Impossible Histories is the first critical survey of the extraordinary experiments in the arts that took place in the former Yugoslavia from the country's founding in 1918 to its breakup in 1991. The combination of Austro-Hungarian, French, German, Italian, and Turkish influences gave Yugoslavia's avant-gardes a distinct character unlike those of other Eastern and Central European avant-gardes. Censorship and suppression kept much of the work far from the eyes and ears of the Yugoslav people, while language barriers and the inaccessibility of archives caused it to remain largely unknown to Western scholars. Even at this late stage in the scholarly investigation of the avant-garde, few Westerners have heard of the movements Belgrade surrealism, signalism, Yugo-Dada, and zenitism; the groups Alfa, Exat 51, Gorgona, OHO, and Scipion Nasice Sisters Theater; or the magazines Danas, Red Pilot, Tank, Vecnost, and Zvrk.
The pieces in this collection offer comparative and interpretive accounts of the avant-gardes in the former Yugoslavian countries of Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. The book is divided into four sections: Art and Politics; Literature; Visual Art and Architecture; and Art in Motion (covering theater, dance, music, film, and video). All of the contributors live in the region and many of them participated in the movements discussed. The book also reprints a selection of the most important manifestos generated by all phases of Yugoslav avant-garde activity.