1964, Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, now Croatia; lives in Rijeka, Croatia
Interrupted Games or Pax. Vobis. Memento mori qui. Ludetis pilla, 1993
ready-made, Bunićeva poljana, Dubrovnik
Photo: Boris Cvjetanović
In Slaven Tolj’s Interrupted Games, photographs are not mere documents of the witnessed scene. They create a suggestive image of a specific political and historical context: in front of Dubrovnik Cathedral, at Bunićeva poljana, children often play a game of hitting a ball against the wall of the cathedral with a racquet. Their game is interrupted and comes to an end once their ball gets stuck in the Baroque decoration of the cathedral’s pillars.
At the time the photographs were shot, the city of Dubrovnik was under siege. The title Pax. Vobis. Memento Mori Qui. Ludetis Pilla (Peace Be With You. Remember You are Mortal, You, Who Play with a Ball) actually comes from a 16th century graffiti that, as the story goes, a priest who was fed up with children playing with a ball carved into the stone wall of a house somewhere in Dubrovnik. The title thus serves as a reminder that at the time, in the time of war, the game was interrupted in a much more brutal and dangerous way: to play in the square could be fatal. Like the old inscription, the interrupted children's game and the stuck tennis ball became a memento mori, a reminder of one’s own mortality, but, as Antun Maračić notes, the metaphor also bears a more permanent meaning. It corresponds to “a postmodernist artistic amalgam” that the artist himself understood as a very concrete, multilayered metaphor of the imprisonment of modernity by classical beauty. “You will stay here as a postmodernist sign,” he says.