A monument to a monument

A monument to a monument/ 2022

Trying to investigate spatiality in its social conditioning, Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991)10 distinguishes three levels of space: spatial practice, representation of space, and representational space. The last level represents the space of the “lived” filled with “associated images and symbols” – that is, the representational space, shaped by objects that are governed by imagination and use, thus enabling them to be assigned different meanings, not always transparent and unequivocal. Its readiness is conditioned by the space of representation – state and institutional coding of space. This fact makes it impossible to change anything more than what is institutionally and state-mediated, and therefore nothing can be imagined and lived – as a variation or an escape from the default. The actions and interventions we are talking about and which we list in this paper belong to the sphere of challenging normality with artistic actions that not only do not support the acceptable formula of collective memory, state, and institutional coding of space but also insist on the inappropriateness of one’s insight and recollection. Some of the symbols of the post-socialist era, such as the monument to the Fallen Partisans in Split (Sućidar neighborhood), are becoming privileged fields of action, certainly not because of mourning or Yugonostalgia, but because of the ambivalent role that such monuments assume in today’s society. It is precisely this position that these monuments have acquired that led the artist to act as a mediator between different times and spaces, in such a way as to use performative and visual practices to create a universal formula to preserve the conservation of social role and meaning of these objects. Dealing with the analysis and deconstruction of the term “monument”, the author developed the theory of “dospomeniks”. These are wooden structures wrapped with the sponge and plastic film for packaging similar to the standardized packaging used when transporting or moving sculptures. These objects do not in any case represent themselves, nor do they serve themselves as objects of special artistic significance. These are functional objects that use the monuments themselves. Their role is determined precisely by the monument next to which they will be found in a certain role, in such a way that the context of the monument itself will determine the role of the commemorator. We also attach the terms: auxiliary monument, substitute monument, false monument, a real monument to these objects, and memorials.

Dospomenik/ To a monument of Marko Marulić/ Split, 2022 photo: Mak Hubjer

History of the future

History of the Future is part of the artist’s research into the relationship between public spaces and specific ways of commemoration. It was erected with two immediate memorial plaques, a little more than 50 years apart; the older ones in memory of “Tito’s heroic army” and the younger ones for “the fallen Croatian veterans in the Homeland War.”
The historical and political complexity of Croatia is evident in almost all aspects of its modernity, including the inevitable commemorative objects in public space. Rarely and unusually close is the juxtaposition of two historical clips questioning the role of the national past, a lasting source of social division and antagonism, in shaping the present and the coming future. It also provides an opportunity to directly compare their appearance and the language used in these commemorative occasions. Words such as liberation or defense, for example, were expected in the post-war context of celebrating and publicly thanking the direct participants in the war. The older board determines its political and time frame by using “occupiers” or “heroic armies”, while the younger one communicates its “defenders” and, above all, visual features – chessboard, coat of arms, and cross. It is the visual contrast of simplicity and decorativeness that is most striking in this series, especially when the space of the upcoming commemorations is added to these semiotically and politically filled plates.
The action points to the potential of repeating the characteristics of past periods and thematizes the function and purpose of public space in contemporary Croatian society, the extent to which historical reality shapes the environment, and its associated memorial production. Oxymoronically, in the spirit of the name, the observer’s attention is future-oriented with the necessary awareness of the stratification of what preceded it. Memorial plaques are ubiquitous politically valorized flags, inevitably recurring within a public context, regardless of weather characteristics. What follows and what the future memories will be remains for us to wait for the blank slate to be filled.

History of the Future

History of the Future is a public action that took place in Split on October 15, 2021, as part of a research dedicated to the relationship between public space and specific ways of memorialization. This action questions the notions of past, present and future, as well as the purpose and function of public space in the context of contemporary Croatian society.