“Foreign languages are cities.” – Dragan Todorovic

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears. You delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.—Italo Calvino

Dragan Todorovic’s sound art unravels as story/song—not as music; nor as fiction. It’s timeless in its enfoldment, an invitation to fall in love in languages other than our own.

In My Language I am Smart unfurls as lyric sound art, a writing/thinking/voicing that wrangles questions it attempts to answer. Questions are left unanswered where ‘nothing’—the word itself in many incantations—is voiced across the ocean of language into a song that is a paean to the basic needs of the sailor: love, food, sleep, home, belief.

These are needs of anyone traveling, though most acutely felt in exile. The artist’s disruption of language and landscape launched from war zones in Belgrade, then propelled him towards Toronto. Now he lives small-town encounters in the UK. No matter the language, Dragan Todorovic is smart: a writer, not a sailor, unless he’s afloat in the ocean of language.

To the pirates, he explains, he would trade writing and caressing for pretending and suffering. The narrative proposes a friction of incongruent days framing a journey through an ‘archipelago of unknown words.’ The listener wonders about such illicit bargains.

And even if you write, speak and dream in the solace of just one language, never venturing across divides of such friction, Todorovic’s lure of metaphor is enticing, particularly seductive as language can be.

Audio commissioned by CBC Radio Canada and presented at Deep Wireless, an annual festival of sound art, published in 2010 on their festival CD. (visual, Dragan Todorovic, 2015).


“Small towns cut you off from everything.” – Dragan Todorovic in ‘conversation’ with Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Two new expressions unraveled when the artist was invited to consider Calvino’s homage to invisible cities—one in writing and another in sound.

Audio, Dragan Todorovic, 2016. Photo/montage, Silvija Jestrovic, 2016.


Todorovic dialogues with Calvino’s young Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, who meanders through tall cities, gilded cities, interesting cities, rich cities, and brings back his visions to the aged emperor Kublai Khan.

A friendly, small-town clerk pulls us towards her laughter. William Burroughs’ voice tumbles deep below the ocean’s depths. Todorovic invites Calvino across the waters. These are continuations or perhaps a single strand stretched across time. It’s a scrim across the thoughts and sounds that continue to mirror how cities are, as the artist suggests, ‘toponyms serving to triangulate our distance from the Self.’

The new casts a shadow upon or is in the shadow of earlier work. A dance begins.

“When exiles leave the map of their mother tongue and hurl their bodies, their minds and everything they have towards the map of another language, they enter the zone between languages, the zone of silence…”

From In This Language I Shall Live. Read more.
Visit more Dragan Todorovic writings, sound art, radio artistry.

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