Past • An Introduction to the Problem

Who can know what is in the past? Is it what historians can tell us? Should we also trust what we can remember? Past • An Introduction to the Problem proposes that the problem of the past now concerns everyone. Visions of a different, brighter future defeated in the Cold War and its heated afterlives, we are being offered the past as the only horizon of possibility. And what are we supposed to find in that past? Philosopher Boris Buden considers these questions in a series of essays and conversations with filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, one of the most prominent filmmakers of the “Black Wave” of 1960s socialist Yugoslavia. A child of communists and an internationally successful young artist using resources available to all in the socialist state, Žilnik remains a constant critic of political systems that seek to curb artists’ reflections on the world being built. Treating Žilnik as a rare witness of a past for which his work is uncommon documentation, this book asks crucial questions about ways we can know the past, how it informs our experience and defines our sense of possibility.

The book was originally published in 2013 in Serbo-Croatian under the title Uvod u prošlost (Introduction to the Past) and this year it was translated into English with a new preface by Boris Buden and additional multi-modal content.

You can free download the book in English as a PDF at this link.


The book was produced by:
Boris Buden, who wrote the essays and conducted conversations with Želimir Žilnik
Želimir Žilnik, who answered Boris Buden’s questions, orally and in writing
Hito Steyerl, who recorded conversations between BB and ŽŽ
Olivera Jokić, who translated the book into English, re-edited and significantly improved the text, the book’s initiators – who edited, redacted, and coordinated the work of book creation
New Media, Novi Sad
Multimedia Institute — MaMa, Zagreb
Iskra Books, Madison, Wisconsin
Research Advisory Emil Kerenji, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC
Sarita Matijević Žilnik, Playground produkcija Novi Sad
Copyediting Taylor R. Genovese, Iskra Books
Design & layout Dejan Kršić
Typefaces Bara Micro • Chairman • Link [all by Nikola Đurek / typotheque]
Printshop Tiskara Zelina, Croatia


The book Past: an Introduction to the Problem is part of the “Peripheral Visions project—towards trans(l)national publishing culture,” a partnership project implemented by the Kulturtreger, Maska, eipcp,, Kontrapunkt, Multimedia Institute, and financed by the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, the City of Novi Sad Administration for Culture and the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.