24 hours inside the Red Peristyle, Ana Peraica
24 hours inside the Red Peristyle
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
24 hours inside the Red Peristyle
My relationship to Red Peristyle has been personal. I was born, I work and I live on Peristyle. Crveni Peristil has framed my life-path, choosing a profession of art historian.
During the time this small Roman square was painted red, my grandfather was running a shop. I had met most of the people connected to this event through my lifetime. Still one, leaving the city immediately after the event, never coming back I have reached only by an e-mail contact. At the fiftieth anniversary of the event he unannounced came to my family atelier, promising me to come back in the evening. I went to pick up another member, who has spent a deal of life in prison, in order to organise their meeting, bringing them unannounced to the event in Galerija umjetnina, where only one member of the team was presenting his memories. There we finally heard who painted what, the Peristyle was never red but orange. But the for the most we listened to memories of their youth.
The next day we went all-together at the funeral of Predrag Lucić, a journalist and a member of the Feral tribune group, staying in a strong succession of Split’s revolt to the Red Peristyle. They made a farewell card, leaving it on the grave. Once, there would be times on the planet without hippies, and it is hard to imagine it. People leave with no order. But would there be some other young revolutionaries, and would ever again be a revolution. I am sure, if it would, it would come from a brilliant team as this one.
In this chapter, I would like to note auto-etnographically, some remarks on the myth and reality of the event framing the subculture of the city of Split, using the chance to publish some previously unpublished photographs of the fiftieth anniversary of the event.
There is usually a crucial moment one recognizes when making a career choice or deciding upon own career path. Mainly these are introduced in prefaces of one’s books, as some kind of shy, but important narratives. My narrative was not that hidden as I was born almost at the stage. On one side of the main square of the 1700 years old Roman Palace in Split is our home, at the other is the photographic studio, opened by my grandfather, in which I still sit as I write these lines.
I was not thinking that this place has a peculiar significance all, until I had to leave the palace, discovering some people actually do not have their windows’ views onto archaeology, they do not stretch the lastik gum around the Corinthian order pillars nor have they took a ride an Egyptian sphynx. In many cases my childhood was a priviledge, and that includes the family in which I was born, the family of photographers and freedom fighters.
But besides monument and the liberty, I have also inherited dark narratives of the place.
Peristyle was a place with a weird energy since ever. As kids, we used to mark people that were hunted by the ghost of the Diocletian. Almost everyone who tried to dig around went mad. “The Emperor’s curse will get you!” we used to say.
Still, there were not that many researchers willing to come to the palace, or the Ghetto, as they called it. Since the late fifties streets were literary owned by smugglers selling cinema tickets, playing cards, latter jeans, selling their goods on the street. Our building entrance served as the cabin for people buying their street goods for decades, making me see various types of male underwear. Sometimes I would unleash my dog so they would leave screeming and with trousers down. The other times, when the police was hunting smugglers, I would say I never seen them.
The main coffee bar on the Peristyle square was crowded with hippies and drug addicts, who used to call Peristyle “skver”, as the square in English. Probably the anglicism took them higher. There was a strict invisible line on the square I could not cross. If I would, my grandfather was merciless, once he even put his leg so I fallen cross it. At my high school age, there were up to three drug dealers and dozens of addicts in heroine crisis wandering around and shaking. Some of them were nice people, if there was none to keep the lastik gum I jumped over, they would do. We as kids were much nastier than they ever were, we were spying onto them and if we would find the place they hide their dope, we would throw it away.
Framed by frame
Children of hippies I knew were having the same ideas of liberty as I did, except that they related themselves to the fama of Red Perystyle. By the age I enrolled in the high school – the event was so mystified that there were at least thirty names attached to it, each legitimating own freedom or artistic practice. There was something stupid about that story. It seemed as everyone was there and everyone painted. One among the most irritating was Vladimir Dodig Trokut, often trying to fascinate getting young girls like I was with his tales about mysticism, spells and dark forces. He was skinny as a skeleton, with greecy hair and boring.
Telling tales was not the only activity in this process, but also a frequent reference in some other pieces, which has lead to a production of the green, black, chocolate and other version of the “covered with” square. I would not like to repeat the tale, as it is the one today most of tourist guides are repeating, as if the goal of art is in repetition of the covering as square with something, an ultimate boredom of color-change with some mysticism attached.
Myths and narratives
I didn’t want to have anything with these mystics. Still, one day Jelena Mandić, a school colleague of mine, sitting right behind me in the first column near the door entrance, knocked at my back telling – why you never told us your father had something with Red Peristyle. I told no – he didn’t. But then she handed me a Quorum magazine, and in the footnote (and she was that girl reading footnotes), and there I read the name of my grandfather.
My grandfather was indeed full of surprises and witty kind of fun. He was constantly reading and making collections of things, besides predictable coins, stamps, flags, he collected weird watches, cartoons and drinks from all around the planet.
I went home furious and asked granddad and he told me there are some photos in the atelier. Then I have asked my father who overtook the atelier, and he told me – it was him who recorded the photographs, not my grandfather, and that he is going to give them to me when he finds them. But, it took years until he has found them in the atelier.
My father was a good friend to Slaven Sumić, one of those who painted the square. Slaven used to invent various new sattlements for our window shop. One day my grandfather recorded him as Saint Nicolas, and made a picture which he wanded to keep in the window, but then they decided not – as the secret service was rolling around. Slaven used to make puppets in the local puppet theatre. Slaven never wanted to speak on painting the square, he was sealed in silence. He was, except Kravica, the only one I knew of these people.
Srdjan Kravica was a friend to my grandfather and me. My father also used to like him, he told he has a certain warm type of madness. There were many stories about him, and one among them was he tool acid and climbed to the palm tree in the harbour when Haille Sellasi was visiting, he was doing some weird things and then was arrested. The other time he was taken to the London record studioi where he saw, on the acid, people of color and got so scared that he went back home.
Kravica used to play a guitar on the street. His hair was grey, he had a beard and always wore a hat. He used to call me under the window, to join him on the Peristyle square singing, and I liked singing Suzy Q, which I think I never heard afterwards. He used to promise that one day he will take me to some real bar with real music. And one day he came to pick me up with his mother, a portrait painter, who took us both to the bar. We spoke for hours about freedom and art, and at the moment we were to leave, she took her skirt up and shown, with no shame, her old leg with a gum in which she kept her paper money. She taught me so much at that moment.
She died few years after, unfortunately bringing Kravica to depression. He got beaten up somewhere and decided not to cure his broken leg, as that is not natural. Before leaving to the asylum he gave me two silver signs of peace and transferred head louse. Years passed and a friend of him told me he commited suicide, but I was fully sure I have seen an man with a grey hair with a hat, walking around with guitar years latter. I run after him, but he got scared and run away.
Nearly five years latter, I have met Dena Dokić. These were the nineties, the times of war and everyone was pretty aggressive and teritorial. He wanted to sit on the table I was sitting claiming I took his place. He was a heroin addict and a convicted drug dealer, but amazingly magnetic man, with blue eyes, dark hair in brides. I treated him as we used to treat drug addicts - told him to leave, but he started arguing to me, and then out of sudden he told – Peraica’s daughter, you couldn’t be missed, you have the same pissed off face as your dad. “He used to roll around in his rolling shoes when we were painting the square” – he told.
This was the time Split was full of heroin addicts, and we young girls were frequently falling in love with those stoned guys. For the reason yet unknown to me, Dena become some kind of my dark angel, sending me messages about some people that would be joining my friends in the bar, occasionally even sending someone to pick me up and drive home. We talked a little, but I enjoyed his distant presence. But somehow I started admiring him, that weird sense of humor. One day, when my dad died, I received a letter from the prison in Šibenik Dena has written after seeing a TV show with me travelling back and forth to Rijeka, where I thought classes in visual culture, travelling 12 hours ride by boat. I was exhausted and sad, he noticed rightly. You never know where you have friends, it ended.
Knowing three of them, by different types of acccidents around the Perystile square, I decided to find the fourth one. I have found Nenad Djapic online, few years ago, sent him an email but it took him years to reply. He was the only one who continued his artistic career, as a filmmaker. He has sent me some data which I needed for the text, and our relationship was distant.
Besides those I knew as a kid, or a schoolgirl, I have met Božidar Jelenić, who invited me to curate AAA few times, and Zlatan Dumanić who has interpreted the event, but that was much latter, when I finished my studies.
Pave Dulčić I never met, he died before I was born, but somehow he was there for the great deal of my life. My classmate and a best friend at the time, still a naïve and honest girl then she was, fell in love to his picture, published in the Quorum book which made me to research the tale. It took a long time until someone explained to her it is not to fall in love with dead, but alive people. We used to play by reenacting the images of Pave and Slaven from Quorum, especially one sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower, sitting with the chair orientated backwards. One of them we recorded at the school of youth journalism in Fažana, where we were sent as young journalist talents.
Except of these photographs, one of the most important things relating me to the Red Peristyle, except of few people I knew, was that photo recorded by my father. That photograph had a strange life of diisappearing and appearing out of sudden.
First it was my dad who lost it in the shop for two decades and then when he found it I made a photocopy for my assignment in the art of the XX century, but then got it lost somehow. When a team from Croatian national tv station HRT went producing a photograph on it I couldn’t find it. My dad did not want to talk about it as it was somehere, which I would regret for the whole of my life, but he pushed me to talk as an art historian, which I think in this case I never was. I found it after in a special wallet with that earring Kravica gave me and some other things reminding me on hippies. I decided to release it then with the 50th anniversary, which was soon about to come.
It was the story about the photo that was important. The window of my father’s bedroom was facing Peristyle directly, and in the night of the action he was awaken by the noise. As the morning light entered the room everything, reflecting on the square, even the room ceiling turned red. My grandfather then asked him to go downstairs and document the event, but having no coffee he took the camera with a black and white film.
Downstairs he met Zvonimir Buljević, then a photographer of the Conservation office. He was disinterested into people, but rather went to document the potential damage, shooting on his diapositive film. Zvonimir Buljević, who was a great friend to my dad, was always objecting how someone stole him these pictures from his personal archive.
Still, pictures of Zvonimir Buljević become famous, so famous that even his name was not written on them, but the name of some phantom Red Peristyle. A phantom turning to never exist, but which had anniversaries and celebrations. Zvonimir Buljević, to the other hand, was quite a real person. He was a good writer, interesting photographer and a person of the city.
Today there are two sets of his diapositives, one in Collection Sudac, the other in the Museum of Contemporary Arts and none questions which one is the original. Besides, there are many prints sold as the “originals” among the crimilal gallerist scene. I’ve seen quite a few. At some occasion I went analysing prints that were hanging in the Kinoteka Zlatna vrata, where a cult director xx has hung them and, more fascineted with different settings of our window went looking what my grandfather kept there.
But on one there is a skinny guy with a hat in front of our shop, reminding me of him. But, my dad would say – this gay has short trousers, your grandfather would never ever wear such a short trousers. Looking closer, I realised that one out of five “slides” is not original, at all. Also, I have realised, at one image it is possible to see the acters of the event, none did by then, as the picture my dad made looks from the other side onto them.
Writing on “The square”
I wrote couple of texts on the Red Peristyle, based predominantly on stories I heard about it, from both my parents and people I knew. One was published in the East Art Map, drawing a line of the anonymity in the world of action art in Split, and that included the same Feral Tribune inside. But somehow, these articles were never refered by my colleagues seriously, most of them wrote their own versions, compatible with some other histories they wanted to proote. I suppose my writings were down to earth and banal, more facinated with the youth culture than any artness of it. More into the socialness of the city itself.
One day, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary a guy with a beard and a long hair marched in our atelier and asked if that is me. It was Nenad Djapic who came to Split. After fifty years none knew where he was, or they had some vague information arriving from the film crowds. He hugged me as we know each other for ever. I had to make a selfie, I was sure none would believe me that he ever was there.
He came there for two reasons. One was in order to celebrate the occasion by himself and the other to buy some copies of the Feral Tribune magazine, which then made me even more convinced that I was right relating them to the humor of the youth, rather than the art. On the way back he learned Predrag Lucić, one of the founders of the Feral Tribune and a youth journalism culture has died. Lucić was occasionally playing with a type of the music for fiddle, written in deasyllabic rhytm. Touched by his death, alone on the Peristyle, Djapic has sung on the Red Peristyle the night before.
The next day Gallery of Fine Arts from Split was organizing the event on the Red Peristyle. Although acknowledging some kind of anniversary they didn’t took much effort in bringing even the alive protagonists to the event. So, there was a single participant, Slaven Sumić, participating in two days of events, and whose grandson has played an instrument in the evening organized around his memories, the other day was inviting few theorists and artists that have been related to the event, myself including. It was kind of clear that inviting a drug dealer would contaminate their idea of the redness of the Peristyle. I asked Djapic if he would accompany me there, and watch it form the audience. He was not sure if he would be back, as he wanted to go visit the grave of his parents in the village nearby.
But when that day arrived I decided to go inviting Dena, whom I haven’t seen in years. Together with Petar Grimani, I came to his house and none opened. I was shouting from downstairs and somehow he recognized my voice. Dena was having a flue, at least that is what he told, in his apartment full of models of airplanes. I told him Djapic is there.
As the evening was arriving, I was waiting for Djapic and Dena, but they were late. I even organized a table and Ilija Šoškić and Dragica were sitting there, keeping it for us. I came in with Nenad, and Dena was late. But when he came, it was the hurricane of the Sixties coming in, in his cowboy shoes, leather gillet and a motorcycle helmet.
I had to reintroduce guys that were painting the square. And, I will never forget, the first thing they told to each other is – so who transferred syphilis to whom and started laughing.
Eventually they joined the discussion. They were laughing to mystification, told that the color was orange, not red and they had it as it was cheap. And it all culminated with the statement that they think everyone has painted the square. Everyone mentioned, including the audience. Many were disappointed, but I was not.
I was thinking how, despite all, they aged so nicely. They were the age of my dad, who died in his 59 out of the heart attack, under the gentrification attack on the palace. How magnetic their appearances are. I imagined a time in which they were young and realised - I am afraid of the world with no hippies, a world without fanatism of a different kind.
We staid for some time and decided to go together on the funeral of Predrag Lucić the next day. Dena made a red board with a farewell. As we walked on the funeral I had a feeling walking with zombies the city was feared from the very beginning. It tried all in order to adapt their story onto some other one. As the cermon was passing, Dena was sitting on someone grave, commenting he feels like being on the school excursion. Slaven went in between the crowd, taking someone elses flowers in order to hiddenly bring and place the board. The next day some people were talking that Red Peristyle gathered for the funeral.
Nenad gave me some documentation he had, we also checked people on the image I got, and realised there are Pave Dulčić, Dena Dokić, Slaven Sumić and that guy Aljinović we call there, with some guy none recalls. But in front of them there is a well known Karuzo walking, straight in front of them.
Karuzo… Marin Pavlović called Karuzo was a local redicul, a person everyone laughed to. At one occasion locals have convinced him he will go playing to Milan’s Scala. As Kravica, he went on board, but they made him drunk and woke him up in the northern harbour of Split. He didn’t even have a chance of seeing people of color but local workers had covered their faces with carbon, story says.
And that was the teaching of the small city, in which everyone knew everyone, and some were born to live, the other to observe.
Time of such people has passed. Locals have gave up the palace. I still live and work on the Peristyle. Today it is the place for foreigners and a black-market business in tourism, as fake Roman soldiers, illegal walking tours and a Capella singers selling their CD-s without receipt. They are dressed up as rediculs, but none laughs at them, as it is the way they survive. Yet, would Red Peristyle be art if it would be made for money, as art is today?
I see Peristyle every day, every morning and through the day through my window, it is my 24 hours picture. Often, I imagine how it looked in the old times - not really red, that was just a day, but I imagine it full of hippies, ideas of liberty and creativity.
Split is still unable to address own flower-power generation and a culture-on-drugs. With the age of New Medievalism, surely, it would be harder and harder to speak on many practices that generation has introduced, taking substances was only one of. And I for myself, I am afraid of the day when all the hippies will be gone.