Slovenia’s Punk Revolution: A Conversation with Marina Gržinić by Daniel Makagon

Apr 25, 2024

Part of the Seeing the Scene Series

The first wave of published histories of punk focused on the well-known bands and the larger cities, but since that time there has been an explosion of new information about smaller scenes and the bands that helped make those scenes. Of course, many zines in the past balanced a focus on the local with links to national and international punk, often via scene reports. However, the proliferation of personal websites, blogs, and social media outlets created opportunities for individuals to share their personal connections to historical punk and for people around the globe to learn about collective histories. We can read stories, see photos, and watch videos that document unique and common qualities of different scenes.

Marina Gržinić is a philosopher, theorist, and artist who splits here time between the Institute of Philosophy at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She moved to Ljubljana at a time when punk was being discovered and inspiring some people in the former Yugoslavia to make their own scenes. She describes a unique scene in Ljubljana that was grounded in the politics of the time, where punks sought to both enact socialist ideals and resist some of the communist bloc norms. Photography and other visual arts were crucial features of the growing punk scene in Ljubljana and she actively participated in that scene through her work at the ŠKUC Gallery. Most recently, Marina has been involved with the curation of exhibitions that present the politics of Slovenian punk in the 1970s and 1980s as well as punk’s links to a variety of parallel socio-cultural shifts in Slovenia.

Daniel: How and when did you discover punk?

Marina: I followed the punk scene of ’77 that emerged in Slovenia. It was still Yugoslavia back then. I was about eighteen years old, 1975/76. I came to Ljubljana from another part of the former Yugoslavia, from Rijeka. Rijeka is about a hundred kilometers (sixty miles) away from Ljubljana. It is the largest port city in Croatia, which is an important point. Ports are places for a lot of information and there was a large Italian minority in this city. I went to Ljubljana to study sociology, journalism, and political science. This was also important because Ljubljana was a significant arena for the punk movement, which was also very political.

In May 1969, the student radio station began broadcasting in Slovenian under the name Radio Študent (RŠ). It was a direct result of the student struggles of 1968 and was the first electronic medium in the former Yugoslavia that operated autonomously as a student radio system and was excluded from the direct control of the mass media by the communists. The communist party handed it over to the socialist youth organization with the idea that we needed an environment in which we could exercise a certain independence. Radio Študent is the oldest continuously operating student and community radio station in Europe.

Ljubljana was different from other places in Yugoslavia. At that time, about twenty million people lived in Yugoslavia. Today, Slovenia has only two million inhabitants. I say this to try to explain the size of territories involved historically. Therefore, in Slovenia, cultural change took place differently than in a city like Belgrade in Serbia. Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia and had the size that was almost of half of all of Slovenia. Student protests in Belgrade in 1968 were wild and violent. People were put in prison.

Slovenia was the northernmost part of Yugoslavia, bordering Italy and Austria. These were capitalist states and Yugoslavia was under socialism. Therefore, Radio Študent was and is very important. The radius of this radio station included Ljubljana and its surroundings, but Ljubljana was the capital of Slovenia. From that moment on, we only listened to Radio Študent. Punk music came soon after the Sex Pistols; the first band, Pankrti (The Bastards), had their first gig in Ljubljana two years after the Sex Pistols formed. It was in the fall of 1977, the Pankrti’s frontman was studying at the same University in Ljubljana as me. The punks were all influenced by Radio Študent and it helped the scene to develop. It is important to repeat that we have always lived under socialism, as opposed to the liberal capitalism that the Sex Pistols spat on.

I listened to the music and in 1978 I started to get involved in one of these student organizations: The ŠKUC Gallery at Stari trg 21, right in the center of Ljubljana. It was the gallery of the student cultural center, or ŠKUC for short. We started with a completely new idea of visual culture that reflected a do-it-yourself logic, including the production of zines. Punk was part of the turmoil, a very progressive way of thinking and being. People were attracted to these differences, and they came from different backgrounds. Not everything came from punk, since there were various parallel changes. For example, the LGBT scene was alive, and also this interest in a new visual culture—the zines, the punks, and other bands, influenced by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, the Residents, etcetera.

read the full interview in RAZORCAKE here>>

download the exhibition catalogue here>>

The exhibition website: https://ikss.zrc-sazu.si/en/strani/slovenian-punk-photography

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