– Interview with Danilo Milošev Wostok –


Danilo Milošev, or simply WOSTOK, is influential author from somewhat bizzare and forgotten town of Vršac, based in north-eastern Serbia, close to the Romanian border. In this interview, we tried to provoke him to reveal the secrets of his craft, as well as the authentic attitude that has shaped his art.

RP: You were born in late 60's, grew up in socialist Yugoslavia, and survived 90's in Serbia that were full of challenges. You witnessed uprising of nationalism, hatred, war, sanctions, bombing..and here you are now, in post-socialistic-so-called-neo-liberal-capitalistic Serbia, as a world known graphic author. Definitely, you experienced the succesive changes of many systems of values in your life. What can you tell us about that? Has it made you stronger or weaker? How has that affected your personal attitudes and your work? Nowadays, are you experiencing or witnessing any internal or external conflicts of values in your environment? How do you relate to that? /oh how many questions!

W: I have to say that it seems that my generation in the region of ex-Yugoslavia, and especially Serbia, was doomed to live in “too interesting times”, so to speak! During the last two decades this was the most unstable region of Europe, and all kinds of things you can imagine happened here - from dictatorship to civil war, which were followed by enormous inflation and poverty, of course. So, it was impossible to live here and not to be affected by all of these unusual circumstances. I would say that I personally benefited from that hard and complicated situation, because I started to seriously work on underground comics only when crisis was already here. I would say that I was even more productive as things were getting thougher…and why is that so, I can't quite explain…probably because of my unusual personality, that is always eager to confront against the given order of things?

RP: Your work seems quite influenced by darkwave-gothic culture, while carrying something clearly archetypical, universal and basic..where does all this darkness come from?

W: I would say that my work is deeply rooted in my unconsciousness, and actually all I am trying to do for more than two decades now is to explore and bring as more light as possible to this part of my mind…

RP: Can you explain your relation to...the context of early german expressionism and the works of European avantgarde? We have also seen very cool references/interpretations of Wilhelm Murnau, Herzog, Kafka, Daniil Harms, Aleksandr Vvedensky in your works...

W: Probably, all these guys had similar existential problems as me?...All of them worked under very hard circumstances, and I found that I had a lot in common with their situation…And, yes, their attitude of never giving up absolute creative freedom and staying true to yourself even if you have to pay the highest price - that is what I have learned from those unusual artists. They were my guiding light in the darkness of the nineties here.

RP: What do you think, what would Franz Kafka say about your visual interpretations of his written works?

W: I don’t know – I guess he would be interested to this unusual and strange interpretation of his novels and stories, that I practised in my early comics…

RP: Besides being involved in these very serious works, you are also present on the scene as some kind of trash-guru, passionate collector and supporter of naïve, brut, trash art and music..where does this fit in the local and international context? In your fanzines, you often disgrace the icons of comics and animation industry, /that is, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, for example../, you often collect and publish the most bizzare things from your my opinion, domination of trash is always a sign of problematic moments in dominant system of values and in consumer's attitude, and I see it as a chance for development, making “next step” in cultural development, by disgracing the dominant values..but is this tragic or comic, in your opinion?

W: To me, the most important things in any kind of art are spontaneity and honesty, and as time passed by I discovered that there is so little of previously mentioned atributes in the works of “Art professionals”. At the same time, I met so many interesting people who were not creating any kind of “Art” but were so interesting, funny and simply intensively alive…Then I got an idea, to try to involve them firstly in comics and later in music, movies, writing, etc…The results were sometimes amazing – i've seen so much of originality and creativity from these absolute amateurs and outsiders!

RP: Living in Serbia, you are on some kind of “cultural margin” of Europe and so-called western world, let's call it ironically “the first world”. This gives you possibility of being in position of “other”, who has experienced both “first” and “second world”..but, do you think this is an advantage or handicap?

W: Someone said that Balkans is something like”The unconsciousness of Europe” - so I think that our region is something like mysterious and dreamy part, which extends to the rationality and predictability of Western European thinking. I like to be positioned here and still have a strong connection to the cultural tradition and achievements of Europe.

RP: Of course, its all so relative, for example in the book about Nosferatu the Vampire and its movie interpretations, Romania is described through use of typical third-world stereotypes and figures, while nowadays Romania is member of EU.. But now, lets play more with these Euro-centric stereotypes. Could you imagine, or anyhow relate to the lives and experiences of people and artists who are coming from even further remote areas, such as Middle East, Egypt, etc? Can you anyhow compare their experiences with yours?

W: I have a feeling that Middle east could be a kind of unconsciousness of the Balkans!...So I expect unusual and interesting things to emerge from that part of the world in near future!...All I can say to the artist from those regions is - do your own thing, don’t pay attention to any fashion coming from the West or from anywhere else!...Earth is round, and any point could be the center of it…And yes, when you do something, try to communicate and connect with similar artists worldwide - don’t stay closed in your own shell!

RP: And for the end, please tell us about something that annoys you the most.

W: Lack of spontaneity, originality and honesty in contemporary art and in modern life in general annoys me the most!