How I was systematically destroyed by an idiot*

“Every day, in every way, I become better and better.” In Serbo-Croatian, which isn’t a real language anymore: “Svakoga dana, u svakom pogledu, sve više napredujem.”**

Person steht vor rot leuchtendem Strommast unter freiem Himmel. Schrift im unteren Teil es Bildes: our country will always be fifty years behind, son
Frau mit grünblonden-neonfarbenen Haaren steht in Bikini und mit großen Flügeln vor einem Meeres Hintergrund. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: I'm a daughter but it's in there somewhere
schräge Sicht von oben in ein Auto, indem jemand sitzt. Frau mit grünblonden-neonfarbenen Haaren steht in Bikini und mit großen Flügeln vor einem Meeres Hintergrund. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: I'm a daughter but it's in there somewhere: because we are stupid and greedy
Badewanne, aus der Blumen wachsen. schräge Sicht von oben in ein Auto, indem jemand sitzt. Frau mit grünblonden-neonfarbenen Haaren steht in Bikini und mit großen Flügeln vor einem Meeres Hintergrund. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: and anyone worth anything flushed, washed their hand and left a long time ago.
Ährenartige Pflanzen. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: fifty years ago the future was taking place right now
Blick von schräg oben auf eine öffentliche Szene, möglicherweise ein Bahnhofsgleis oder Einkaufszentrum. Polizei, zerstreute Menschen. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: and I thought my depression was my own
Vier Menschen laufen Straße entlang und tragen gemeinsam eine fünfte Person. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: and "in just a few years, I will become my own richt parents"
Hügelige Landschaftsansicht mit Person, die auf Pferd von rechts durch das Bild reitet. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: I thought if they put it on stage it must be groundbreaking

Blick von oben, Person mit roter Kappe schaut Abgrund hinunter. An der Kante hält sich Person mit blondem Haar verzweifelt fest, um nicht hinunter zu stürzen und greift mit einem Arm in die Richtung de Person mit Kappe wie um Hilfe zu bitten. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: because Europeans always follow the rules
Verschwommene Straßenszene: mehrere Menschen an einem Tisch, eine Person, die steht und eine ausladende Handgeste. macht im rechten Teil es Bildes. Oben ein kleines Fenster, Warmer Lichteinfall von rechts oben. Schrift im unteren Bildteil: but if my dad was wrong about everything, how can I not believe him?

I integrate. I am awake and aware. I don’t fear missing out. Emir Kusturica was twenty six years old when his first film, “Do You Remember Dolly Bell?”, came out and immediately won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He didn’t win the main prize, but “The Golden Lion of the Future” which is awarded only to newcomers. (The real Lion went to “Die bleierne Zeit” by Margarethe von Trotta that year.)

I am twenty five. I am in line to become a newcomer on the professional arts scene. I wake up and look to capture the Zeitgeist, by any means necessary. I work on overcoming animal instincts by waiting as long as possible to eat. I read everything I can get my hands on to make sure my thoughts have never been thought before. If they have, I discard them. I wake up and fall asleep to a ritual of hypnosis.

The protagonist of Dolly Bell isn’t Dolly herself, but Dino, a cool young guy who believes in the power of self optimisation and manifesting despite the Marxist teachings of his father. Dolly is an inexperienced sex worker who Dino hides in his attic upon the request of her pimp. His mindset alone seems to convince her to sleep with him. The pimp convinces her to sleep with other neighbourhood kids. In the end, the father dies, Marxism dies with him, and we are left with hypnosis. Dolly is still fucked somewhere, but at least Dino is happy because he started a band that plays western music. The whole thing has something to say about the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, that I’m too young to remember.

Anyways, von Trotta was thirty nine when she won The Golden Lion.

I am overwhelmed by the pressure I feel to be liked by everyone. Please, I beg all who meet my eye, please forgive my average looks, my grammar. Forgive that I don’t go to parties and don’t know anyone in the art business. Try to look past my derivative ideas to find some uncovered potential I am desperately digging for myself. Take no notice of my screen time, the content of my fridge, or my bank account. I swear I will get better, I promise them with sweaty armpits, otherwise I may as well give up. If only there was a way to use all the time I have, to research more and deeper. Please, someone, anyone, buy my paintings.

The end notes of Dolly Bell where Dino’s band plays 24.000 Baci by Adriano Celentano in bad Italian begin a cosmic movement that leads to me waving my parents goodbye at the Belgrade Central Bus Station, about to move to Berlin with two suitcases and a thousand euros in cash. The mantra echoed over eighties Yugoslavia, Tito’s death, disillusionment with an already weak communist tendency, the war, me being born in the middle of it, and the transition to the full-on turbocapitalism of today. Every day, in every way, I become better and better. My dad would ironically repeat the phrase when my sister and I complained about studying. But it wasn’t ironic when we got sent to English classes, German classes. Every day, in every way, you need to move to real Europe to have a better life. Not like it is here, with us, primitive, wild, and unforgiving. You will know you were successful if you can leave us behind. Every day, in every way, I become more and more brutal. Dolly and the Marxist dad biting the dust, as we turn to the West, nothing but self help left.

I have about six months to win “The Golden Lion of the Future”. What started as the cool arrogance of being individual, ended up being our collective last resort. Every other artist is a hero and an enemy at the same time. I have invested so much in myself, that idealism is my only option, forward the only way. Immigrant guilt is when you can’t look your parents in the eye if you’re empty handed. I remain cautious though, pragmatic. There’s still the one at thirty nine. If I were German, I would make something about the RAF. Safe.

* Title of the 1983 film by Slobodan Šijan
** A quote attributed to the French psychologist Émile Coué, (“The Coué method”) used as an example of an optimistic, conscious autosuggestive mantra. In the former Yugoslavian cultural space, the quote was made famous through Emir Kusturica’s debut film “Do you remember Dolly Bell?” from 1981.


Text and images by Ana Tomic. Born 1996 in Belgrade, Ana Tomic studied Print- and Bookmaking at the Belgrade University of the Arts and now studies Fine Arts in the Class of Prof. Thomas Zipp at the Berlin University of the Arts. She lives in Berlin.

Scroll to Top