Bogomir Doringer on Historical Taboos

Introduction + family issues

All families have their own little taboos. In my childhood there had been a few challenging taboos which were the cause of serious stressful moments, and which I have systematically been fighting throughout all my childhood. The mission was to destroy them!

For example, it wasn’t allowed to play late at night, it wasn’t allowed to speak about family issues and problems with non-family members. Then, it wasn’t allowed to score at school less then 5 or 4 (A or B), to talk about family income, or about whom we voted for at the last elections, we couldn’t even mention if we were members of any political party. There was prohibition regarding information flow relating to the “life of luxury”, which my mother introduced to me: sometimes she was buying sport shoes for me that were too expensive in my father’s opinion, and I could wear them only when he wasn’t around. Many times I was carrying them in my school bag, and changing shoes at school. My mother was taking me to the restaurant, theatre or to the cinema with the idea of introducing me to art and culture, but also give me the feeling of a normal life in the middle of the war that was going on. It all had to be hidden from my father, who considered all that expenditure just one more unnecessary nonsense, and was rushing to prepare me for some low level education so that I could find any kind of job, move away and become independent. On the other hand, my father didn’t allow anyone to mention his daily consumption of 5 liters of white wine, 5 liters of mineral water and 10 liters liquid of spritzer, all on days when mother worked night shift, he also wouldn’t allow any mentions on the fact that he was aggressive in his intoxicated condition. He was actually deeply sad: his relation with his father was restricted with general and particular taboos.

However, I was staying up later in the evening, misreading time as an excuse, saying I mixed up 19:00 with 9 pm, because 9 was present in both cases. Nowadays I am still doing the same, minimizing time with the idea that in such a manner I earn a few hours (and I do). However, one day I urged my mother to divorce my father because he is an alcoholic, which made our life unbearable. I was fourteen years old, what means that it took me some time to size the problem and to offer a solution. School marks were good, and if not, I didn’t come home. Once, I packed my stuff and ran away from home because I had a few bad marks at school. Still, willing to improve my situation, I went to school next day where my mother arrived in a hysterical state to pick me up. She brought me home and told me that from now on my father would take care of me, that she was giving up. This was precisely what I did not want to happen. He arrived home right when electricity was temporarily off- due to governmental restrictions. I was punished under candlelight, what gave a somehow romantic impression to the whole situation but also motivated me to just continue.

Yugoslavia (Taboo- revenge, spite)

I was born in Yugoslavia in 1983. I’ve heard about Serbia on television when the war started in 1991, then when I took part at student demonstrations in 1996, I understood that I belong by birth to the Serbian nation.

I couldn’t resist taking part in massive gatherings, which gave a hint to my later inclination to clubbing and control refrain. In order to be able to follow demonstrations, I summoned my parents to pay for my acting classes, which happened to be located in the centre of the city, close to the demonstrations area.

I couldn’t really understand real dimensions of the war, my life was protected, comparing to the people who were getting through the horrors of the Bosnian war zone. Nobody came to my door with intention to kill me, except the foggy-gray atmosphere. But all destructive energy was very difficult to handle on mental and emotional level. Today I realize that I had to take some mature decisions at a young age and experience a life that many adults in Western Europe had not seen within this same time period. My best friends in Western Europe are all above forty. During the war I was listening to the talks of elders sometimes, but my understanding of the war was limited, and colored with ideas from different local but also foreign media. The fact that my family told me that horrors on TV anyway are not real helped even more the situation that I didn’t take war as some TV directors wanted me to. The main thing that I remember is that I was missing holydays in Croatia and my childhood friend Maria from Makarska. The war was the reason I first met my cousin Vanja who grew up in Slovenia, at the age of 24. Vanja comes from mixed marriage family and they left Yugoslavia during the war, moving to Australia.

Several years ago, during my art studies in Amsterdam, I was as always discussing issues related to war with my friend who left Yugoslavia at the beginning of the conflict. She belongs to the “lost generation” - people who were around 20 years old when the war started, young people who left Yugoslavia in the beginning of the 90’s to spend some years looking for their options and identity in different Western countries. Some of those people never wanted to leave Yugoslavia; they were forced to leave because of the war. Others wanted to leave Yugoslavia anyway, for the purpose of studies or change, but war messed up with their basic needs and security, and left them to fight a much harder battle than what they had planned. Some of them suffer from nostalgia, which is nostalgia of especially difficult feature, because the object of nostalgia totally transformed in time.

Once in Amsterdam in attempt to produce spontaneous mood, in a city that at least today does not have it, my friend mentioned that might be that all in Yugoslavia happened because of Yugoslavian infamous “spite”. (In Yugoslavia people do things out of “spite”, just to harm their own interest, an unusual and difficult to understand model of behavior.) Today I understand that the war in Yugoslavia is result of delayed revenge and luck of communication during the “marriage” (between different nations). Compared to my parents’ marriage, where communication didn’t save marriage but offered an overview of the situation and positioning. “Revenge” in Yugoslavia was a taboo. There wasn’t communication about Serbian anguish towards Croatian concentration camps and NDH during the WWII. Serbians couldn’t digest number of Christians, Serbians & Croatians, who changed religion during the Ottoman Empire rule. Croatians couldn’t digest Serbian Orthodox religious orientation, and considered them “wild”, actually envying their better position in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the same time Croatians liked Serbian temper, mixed marriages, folk music but couldn’t digest parents of their partners and so on.

After Tito died in 1980, soon the foreign elements appeared, financing those who in Tito’s time were nothing and nobody, isolated and closed because of their nationalistic and primitive hate-speech. All of a sudden they received political positions, prestige and financial support, they woke up dreamy churches and established previously devastated nationalism, which with new vigor dug out old animosities and confrontations.

As an artist I could see Yugoslavia after WWII as one conceptual work.

In contrary to conceptual work Yugoslavia is interesting for watching and experiencing, not only for reading, but is it anyway time and place based installation that could exist only while conceptual artist was present and alive to maintain his installation. The conceptual artist - “friend” Mr. TITO.

Western Europe-Eastern Europe and my last name

The only thing that my great-grandfather left me is my family name. That family name has its own plus and minus points. For example, to foreign ears, it’s easy to remember: “door ringer”. In Serbia it differs from most of the family names and makes me feel a little bit like a guest in the country where I was born. Sometimes it makes people skeptical towards me, it can help in social life (I feel at home in Vienna) as it can ruin opportunities. I always felt as a citizen of Europe, listening to stories of how I resemble some relatives from Austria, people whom I never met in my life.

Recently passed Dragan Klaic, internationally renowned world traveler and intellectual, taught me something important on one occasion. We first met when I just arrived to Amsterdam, at one of the dinners he used to organize occasionally, getting together interesting people from the arts and cultural sectors. He felt that his duty was to share life experience and knowledge with young people, the same way others shared with him in the past.  

I listened carefully to the conversation occasionally related to Belgrade, until he asked me why I left Belgrade. I answered right away with honesty: “I left to be able to still love Belgrade”. Then I mentioned something that was bothering me a lot at that time: I was treated as an immigrant at university, which was extremely annoying because I was a student. The reason why I came to Holland was to study. I felt that the Dutch system was forcing me to marginalize myself, without offering me any other option at that time, and that the only way to leave Serbia with dignity was if I was well off. Dragan Klaic was listening to my story and replied: “You are not an immigrant, you are an émigré. You should call yourself émigré, not immigrant.” I left to be able to love my country of origin, and to be able to better understand who I am; I left before it was over. Before all beautiful feelings transform into hate and become fabrications.

From the moment when I left Yugoslavia I noticed that Western Europe was treating Eastern Europe as a sort of TV show, seeing it very Euro-negative. By analyzing Eastern Europe, Western Europe sees itself as good, perfect, rich, right, politically correct, and modern with a rich history. Europe is prizing itself for knowing in advance that communism was bad. Western Europe thinks that Eastern Europe is not Europe, and Eastern Europe, in spite worshiping Western Europe, things that real life comes through suffering, and that despite Western Europe being shallow and sterile, good standard of living is still there, so everything is “ok”. Western Europe likes to visit Eastern Europe with nostalgia, and Eastern Europe pays visits to Western Europe to buy a few newest fashion details. Eastern Europe is good for documentaries: everybody cries, but they are eloquent and well read, real ideal tragic personalities. Western Europe prizes itself regarding the war in ex-Yugoslavia, claiming that it is rare boon that once again in the history it treated war in such a wise way, dividing participants into criminals, victims and confused people. Western Europe is proud to have treated war as a film set, where arms, drugs, children, organs were sold. First, it was only watching, and then “helping”. Western Europe is silent when mafia bosses become political leaders, as long as those mafia bosses are working for their sake. Or silent when election budget is questioned in any of the transition countries in Eastern Europe. Western Europe says that Yugoslavia was a beautiful country and it issooo sad that nowadays people have to sell their kidneys for peanuts. Europe is prizing herself for bombing Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia and is glad to be able to use horrible contemporary weapons as DU (Depleted uranium). Western Europe doesn’t speak about it, but it is clear that she treats Eastern Europe as a garbage bin for it’s own waste. Western Europe likes how Eastern Europe is kissing and hugging, Eastern Europe is giving love and emotions to Western Europe that the she didn’t have in childhood, Eastern Europe gives understanding, spontaneous adventure, good entertainment and support. Western Europe goes to Eastern Europe to make porn movies and while selling the same porn in their legal sex shops, claims that all Eastern Europeans are whores. Both Euros go to each other to do what they can’t do at home. Gay people from Eastern Europe find Western Europe a better place, and want to have the same freedom as Western European gays. Western Europe likes cheaper holidays on the Adriatic coast and swims in the same see in spite of all DU that flows in the water, that Western Europe produced, or any other IDOL country such as USA and Russia. While Eastern Europe is making pictures on Croatian beaches, enjoys opportunity to be alone on the beach before Croatia enters the EU, and becomes one extra super market where everything is the same as everywhere else, plastic vegetables and pretentious prices, as in the countries where one of EU languages is spoken.

Western Europe likes to bully others. She is aged “chick” with adolescent ego, and needs to prove her power illegally. It is never discussed because of her haughty background. What is NATO bombing then but macho bullying? Except good opportunity to spend arms and munitions and keep the weapon industry alive, it is meant destruction of the physical identity of one country that previously had “good looks”. After NATO bombing in Ex-Yugoslavia the difference between Western Europe and bombed countries is only that West is shooting from long distance, not looking into eyes, doing it as trough the bed sheet and pretending that it never happened. Then when tourists from West visit Belgrade or other bombed places, they want to make photos of bombed building rather than just walk around landscapes around the city.

Speaking about bombing and change of people’s identity.

Once upon a time, when as teenager I was waiting for public transport at Slavia (public square in Belgrade where there used to be a cinema and a solar clock), I was sized by a monkey-man because of my extravagant looks and red scarf, and he bitted my friends and me. My appearance during the next few days was scattered and transformed. Looking at myself in the mirror I was shocked, which I automatically used for introspection and started to question my identity, my statements, my thoughts, my values, even my personality and my attitude towards the others was questioned. It created fear and fear created anger and hate. The same as Western Europe is shooting bombs by plane joysticks leaving long scars of destruction that even today are confusing identities of many who live in that region, some of them feel like taking a “revenge”.

Then, to confused inhabitants of ex –Yugoslavia, Western Europe is offering help and hope, shaped as a game with their own rules.

Western Europe is Performer, likes to show on the stage when the curtains are shut and directing done. It always plays on modesty, hiding involvement in production of the event. She makes good pics of herself, and although she didn’t improve much, sells her old image as some pop star from the 80’s. She doesn’t like USA in her street talks and between their own kind, but Europe and USA have great relation behind closed doors.

They like to share a meal in the lunch break between chastising and naming others, teaching them how to create a humanitarian society.