love, we and Russians introduce into the new life of the new humanity.” Ljubomir Micić – Zenit. no. 21. (Feb. 1923)

All issue of Zenit can be found here