In the words of Tomislav Gotovac, “Half of them thought I was completely crazy, and the other half viewed this art as mere shit.”
Tomislav Gotovac, who changed his name to Antonio G. Lauer a few years ago, taking his mother’s maiden name, passed away on June 25th in Zagreb at the age of 74.
The last news before his death that brought him to the center of public attention was not his art but a sad fact that he lay immobile for days in his apartment waiting for someone to come and deliver him from this situation. It then came to light that the first and the most prominent performer in the whole of former Yugoslavia lived off a miserable pension which didn’t even suffice to ensure decent medical care.
Had he remained an anonymous official as his working life began at a bank, he probably would have lived in better conditions than as an artist whose works were exhibited in numerous museums worldwide and who represented us at the Venice Biennale. However, Gotovac neither would nor could have done it any other way. He put his first performance on while still in high school, when he appeared in his pajamas which bore semblance to a convict suit, with a toothbrush sticking out from the upper pocket of his pajamas at a party on a study tour while all others were dressed up in suits. “I made a subtle performance, which I considered the beginning of my artistic activity as a performer since it was an artistic intention that was supposed to mess with them” he later retold.
Gotovac majored in directing in Belgrade and began shooting experimental films in the sixties. The most renowned film from that period is the 1963 film “A Faun’s Afternoon”. From then on he started to engage somewhat more intensely in photography and performances. The general public mostly remembers him for his public strippings. The first is known as the 1971Capital Center Streaking, where streaking denotes nude fans running out on the field during sports events. Gotovac then proceeded to run naked down the street in Belgrade shouting “I am innocent!” which was recorded in a feature film titled “Lazar Stojanović’s Plastic Jesus”, which was banned until 1990.
For the first stripping in Zagreb he made use of the action 100 (Whistling), which he performed at the Trg Republike (Republic Square) during the 10th Music Biennale in 1971. Under Gotovac’s direction hundreds of people blew their whistles following scores drawn inside the squares where the performers stood. Nobody expected that the action will have another, unannounced part. Gotovac prepared himself, dressed in a tracksuit over his naked body so he could take it off as soon as possible. And he did it in front of a packed Square and the picture of Tito, which dominated the Square. He ran around in his birthday suit, blowing his whistle with the cameras filming his every move until the police detained him.
The most famous is his performance Lying Naked on the Asphalt, kissing the asphalt (Zagreb, I love you!), Homage to Howard Hawks and his movie in Hatara, Fall of 1981. When the cannon on Grič sounded noon Gotovac emerged from the staircase at the beginning of Ilica Street loudly proclaiming “Zagreb, I love you” and then lay down on the asphalt and kissed the dirty streets of Zagreb. The performance was stopped after seven minutes by the police who arrested him. “Half of them thought I was completely crazy, and the other half this art mere shit. But in these performances I was actually aiming at the destruction of bourgeois behavior”, commented later Gotovac.
His “naked” love for the city was expressed for the last time last year together with Vlasta Delimar and Milan Božić.
Read more about his work on the Croatian Film Association web pages
* Zagreb, I love you!
* Tomislav Gotovac, Vlasta Delimar and Milan Božić, Zagreb, 2009
* Action 100 (Whistling), which he performed in Zagreb in 1979