Anti-embargo is a term given to a group of actions by Yugoslavian (Serbia
& Montenegro) Mail-artists, after they were imposed on an international
blockade on June the first 1992. This embargo was imposed by the United
Nations with the aim of stopping the involvement of Yugoslavia in the
civil war of Bosnia-Herzegovina. May 31 was the deadline for the Yugoslavian
army to withdraw from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Among all networkers in the former Yugoslavia, the Serbian Mail-artists
were the most active in international cultural co-operation. And Yugoslavian
Mail-artists in general have played an important role in the development
of the Mail-Art network since the seventies. They had strong contacts
with other Mail-artists in Eastern Europe who lived under repressive communist
regimes and were the link for them towards the rest of the world. Now
confronted with an embargo, including a cultural embargo, they strongly
disagreed with a forced interruption of links between creative people.
The isolation is in direct contrast with the open system of Mail-Art,
and there was only the network to fight against the cultural embargo.
The anti-embargo activities stopped the same day as the cultural embargo
was lifted on October 5th 1994. The end of economic embargo was in November
"Embargo Art is everything that an artist can do in conditions of
international blockade of his country. In a situation where there is lack
of fundamental materials for creation; when there is a lack of fuel for
transportation and heating; shortages of food;
. The main activity
of the artist under embargo is to win a possibility, time, and space for
his creativity. That means to surmount all shortages and bans, to restrain
concern, to reach inner peace, to get inspiration and in the moment of
enlightenment to feel as if the embargo doesn't exist. All that the artist
gets to do in such state of mind is EMBARGO ART." Tisma, Andrej (1993).
Cage, number 3.
It was Andrej Tisma who initiated the anti-embargo actions. On June 3rd,
shortly after the embargo was established, he sent out an anti-embargo
declaration world wide. The same day he also made an 'Embargo Art' rubberstamp
and decided to print it on all of his products in Mail-Art until the end
of the UN's embargo on Yugoslavia.
1992 Was also the year with the worldwide 'Decentralized Networker Congresses'.
It was an attempt by Mail-artists to broaden the concept of the 'Congress
year', to open it beyond Mail-Art circles, by also involving people related
to other kinds of creative networking activities. Yugoslavian networkers
played an important part in the international dialogue of Mail-Art, and
it was the one and only way for them to stay in contact with the rest
of the world during the embargo. Even with Mail-artists living in other
parts of the former Yugoslavia during the civil war, letters were passed
on by Mail-artist from outside Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
The embargo became a test for the intercultural communication art of the
Mail-Art network. Concerns for some actions against the embargo were present
on the 'Belgrade Networker Congress' of June 13 where 12 Serbian artists
These concerns turned into anti-embargo activities in Sremski Karlovci,
from 1 till 3 September 1992, where Tisma organised an 'Anti-Embargo Net
Congress' where eight Serbian networkers signed the 'Deblockade of Creativity'.
The networkers who signed were Nenad Bogdanovic, Aleksandar Jovanovic,
Dobrica Kamperelic, Jozef Klacik, Ratko A. Radanovic, Jaroslav Supek,
Miroljub Todorovic, and Tisma himself. The discussion was about the effects
of the international blockade of Yugoslavia on the Mail-Art network and
networkers. A hotel was reserved for foreign guests. Seventy foreign networkers
were invited to prove that the Mail-Art network was able to surmount all
barriers and break embargos, but nobody came.
Deblockade of Creativity
The effect of activity of thousands of networkers all over the world is
their awareness of belonging to a huge family of creative people, open
for communication and collaboration, with a strong feeling of solidarity
with the other participants of the movement.
Yugoslav contribution during the decades of transformation of the world's
contemporary art trough Network can be found in different projects, publications,
exhibitions, which are inseparable part of international events (Signalism,
Westeast, Open World, Total...).
The Network has developed specific relation between the artists, who.
instead of competition and envy. are practising exchange, collaboration,
community and equality.
Unfortunately, the world's political trends, which are based on the entirely
opposite principles than the Network, endanger all positive results which
have been achieved and accumulated for decades. The example for that is
the total International blockade of Yugoslavia - embargo on oil, even
on cultural exchange, international transportation, and maybe soon on
the PTT communication. The essence of Network as an embryo of the planetary
culture - communication is directly endangered by that. There is a threat
that Yugoslav networkers, who are permanently connected to the others
in the world and whose activities are firmly built into the whole movement,
will become violently, unreasonably and barbarously separated from the
essence of their existence.
The embargo posed on Yugoslavia, which is aimed to make pressure on politicians,
has totally missed its target, because it is felt mostly by children,
old and sick people, and half million of war refugees. Since the embargo
was established, many things, even in the Network, are not the same. Aggressive
propaganda in the whole world against the rest of former Yugoslavia influenced
the participants of the communication network. Sending and receiving of
mail is made difficult now, and the fact is that many invited foreign
networkers gave up their participation in the Congress sessions in Yugoslavia.
Therefore we the networkers, participants of the Congress session in Sremski
Karlovci are protesting against foreign and Yugoslav politicians asking
them to suspend embargo on art, creativity, and communication immediately!
By their unwise actions they are destroying 20th century positive achievements,
introducing violence into creativity, which is inadmissible.
We have invited more than 70 foreign networkers to our Congress. We invited
them in this tragic moment when our country is totally isolated from the
rest of the world, to come as ambassadors of peace and free cultural exchange.
They were invited to break the embargo and prove that Network is capable
to surmount all barriers and embargo's.
In spite of our explicit request to networkers to come and show their
solidarity, and in spite of optimal conditions that we provided for their
stay and work, nobody came from abroad!
We accept that as their personal and moral decision. But than it puts
in doubt the Network as a true movement for collaboration and confidence
between people of the world.
Sremski Karlovci, September 3. 1992
On that occasion in Sremski Karlovci, Aleksandar Jovanovic a young cultural
activist who became active in the nineties asked Tisma if he could use
the term "anti-embargo" for his Cage magazine which he planed
to run after the congress. He obtained the right to use it and Jovanovic
published five issues of Cage in subsequent years. It was the only periodical
publication which opposed the embargo in its contents. The first issue
was published in December 1992 with the intention of creating a greater
effect abroad, and enlarging the existing group of networkers, who each
in their own way fought against the isolation of Yugoslavia. In August
1993 the 'Tate Gallery' (England) and in May a year later the 'Museum
of Modern Art' (U.S.A.), informed Jovanovic that the Cage magazine was
made part of their collection. This was not only recognition of his work,
but also a breaking of the cultural embargo by some cultural institutions
in the world. The last issue was published in July 1994. From the beginning
it was said that Cage would only appear as long as the embargo was in
place. There were plans for a sixth issue, including all the remaining
art and textual works done after the fifth one, but due to lack of finances
a sixth and final issue was never published. Beside his Cage magazine
Jovanovic also produced artistamps, did performances (mostly inside a
cage to dramatise the condition of the Serbian artists) and created the
conceptual artist book Unblockade Book.
'Cage' was not only the name for the magazine but was also the name of
a group of artists who made anti-embargo actions through creative protest
both locally and through the Mail-Art network. Those anti-embargo actions,
which were on the level of performances, articles, exhibitions and media
appearances were documented by the Cage magazine. Beside Jovanovic and
Tisma, the anti-embargo group consisted of Dobrica Kamperelic (Belgrade),
Miroljub Todorovic (Belgrade), Jaroslav Supek, Nenad Bogdanovic (Odzaci),
Ratko Radanovic (Srpski Miletic), Jozef Klacik (Novi Sad), and later Vlado
Njaradi (Vrbas), Sandor Gogoljak (Odzaci) and Anica Vucetic (Belgrade)
joined the group. All artists made anti-embargo actions in their own interest.
For Tisma carved rubberstamps became a way to spread his ideas, with stamps
such as 'Serbia U.N.'s Concentration Camp', and 'Embargo on Tourism (Sorry
H.R.F.)'. In total he has made more then twenty anti-embargo rubberstamps.
He wrote several anti-embargo statements and texts such as "Networking
under Embargo" written in June 1992 for the congresses world wide,
and his text "Embargo Art" which could be a manifesto of his
anti-embargo art, which was published in Cage number 3 in May 1993. His
also expressed his concern for the civil war in his country with his '(spi)rituals'
performances which he has been doing since 1984. In an attempt to bring
together religious factionalism contributing to the war, he performed
a '(spi)ritual' action during the congress in Sremski Karlovci, in front
of an Orthodox and Catholic church. He also performed more '(spi)rituals'
in following years.
The Mail-artist Kamperelic organised a big multi-media exhibition called
'Interrelationships-Open world/Open Mind' in Belgrade. But more importantly
he continued publishing his Open World zine. In a brief introduction on
the front cover Kamperelic reports about the worsening political, social
and financial conditions in his country. He also mentions inquiries from
other networkers about changing conditions in Yugoslavia. From Open World
issue 71 on, Kamperelic reported about actions at home ('Make art - not
politics'). Part of his actions included performances and an appearance
on Belgrade television, where he spoke about an artistic response to the
The performer Bogdanovic was organiser of one of the first 'Decentralized
Networker Congress' in Yugoslavia in Baranja on February 29. This congress
was focused on the war in Yugoslavia, and had as participants: Bogdanovic
himself, Gogoljak and Jovanovic. Later on during the anti-embargo actions
he organised two more networker congresses at his home with as theme 'Make
art - not politics'. Being mainly a performance artist he has made several
actions, and expressed his concerns for open communication in performances.
In addition, other artists such as Gogoljak began the production of anti-embargo
artistamps and made performances. Vlado Njaradi organised in October 1994,
an exhibition of his international 'No Embargo For Arts' Mail-Art project
at the 'Golden Eye' gallery in Novi Sad. This project started in May 1994
on precisely the second anniversary of the imposing of cultural isolation
on Yugoslavia by the entire international community. The deadline for
the Mail-Art project was set at "the end of the embargo on, art of
Serbia and Montenegro". This project intended to break through the
blockade by foreign cultural participation sent to Yugoslavia. Njaradi
received works from about fifty artists from fourteen countries in a period
of four months, as the embargo was lifted in October. He also created
rubberstamps, artistamps, and graphics in support of the anti-embargo
back in 1993 the daily monetary inflation was 300% (!),
our monthly income was about US$ 3,-, but the postal taxes were on the
world level. So you had to decide if you are going to send a letter by
airmail to the USA or buy for that money twelve kilos of bread (bread
was almost everything we ate in that time). Of course I always gave the
priority to sending the letter. Because to stay in touch with the Network,
especially with some of the friends, meant more than bread. It gave us
moral support which was important in circumstances when there was no heating
in the winter, no fuel for cars or city buses so we had to go everywhere
by foot, and sometimes we had electricity only for four hours a day."
Janssen, R. (1995). [Interview with Andrej Tisma]. TAM Mail-Interview
Project [WWW page]. URL http://www.iuoma.org/
Beside actions in Yugoslavia, Andrej Tisma organised in collaboration
with Cage magazine, anti-embargo exhibitions of networkers from the 'Cage'
group and himself in several western countries. These exhibitions were
breaking the cultural embargo, because artists from Serbia were not allowed
to exhibit outside Yugoslavia. The first exhibition was in Vichte (Belgium)
organised by Jose Van den Broucke (Belgium) on the national 'Armistice
Day' 11 November 1993, under the title 'Serbian Artists from Cage'. After
that there was an exhibition in Dallas (U.S.A.) organised by John Held
Jr. (U.S.A.), in August of 1994 in his 'Modern Realism' gallery under
the title 'Art Above the Embargo'. In January 1995, Shozo Shimamoto (Japan)
organised an exhibition at the 'Metropolitan Museum' in Tokyo entitled
'Embargo Art from Serbia Island'. Tisma also had several solo shows in
a number of Western countries. For instance, in 1992 in Seoul (South Korea),
with the help of Kum Nam Baik (South Korea) he had an exhibition at the
'Sung Kyun Kwan University Gallery'. And another in 1994 at the 'Maon
Gallery' in Munich (Germany), with his big anti-embargo posters including
his enlarged anti-embargo rubberstamps.
During the embargo period several Mail-artists around the world participated
personally with the anti-embargo projects. For example they collaborated
with Cage magazine, published protests, exhibited works from Yugoslavian
artists, distributed Mail-Art from Yugoslavia, supported morally in letters
and publicly in their own countries, made anti-embargo works themselves,
. The Mail-artists Held Jr., Peter Küstermann (Germany) and
Angela Pähler (Germany) visited Yugoslavia. Held Jr. was present
at the 'Fax He-ART' project, which Tisma organised for the occasion. This
project focused on the reason that after two years of blockade, artists
of Yugoslavia still continued seeking communication, and took place on
the 20th October 1994. Tisma invited networkers by mail to send fax messages
to the fax machine of 'VLV Gallery' in Novi Sad. One hundred fifty faxes
from all over the world came out of the fax machine in front of the audience
that day and were hung on the wall. After that a book was printed about
the project in 1995. Held Jr. also visited the 1st 'Post Cultural Embargo
Networker Congress' at Novi Sad on October 30 1994, to celebrate the lifting
of the cultural embargo. Küstermann and Pähler were present
at the 'Decentralized Networker Congress' called 'Make Art - Not Politics,
part II' organised by Bogdanovic on 21 November 1992.
Other artists from outside Serbia began showing support. Stephen Perkins
(U.S.A.) from Iowa City published a booklet called Remove the Blockades
to an Open World. Luc Fierens (Belgium) dedicated an issue of his Postfluxpostbooklet
to Yugoslavia. Crackerjack Kid (U.S.A.) dedicated an issue of his Netshaker
to the Yugoslavian conflict, although many of the Yugoslavian networkers
took exception to some of his conclusions. Beside earlier mentioned artists
also Hans Ruedi Fricker (Switserland), Ruud Janssen (Holland), Gyorgy
Galantai (Hungary), Ruggero Maggi (Italy), Clemente Padin (Uruguay), Teresinka
Pereira (USA), Livia Cases (Italy) and many others show their support.
"The international cultural blockade was imposed on us, . . ., but
it was "imposed" also to the whole Network as a real and crucial
The blockade has put the entire networking idea on test,
and that was maybe the most important event in the Network (besides the
Balkan war) in the last few years. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we the
Serbian networkers were here to testify about the embargo's effects and
to try to overcome them, with a help of our friends from abroad."
Janssen, R. (1995). [Interview with Andrej Tisma]. TAM Mail-Interview
Project [WWW page]. URL http://www.iuoma.org/
A few years after the embargo was lifted the anti-embargo activities brought
mixed feelings among several Yugoslavian networkers. As one Yugoslavian
networker wrote: "Take care. All these (political art) terms such
as anti-embargo art, art of resistance,
I'm sick of it, often much
more manipulation than real art-trends, understand." During the embargo
all Yugoslavian networkers were as one party against the rest of the world
who imposed them under embargo. When this was lifted it did not bring
political security but more tension between different political views
in Yugoslavian society and also among networkers.
 Tisma, Andrej
 Decentralized Networker Congresses
 Bogdanovic, Nenad
 Jovanovic, Aleksandar
 Kamperelic, Dobrica
 Todorovic, Miroljub
 Open World
 Tate Gallery
 Museum of Modern Art
 Open World
 Van den Broucke, Jose
 Held Jr., John
 Shimamoto, Shozo
 Nam Baik, Kum
 Peter Küstermann
 Stephen Perkins
 Luc Fierens
 Crackerjack Kid
 Fricker, Hans Ruedi
 Janssen, Ruud
 Galantai, Gyorgy
 Maggi, Ruggero
 Padin, Clemente
 (D. Kamperelic, letter, July 5, 2003)
 (N. Bogdanowicz, e-mail)
 (T. Andrej, personal interview, July 2003)
 Janssen, R. (1995). [Interview with Andrej Tisma]. TAM Mail-Interview
Project [WWW page]. URL http://www.iuoma.org/
 Held, John Jr. (1995). Key to the Collection: Correspondence, 1976-1995
[WWW page] URL http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/
 Held, John Jr. (n.d.). The Open World of Dobrica Kamperelic, John
Held, Jr., Part II [WWWpage] URL http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/
 Held, John Jr. (n.d.). Yugoslavian Networkers: Towards the Open World
on an Unpaved Super Highway [WWWpage] URL http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/
 Tisma, Andrej (1994). no embargo for arts! [catalog]
 Tisma, Andrej (1993). Cage, number 3.
 Tisma, Andrej (1996). Krovovi, number 36-38. Sremski Karlovci: Yugoslavia.
Date last update: 15 November 2004
From Mail-Art Encyclopaedia http://www.sztuka-fabryka.be/encyclopaedia/items/anti-embargo.htm
Geert De Decker /a.k.a. Sztuka Fabryka
Mail-Art Encyclopaedia, 2003