Red Peristyle

Red Peristyle intervention with red color on the sidewalk of the antique Peristyle (Chromatic shaping of the ambience of the Peristyle) in Diocletian’s Palace , Split on 1/10/1968, included students from the Teachers’ Academy and pupils from the Applied Arts School in Split, Pavle Dulčić, Toma Čaleta, Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Slaven Sumić, Nenad Ðapić, Radovan Kogej, Srđan Blažević and Denis Dokić. The action was colloquially named Red Peristyle. It gained the status of domestic urban legend. And of a footnote to the world’s contemporary art compendiums as some art historians consider this action as one of the pioneering in the realm of conceptual art. The participants were arrested and fined the next day on the grounds of the defilement of a historical monument and public space. The reasons as to what has prompted the action widely differ. According to Vladimir Dodig Trokut, the coloring of the 12 squares, 12 meters for 12 participants, was based on the wholesome system of didactic education and grounding in the art history coming from the professor Boze Jelinic, who was the spiritual leader of the group. The members have informally met since 1966, taking part in the alternative film practices as members of the Kino Club Split. Pavle Dulčić developed his own concept of Informel painting and Constructivist, cybernetic projects. Toma Čaleta and Trokut were active from the radical political position, inspired by the entire political events in Europe of the time, and the Marxist philosophical group Praxis (active in former Yugoslavia in the 60’s). The initial color ideas included orange (revolutionary color of the West); the anarchist combination of red and black and, finally, red that used as a symbolic attack on the existing political (communist) system. Sumic, later, stated that they even considered the red and white combination, but gave up on it because the obvious Croatian national symbolism would have likely meant the long-term jail sentence.

The contemporary conceptual artist from Split, Zlatko Dumanic, considers the radical nature of the Red Peristyle, to be largely mythical. He believes the idea came from the local party committee inspired by the slogan ‘Soviets have Red Square, why wouldn’t we have Red Peristyle?” –proposing it to a group of young, unemployed people.

It is generally assumed that Red Peristyle was not a neutral act of abstract nature, nor an intimate, invidualist story of ‘crazy youth’, but rather that it reflected the state of civil consciousness, of dissatisfaction and reaction against the existing order of values in the society of the time, especially in culture and politics.

After Red Peristyle, the group continued with its public actions of remonstration. Four members of the group, among them Pavle Dulcic and Toma Celata, have committed suicide, the act which, along the contradictory testimonies, have further contributed to the myth of the Red Peristyle.