Thursday, 28 April 2011

Abandoned Giants

These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (e.g. Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps once stood (e.g. Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors, including; Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name but a few, and architects such as Bogdan Bogdanović and Gradimir Medaković. In the 80s, these monuments attracted millions of visitors a year, especially young pioneers for their "patriotic education." After the Republic dissolved in early 90s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were pretty much forever lost.

From 2006 to 2009, Kempenaers toured around the ex-Yugoslavia region (now Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc.) with the help of a 1975 map of memorials, bringing back a series of 25 melancholy yet strikingingly beautiful images. His photos raise the question: can these former monuments continue to exist as pure sculptures? On one hand, their physical dilapidated condition and institutional neglect reflect a more general social historical fracturing. And on the other hand, they are still of stunning beauty without any symbolic significances.

Concrete bliss.


  1. I desperately want to say something clever about these pictures but i just dont know what...
    I dont really like the use of concrete as an external building facade as i think it becomes very dated without regular treatment and in my opinion, the majority of the concrete structures are hideous because of this.
    However, the 2nd and 4th ones are quite nice and the 16th picture has potential to be alright with a lick of white paint.
    Just feels like the Yugoslavians have tried too hard to be spontaneous with some of them!

  2. I know what you mean about the spontaneous element.

    But i'm afraid I'm not qualified/knowledgable enough to comment on the use of concrete, I quite like the harshness of it though.

    And I think the majority of the sculptures are quite striking if nothing else.