• “Spomenik—The End of History” by Jan Kempenaers.


    Posted on 22nd August, by Dana Tomić Hughes in architecture, personal, photography. 8 Comments

    Podgarić, 2006.

    Petrova Gora, 2006.

    Kosmaj, 2006.

    Tjentište, 2007.

    Kruševo, 2007.

     

    Ahhh… this post has been sitting on the back-burner for the longest time, but I decided to dust it off and share it on the day of my arrival in Belgrade. Yes, I’m back in the “old country” for the next three weeks for a huge family reunion. It’s been almost two decades since my whole family’s been together on the home soil, and this time we have so much to celebrate - multiple 60th birthdays, my brother’s engagement, arrival of baby yellowtrace and his baptism… So much goodness, my heart is about to explode!

    To mark this occasion, I wanted to post about an amazing book by Antwerp-based photographer, Jan Kempenaers, who spent almost three years photographing “spomenik(s)” [monuments] in former Yugoslavia. Back in the 1980′s, all the dutiful school children in the “old country” took bus trips to visit these extraordinary monuments. I too was one of those children, and I still remember my school excursions so vividly. Writing about this today leaves me intoxicated with memories and melancholy.

     

    Kozara, 2007.

    Ilirska Bistrica, 2007.

    Jasenovac, 2007.

    Niš, 2007.

    Kadinijača, 2009.

     

    “Spomenik(s)” were commissioned by the Communist government in memory of victims of the Second World War. Hardly anyone outside of the former Yugoslavia is aware of their existence, and with Yugoslavia no longer being a country, no one really wants to be reminded they are there. Twenty years ago there were thousands of them scattered throughout Ser­bia, Croa­tia, Slove­nia and Bosnia. They have become completely irrelevant in today’s age — their symbolism has been entirely lost in translation. For myself and many others, they serve as a painful reminder of the Balkan tragedy. To the current generation, “spomenik” is nothing more than a bizarre architectural sculpture.

    Nevertheless, I find these images powerful and profound. I am sharing them today in hope their strength captures the imagination of those who may not be as sentimental about them as I am. I would also really love to hear what you think of them.

     

    Korenica, 2007.

    Makljen, 2007.

    Košute, 2007.

     

    “Spomenik” by Jan Kempenaers can be ordered here and here. The publisher also generously provides a page-by-page view of the book which you can access here.


    [Images courtesy of Jan Kempenaers.]





  • 8 Responses to ““Spomenik—The End of History” by Jan Kempenaers.”

    1. Natalie says:

      I think these are quite amazing, the story and the design.

    2. kate says:

      I’m so impressed and bewildered and shocked and inspired and overwhelmed and humbled by the existence of these monuments – it’s so easy to forget the “lucky country” bubble in which I was raised. Architecturally these are amazing, symbolically they’re clearly still powerful. Thanks for nudging me out of the bubble this morning. Stunning.

    3. Simone says:

      Extraordinary! I look forward to getting the book.

    4. Anna says:

      Some of them seem to be mostly just wacky, but the world could probably do with a bit more wacky. A lot of them though are wonderful.

      I find Tjentište particularly beautiful and moving, it is totally legible as a monument to me, looking at it as a privileged Australian on the other side of the planet who only lost one relative in WWII, a good 35 odd years before I was born.

      It is interesting that no one wants to remember these monuments, given that they are memorials to victims of WWII, which happened before the rise of communism and the iron curtain.

    5. Nicole says:

      Wow, these are amazing. Podgarić, 2006 reminds me of an eagle on a North American Indian totem pole whilst others look futuristic. They all look to be massive.

    6. Catalina says:

      The first time I saw images of the Spomenik I was very moved by the juxtapositions they brought to mind…they made me think of beauty and scars, of creativity and destruction, of freedom and hardship, of epic sagas and tales of woe. Even though their original intent is lost in translation and borders are no longer as they were, perhaps they can now represent something else…they certainly still have the power to move people. Enjoy the motherland x

    7. Tonka says:

      Dana, thank you for sharing these beautiful images of ‘Spomenik’….it is truly emotional for me.

      I hope you have an amazing time with your family in beautiful Serbia! xx

    8. Dijana says:

      I’m from Belgrade as well, however we left in ’91 before I got a chance to grow up there…

      When I see pictures of the Spomeniks I feel the same as you… They seem to have such a strange other-worldly quality about them. Beautiful but sad.

      I did a blog post about them as well earlier this year. http://bit.ly/A81sNL



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