“As a space, the city itself is dead if there’s no possibility of active living in it, like the possibility that this neighborhood had. The exact reason I moved to Tomašićeva Street is that I found this potential here. Let’s say that the life of a neighborhood flows from the apartments, yards, and hallways into the whole cartesian urbanistic system in which these springs of life are located.”
Vladimir Dodig Trokut is one of the more known faces of Zagreb, so there is no need to introduce him much further. This peculiar person first saw the light of day in 1949 in Kranj (Slovenia), and today we know him as an artist, shaman, art collector, pedagogue, gallerist, museologist, (art) historian, anthropologist, teacher, publicist, the founder of the world’s first Anti-museum, and who knows what else. Throughout decades of ceaseless work, he realized more than 700 exhibitions, actions, performances, installations, theater plays, monodramas, and much more. He lives and keeps his vast collection of fantastic objects on more than one location, not only in Zagreb.
We paid him a visit to the place where he resides most often, in his basement apartment in Tomašićeva Street, with a nice exit to the inner courtyard of the building, attractive lighting, and a unique atmosphere, characteristic to Trokut. We spent a few hours at his place with homemade nettle rakija, talking about the different aspects of our neighborhood, well known by Trokut, and here are some fragments of the interesting conversation.
Bojan Krištofić: Which factors influenced your decision to move to this neighborhood?
Vladimir Dodig Trokut: It was a sequence of events and the sum of metaphysical force vectors at varying positions in relation to the idea of urban survival in a living environment. I am actually more partial to living in neighborhoods like Trešnjevka, where I had lived for many years in a house in Mrežnička Street, and after that I lived for a while in New Zagreb, in Zapruđe, and then in Kruge, in one of the classrooms of a former elementary school, today an adult learning institution. I worked there too. I had about seventy pupils. I taught history and art history as an artists and an art collector, but I encountered civil disagreement on the part of my colleagues and professors. Having left there, I moved to Boškovićeva Street, to a small loft apartment, where I continued with my lessons and artistic observations. I had many people as guests there, art historians, philosophers, poets… It’s about dedicating my whole life to art. Due to circumstance, from 1968 onward, I begin as a poet of visual poetry, and then I am engrossed in the idea of parallel universes, mysticism, and especially shamanism.
BK: Did you find anything especially inspiring in this part of the city?
VDT: The place in Boškovićeva Street wasn’t mine, I used to bum around everywhere… and nowhere. However, I navigated to this part of town because its architecture and general urbanism interested me. The buildings around here have interesting interiors, and I used to know many old-school architects, from the original avant-garde generation. I endeared them to the idea of working to spread awareness and of the cooperation between the various architectural concepts, and at least thinking about new solutions within the urbanistic system, so as to adapt it better to the real needs of people. I used to see the city as a living organism, a living muscle tissue.
As a space, the city itself is dead if there’s no possibility of active living in it, like the possibility that this neighborhood had. The exact reason I moved to Tomašićeva Street is that I found this potential here. Let’s say that the life of a neighborhood flows from the apartments, yards, and hallways into the whole cartesian urbanistic system in which these springs of life are located. In this way, my vision of how energy flows through the city is quite compatible with your idea of Design District. As I’ve mentioned, as I had ties to Zagreb due to socializing with its various interesting people, while I lived in Boškovićeva Street, I wanted the presence of these people to transform the street, in itself very boring.
When I came from Split to Zagreb in ’76, everything around me was new, and that was how I treated it, as a tabula rasa. It is one of the ways to connect life and architecture. I started giving mystical connotations to spaces I lived in quite early. I spent a lot of my time with Dimitrije Bašićević Mangelos and Radoslav Putar, and they opened my eyes to some concepts related to that. In short, ever since after Boškovićeva, 12 Tomašićeva Street has been one of my addresses.
I felt that Tomašićeva has a certain kind of vitality, especially due to the population, which, at the time, was a mix of older Zagrabian gentlemen and the people who moved here after the war, mostly workers. Amongst them, I felt I belonged there. You see, this is one of the indicators that Martićeva Street, not just as a street but as an urban space, has a specific vitality, not understandable at first, nor easily seen. My own activities in Tomašićeva Street used to gravitate towards the emerging constellation of art studios and the population that, little by little, began producing art and/or culture, in many ways.
Even though I didn’t have much choice at the time, it’s still one of the reasons why I decided to take up a permanent residence in Tomašićeva Street. The neighborhood is longer a part of old Zagreb – it’s more of a modern neighborhood, which, along its uniformity, still retained enough space to make mistakes and deviate through various marginalities from the dominant urban matrix. Many original things here have been destroyed or negated. Generally, Zagreb has lost its former aureola, I think it’s a dead city, with some exceptions like this neighborhood. Zagreb is a city of crowds and hasty bourgeoisie, devoid of the original working class – it’s gone. The city lived until the nineties. You could go out in the street at any time of day or night and you would meet someone you could grab a drink with or start working with momentarily.