Posts Tagged ‘former yugoslavia’
At The Balkanist, one Susanna Bitters has a marvelous photo essay examining the unusual but striking monuments to the Second World War built in Yugoslavia.
In the Internet age, Partisan monuments, or spomenik, have become as scattered across websites as they have across the Balkans. The presentation of these “space age” marvels depict only their futuresque and crumbling qualities. The bloody memento mori of their origins have become omitted, if they were even known in the first place. The spomenik have effectively receded from the landscape as markers of the Partisan socialist struggle, only to emerge again as beacons of a Brutalist, overreaching, and unrealized future.
At the end of WWII, thousands of spomenik were erected. A majority of them were situated on battle sites, creating a consciously constructed constellation of Partisan struggles across the landscape. They remain scattered across the region, some as simple as a plaque with the names of those killed. You can find them still, tucked onto hilltops and occasionally marked from the road by brown government signs. The early sculptures were representative and, quite frankly, exceedingly dull, telling a careful story in stone and iron. They showed the pores of a postwar world. The subject matter was severe, the construct depressing.
Metal men seemed to sag and fray under the sheer weight of time and death and loss. But when Tito turned from Stalin and cast his gaze on the west, so did the Yugoslavian spomenik. Within the length of the Informbiro Period began the rise of what was later termed “socialist modernism,” in which the horrors of war became an abstraction. The long, laconic, and notionally weary faces looming above the elevated platform at Tjentište, discernible only to the practiced eye. The rapidly shifting sun when ensconced at Kozara, vacillating wildly from dark to light as if to depict the mercurial nature of humanity. The spomenik began to depict not war and conflict, but the struggle for self-determination and the optimistic energy therein.
Remarkable, essays and photos (the author’s own) both.