In Place of Introduction: In The Hour of Renewal

Collection Discovering Other Skies: Rastko Petrović, City of Belgrade Cultural Centre , Belgrade 2003, editors: Mihajlo Pantić and Olivera Stošić, p. 8.

The book entitled Discovering Other Skies is an integral part of a manifestation called “One Writer Festival”, initiated in 2003 by the Belgrade Cultural Center. Considering that there are still some important Serbian authors whose work has not been fully evaluated, and that the legal and actual status of the memorial collections and houses of many significant authors has not been determined as yet, Belgrade Cultural Center has decided to establish a new literary manifestation, so that the city of Belgrade – the birthplace, haven and inspiration of numerous writers – would devote one week in spring to detailed presentation, extensive analysis, and possible reevaluation of their work.

The first Festival is devoted to the writer, art critic, art collector, traveler, ethnographer and diplomat Rastko Petrović (Belgrade, 1898 – Washington, D.C., 1949), whose life and work remain to a large extent an enigma and a “beautiful miracle” in the context of Serbian culture. As he had spent the crucial period of his youth in Paris, at the very source of new ideas, and as he was responsive enough to recognize and sometimes even anticipate such ideas and use them as material for his art, all of Petrović’s various activities corresponded with the major European Modernist/avant-garde trends, and a number of works he produced have come to occupy a prominent place in the Serbian literary canon.

And just as his native Belgrade was but one of a number of referential points on the map of his personal topography, so too did Petrović’s creative energy flow over the established boundaries of literature, finding expression in various art disciplines, including photography and experimental film, which were highly innovative visual media in his day. Rastko Petrović’s oeuvre includes poetry, fiction, essays, plays, art criticism, drawings, water-colors, collections of ethnographic objects, photographs and three experimental documentary films, and its heterogeneous and multicultural character shows that he was a man of many talents – an enthusiastic, even somewhat euphoric creative worker and an intermedial artist of European stature.

The nature of Petrović’s works is undoubtedly related to his innate, constant need to travel, acquire new experience, try out new means and forms of communication, the need for what he defined as “the miracle of discovering other skies”. By preparing the present volume, we have tried to approach this “miracle” of Petrović’s “ecstasy.” At the same time, it is our hope that Discovering Other Skies would join the succession of other books and studies that have thrown new light on various aspects of Petrović’s art, and that have constituted a special field within Serbian literary criticism known as “Rastkology.”

But in contrast to all previous publications about Petrović, which were almost exclusively focussed on his career as a writer, most often disregarding his work in the sphere of visual media, the purpose of this volume is to point out the totality of Petrović’s literary, ethnographic and numerous other creative interests. It was therefore only natural that Discovering Other Skies should be published in the form of a monograph, seeking as it does to present all segments of Petrović’s work, especially those that belong to visual arts, as well as to give a detailed picture of the age in which Modernist and avant-garde art was born by focussing on the exemplary work of a national writer. The present volume highlights simultaneously the local, European and international climate in which Rastko Petrović lived and worked, and it also provides a fresh and interdisciplinary critical reading and reassessment of his outstanding work which has in the meantime become an integral part of the Serbian cultural heritage.

Belgrade Cultural Center and the editors of this monograph wish to thank the Belgrade City Assembly, the Ministry of Culture and Public Informing of the Republic Serbia, the National Museum, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, the National Library of Serbia, the Museum of Theater Art and the authors of all articles for their help and cooperation without which the publication of this volume would not have been possible. The One Writer Festival and the volume accompanying it are at the same time meant to be an hommage and a response of present-day Belgrade to Rastko Petrović’s verses:


Thus the dear streets of Belgrade split into the blue,
And the hills around it, and the forests farther to the West,
A love of flowing apart pervades it all,
And my love for it all ever farther flows.


Rastko Petrović, The Hour of Renewal

The editors
Belgrade, April 2003