As he himself accurately foresaw, Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos died in 1987 at the age of 66; in his manifesto Shid Theory, published and exhibited in 1978 in Zagreb, he divided his life into nine-and-a-half “Mangeloses”, ending in the year of his death. Referring in the manifesto to the “bio-psychological theory” he had learned about as a schoolboy in his native village of Šid in former Yugoslavia — according to which the cells in the human organism are completely renewed within seven years and therefore each human being contains several completely different personalities — Mangelos used it to explain the differences between early and late works of various artists, claiming there were two Rimbauds, two Karl Marxes, three Van Goghs, several Picassos and nine-and-a-half Mangeloses. He also applied this method when categorizing and dating his own works: one Mangelos was a critic and curator, while another questioned it all, claiming that one must start from a clean slate; tabula rasa. One was involved in art institutions, while the other doubted the validity of such systems, prompting the third, and ones that followed, to persevere in the formulation of the artistic project termed “No-art”.
Mangelos no.1 was a country boy in Šid; Mangelos no.2 a primary and high school student; Mangelos no.3 wrote poems in his exercise books and commemorated relatives and friends killed in the war with black squares he was later to term “Paysages de la mort” and “Paysages de la guerre”; Mangelos no.4 inscribed his first alphabets in blackened books and studied history of art; Mangeloses no.5 and 6 were already deeply committed to art, painting tabulae rasae, paysages, anti-peinture, pythagoras, no-stories, and the like, and taking part in the work of the avantgarde group, Gorgona, who based their radical projects on anti-art foundations. Mangeloses no.7, no.8, no.9 and no.9½ formulated theories on art, culture and civilization, writing them down in booklets, cardboard panels, and globes. But no matter how he calculated his life stages, somewhat imprecisely and in various versions, the final entry in his biography always remained the same. This is the year of his death, to which he added his final and eternal resting place: Les champs du dernier goulag — the fields of the former Soviet concentration camp as an antipode to the Champs Elysées.
This text by Branka Stipančić has originally been published in the catalogue Mangelos nos. 1 to 9½ published by the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, 2003
Mangelos, Shid-Theory, 8 pages, 1978
Courtesy of Galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris