Milica Tomic



"Sama" ("Alone"), 2001

Video installation consisting of two video screens placed back to back. The first video is a 36-minute loop and the second is a 9-minute loop. Both of them have sound and color.

In the first video, three men are playing the card game preference. This group usually plays preference together, but this time they find out just before the game starts that they are going to play for high stakes. This card game is played in Tomic's country in almost all social and intellectual circles as typical entertainment for all-male groups, often in the back room of bustling cafes. However, the game is not only for entertainment, it represents the traits that are valued in our society: power, intelligence, cleverness, fast-thinking, and courage. Important business, social and political decisions are being formed through this interaction. The game reflects the way the dominant power structure is reproduced in the micro social level. This game borders on the private and the public realms, and has very strict rituals of initiation for those who wish to participate. They are enjoying this activity passively, unaware that they are participating in a specific popular cultural form; this group is also part of turbo-folk culture.

On the other side of the video screen is a video of Dragana Mirkovic, the most famous turbo-folk star, performing her song "Sama" ("Alone"). Despite the discrepancy between the media representation of the turbo folk star and the "unheimliche" of real life, they support and nurture each other, as two sides of the same instance. Male communities are never represented in the media because the construction of the female body, represented through the turbo-folk female stars, is merely a projection of the male gaze from the viewpoint of privileged invisibility, which the men gain through the ritualized initiation into the brotherhood through the game of Preference. The construction of the female body is actually a screen that protects them from reality.


Turbo-folk is a musical genre that is known to exist only in Southeastern Europe, and at first glance appears to be a phenomenon that is meaningful only in a local context. However, it is linked closely with the major events in the region over the last ten years and is a symptom of global change. Turbo-folk marks the point of the culturalization of politics, which is the quintessential globalization. It is the representational device of the Serbs' surrender of political subjectivity by perceiving their culture to be the chosen place of the clash of civilizations and the last stand of authenticity. Turbo-folk represents "something" that only "we" can understand and "something" which provides enjoyment "only for us." Paradoxically, this musical creation which is perceived to be "ours" to the exclusion of all others ("cosa nostra"), is actually a cross-breed. Turbo-folk is an ideal joining of influences that are perceived as "hostile" to one another. This genre is a mixture of the "oriental" and "western" influences of the North African Rai music (Arabic folk-pop) and modern European techno-dance.

So what we consider to be "just ours" is in fact our most authentic contribution to globalism. This phenomenon has not been analyzed by theoreticians and artists as fully as it deserves. The general reaction to local popular influence on global culture has been non-reflective negative criticism, disgust, and contempt. Further, critics who have identified themselves in opposition to the bad taste of turbo-folk have fueled negative cultural discrimination. However, their feeling of disgust is a sign of their unconscious participation in the enjoyment that helps to sustain and feed turbo-folk culture.

Performance 2001

text by Branko Dimitrijevic

"I kad jednom pukne ovo srce moje videces u njemu samo ime svoje"

"Performance" consisted of a stage appearance by the turbo-folk superstar singer Dragana Mirkovic accompanied by the New Beet Street dance group. "Performance" was staged in the central exhibition space of the international contemporary art exhibition "Du bist die welt," 2001, at the Wienner Festwochen, Kuenstlerhaus, Vienna. The subject of the exhibition was strategies of globalism, and my choice to confront strategies of globalist segregation explains the artistic choices that Tomic made. The stage and performance space were an installation, thus emphasizing that the pop culture in the piece is employed as a ready-made.

Tomic chose Dragana Mirkovic for my performance because she is one of the greatest ex-Yugoslavian pop music stars and certainly the biggest turbo-folk star. Turbo-folk is a musical genre unique to South-East Europe, a cross between North African Rai music and techno-dance music. In my opinion, it is our most authentic and original contribution to the globalization process. In other words, turbo-folk has paved the way for globalization to enter isolated and excluded Serbia. The way that the global enters the local scene is always one-way and inherently exclusive. My intervention, one of dislocation, functions on two levels. Dislocation of local genres in the international scene and dislocation of pop culture in contemporary art opens the one-way street into a passage for communication in both directions.

Dragana Mirkovicís appearance in Vienna introduced a new dimension to the installation. A minority population of more than 250,000 ex-Yugoslav citizens live and work in Vienna and the rest of Austria. They are completely invisible to the general Austrian public; they are excluded and they exclude themselves from the Austrian community. However, the appearance of Mirkovic as a part of a contemporary art exhibition, in a high art institution, was a breakthrough that worked in two ways. For the first time this minority population was invited to and made visible in an Austrian public space and for the first time contemporary art entered these working-class immigrants' world.


Milica and Branimir proposed to participate in the project from their home in Belgrade