Zivan Zivkovic acted in our culture as a literary critic, historian and literary theoretician for a decade and a half. For such a relatively short period of time he succeeded to achieve a great deal and enrich Serbian culture with a number of works that, I believe, will remain in the memory of this people and language permanently.
The range of critical-analytical curiosity of Zivan Zivkovic is wide and starts with literature for children, includes validation of contemporary poetry, prose, significant literary-scientific studies, ending with detailed, synthetic and revealing explanation of Signalism. concrete and visual poetry, mail-art and other artistic modes and movements which appeared during last decades on the horizon of Serbian and, more widely, planetary culture.
According to Miloslav Sutic, outstanding literary theoretician, "from the beginning of his scientific carrier, Zivkovic was one of the most reliable critics and interpreters of almost all the significant scientific-literary publications which appeared in this environment during the last fifteen years. Besides his being well informed, having strict criteria and wide perceptions, Zivkovic's curiosity for all forms of literary statements was especially outstanding, so that his texts would remain as a valuable testimony of an extremely fruitful period in our literary science". "Zivkovic's scientific and critical standards", continues Sutic "verified in the poetry and poetical meditations, are based on rich concept of scientific device proving, at the same time, authors inclination towards research and following of the innovations in Serbian literature which has been the basic subject of his teaching activity at the Philological Faculty in Belgrade."
Until his premature death this scientist and critic published eight books: Orbits of Signalism (Belgrade, 1985), Challenges of Avant-garde (Belgrade, 1986), Seventh Stamp (Novi Sad, 1988), Testimony about Avant-garde (Zemun, 1992), Signalism: Genesis, poetics and Artistic Practice (Paracin, 1994), Word and Thought (Zemun, 1995), From Word to Signal (Belgrade, 1996), Guest from the East (Nis, 1996).
In four among these eight books he was dealing with the problems of neo avant-garde and especially Signalism, Serbian creative movement. Explaining various Signalist poetry starting including verbal, visual and gesture poetry by a specific critical methodology Zivkovic directed his research probe towards ontology knots of neo avant-garde poetical discourse. This methodology applied for explanation of Signalism as well as a number of other literary and artistic creations in Zivkovic's essay treatment meant enlightening of their gnoseology and well as ontology starting points. This is seen best in the last books of this author in which a fruitful synthesis of critical with aesthetic-theoretical and literary-historical manner of recognition gave extraordinary results.
I have met Zivan Zivkovic mid 1982, a few months after his review of my book Algol in Letopis Matice srpske. This was an introduction to a fourteen years long creative friendship having, according to my opinion, no similar example to be compared to, in our literature and culture.
As a careful chronicler and investigator of our movement, Zivan Zivkovic wrote and published more than 1.500 pages of reviews, essays and theoretical studies about Signalism. This was a devotion without precedent under our circumstances. I know not about a critic in Serbian literature who has written such a great deal following a writer and his work. Written so much and so well. I assume this is rare even in the world’s literature.
Texts and analysis of Zivan Zivkovic were nor only support but very often road signs showing where and how to go towards new creative penetrations and new discoveries.
Culmination of this and such engagement was Zivkovic's study Signalism: Genesis, Poetics and Artistic Practice, his dissertation defended in 1991 and published in 1994. As critics emphasize, in his study, this theoretician and literature historian made a real "encyclopedia of Signalism", gave a "most reliable guide through Signalist galaxy", and calls for "a new and different reading of our contemporary poetry".
Finally, I would repeat once again: Serbian literature lost a great deal by the premature death of Zivan Zivkovic. Great is the loss for Signalism left without its inspiring critic, investigator and interpreter.
(Published in International Review Signal nr. 15-16-17, Belgrade, 1997)