Passing Ilica street 8, you might notice two bronze bare feet imprinted on the floor tiles. You’ve just found one of the least noticeable, but perfectly placed plaques in Zagreb. It is dedicated to Tom Gotovac, a film director, actor, concept, performance and multimedia artist, and his performance Zagreb, I love you!
Tom Gotovac directed around 45 films, most of them experimental, but is best known for his performances. He was a pioneer in the art form, starting to dabble in it as early as 1954. For the most part he used his naked body, turning himself as the subject of his art. Zagreb, I love you!, full name Ležanje gol na asfaltu, ljubljenje asfalta (Zagreb, volim te!), hommage Howardu Hawksu i njegovu filmu Hatari (Laying naked on the asphalt, kissing the asphalt (Zagreb, I love you), homage to Howard Hawk and his film Hatari), was one of his most known works.
On Friday, 13th September 1981, as the Gric cannon roared trough the sky signifying noon, Gotovac stepped out of the house entrance on Ilica 8 fully naked, screamed ‘Zagreb, I love you!’, laid on the pavement and kissed it. He proceeded to do that for the next seven minutes moving to the main square, where the police arrested him.
He later explained that it was an act of love for the city and contempt for the philistines who started to inhabit it. The performance happened in a time when student papers, rock bands and young intellectuals started to question and probe the communist status quo and Gotovac’s ‘act of indecency’ had a great impact on the cultural scene.
Ivan Posavac took iconic photographs of the start of the performance, giving the film to a friend before the police could confiscate it, and continued shooting from a far. On the thirtieth anniversary of the performance, when opening an exhibition of the photographs for the first time he said ‘A man like that had to happen. If anybody else did it, it would just be interesting. He was different, he was a monumental sculpture. It had to be him…one of the great misfortunes in many people was the existence of Gotovac.’
Indeed, Gotovac openly and unapologeticly, with a sharp tongue and art, criticized the ‘untouchable’ authorities in politics, morale and culture until his passing in 2010.
For his acts of defiance, breaking moralist conventions, vanguard art, Zagreb placed a plaque in 2013 on the spot where he started his performance, commemorating the great artist who loved this city.