A still from Marina Abramović’s performance piece Rhythm 5 (1973–74) is the compelling and apposite cover image of art historian Marko Ilić’s A Slow Burning Fire: The Rise of the New Art Practice in Yugoslavia, a social history of the New Art Practice and related arts collectives that emerged from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s in the capitals of the federation. In the piece, described by Abramović as “the ritualization of the communist five-point star,” and first performed at the Students’ Cultural Center (Studentski Kulturni Centar, or SKC) in Belgrade in 1974, a large five-pointed star made out of wood and wood chips and soaked in petrol becomes a sacrificial frame.1 Abramović sets fire to the star, transforming the wood into a red-orange blaze that creates an illuminated version of the red star that adorned the center of the Yugoslav flag, added by the Partisans after World War...

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