Archive for July 2nd, 2011

02
Jul
11

Book: ‘Spomenik’ by Jan Kempenaers

February 2011

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

 

Three Canons

 

Be still with yourself

Until the object of your attention

Affirms your presence

 

Let the Subject generate its own Composition

 

When the image mirrors the man

And the man mirrors the subject

Something might take over

.
Minor White 1968

 

“Gone is the modernist tenet of authorship in which everything in a photograph depends and can be traced to a single photographer acting in isolation. In its place, White supposes a relationship with subject that is a two way street: by granting the world some role in its own representation we create a photograph that is not so much a product solely of individual actions as it is the result of a negotiation in which the world and all its subjects might participate.”

.
Vince Leo

 

 

These are beautiful photographs; there is no fuss, no histrionics here. The use of light and the framing of subject are wonderful. The photographer has let the subject generate its own composition meaning that the sculptures speak for themselves: something takes over – an ethereal evocation of space and place.

The sculptures occupy a representational space appropriated by the imagination. “Lefebvre writes that it [representational space] “overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects” and is predominantly non-verbal in nature.”1 The photographs and their representational space offer the viewer the possibility of drifting (Guy Debord’s dérive) encouraging “an unplanned journey through a landscape… where an individual travels where the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct them with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.”2

I find the photographs truly authentic. I immerse myself in their presence: I embrace them because they are in my imagination, creatures of the deep recesses of the mind.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p. 27
  2. Anon. “Dérive,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 28/06/2011

.
Many thankx to Jan Kempenaers for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Jan Kempenaers and courtesy of the artist.

Buy the book; support the artist!

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

This monument, authored by sculptor Miodrag Živković, commemorates the Battle of Sutjeska, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the former Yugoslavia.

 

 

World War II

Since nearly the beginning of Axis powers taking control of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, the armies of Germany, Italy and their other Axis collaborators had been battling against armed uprisings of local resistance forces, most notably Josip Tito’s communist Partisan Army. As the Partisans in large part relied on guerilla tactics and unconventional warfare, they became a significant force for the Axis leadership to reckon with. As a result, the German Army created a set of targeted operations to take out Tito specifically, which they felt would behead the Partisan’s leadership and destroyed the movement. The first attempt at subduing Tito took place in January of 1943, during what the German’s called Operation Case White, which the Yugoslav’s later referred to as the Battle of Neretva near Makljen. However, this operation ended in Tito dramatically escaping at the last moment.

In May of 1943, Axis powers set upon Tito again with a new operation called Case Black. The operation was initiated with 127,000 Axis forces pursuing 22,000 Yugoslav Partisans across the Durmitor Mountains, then north into the Zelengora Mountains of present-day Bosnia. Then, in early June of 1943, the Partisans were subsequently boxed in and trapped within Axis lines on Vučevo Mountain on the east Sutjeska River valley, near the small village of Tjentište. As a result, a massive battle between the two sides ensued in what today is known as the ‘Battle of Sutjeska’ (Bitka na Sutjesci). Despite this hopeless seeming situation, Tito orchestrated a daring move where, starting on the morning of June 9th, he ordered Partisan units to begin breaking west across the open valley and over the river. Some of the Partisans were surprisingly successful in breaking the German lines, at which point they headed up a steep ravine of Ozren Mountain and were then able to break north through German lines and escape past Goražde through the mountains into eastern Bosnia.

Despite this ambitious and daring escape Tito made during this seemingly hopeless battle, it came at a great cost of life. During the conflict, over 7,000 Partisan soldiers were killed. Tito’s escape at Sutjeska is considered a significant pivotal moment is the Partisan Liberation Struggle against the German-Italian Axis occupiers, as it proved that they were a formidable fighting force which could not easily be destroyed.

Anonymous text. “Tjentište,” on the Spomenik Database website Nd [Online] Cited 22/07/2022

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

The Petrova Gora monument was designed by Vojin Bakić and built in 1982. It was dedicated to the people of Kordun and Banija who died during World War II. It was dismantled in 2011.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

The Kosmaj monument in Serbia is dedicated to soldiers of the Kosmaj Partisan detachment from World War II.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

The Kruševo Makedonium monument in Macedonia was dedicated to the Ilinden Uprising of 1903, when the Bulgarian population revolted against the Ottoman Empire.

 

 

Ilinden Uprising

The primary historical event this monument commemorates is the Ilinden Uprising, which was an uprising of Macedonian IMARO rebels initiated against Ottoman rule on August 2nd, 1903. During this time, in the region of present-day Kruševo, resistance fighters proclaimed this newly liberated land to be the land of the Kruševo Republic, under the leadership of then school-teacher turned war-hero Nikola Karev. This separatist territory lasted less than two weeks before it was suppressed by 176,000 Turk soldiers and put back under Ottoman control, with nearly 9000 people being executed at the hands of the Turks in retaliation.

 

World War II

In addition, this spomenik commemorates the local Kruševo fighters of the People’s Liberation Struggle (WWII) who struggled under the Partisan banner to help free Macedonian from Axis and fascist occupation. On August 19th, 1942, the Kruševo Partisan Detachment was formed as a force of community soldiers who engaged in skirmishes with Axis troops across Macedonia until Kruševo’s liberation by Soviet-backed Bulgarians during the fall of 1944. Macedonia was officially declared a nation-state during the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), held at Prohor of Pčinja Monastery, on August 2nd, 1944, which was a date symbolically chosen to align with the date of the Ilinden Uprising, as the ASNOM gathering considered itself the ‘Second Ilinden’. Presently, this date is still celebrated in Macedonia as the Day of the Republic.

Anonymous text. “Kruševo,” on the Spomenik Database website Nd [Online] Cited 22/07/2022

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

The Susanjar Memorial Complex in Bosnia and Herzegovina was created in remembrance of the thousands killed by Germans during the Orthodox festival of Ilindan in 1941.

 

 

Spomenik Construction

Preliminary plans to construct a memorial complex at the Sanski Most execution site for the commemoration of these tragedies was organised in late 1968. At this point, an official selection board was convened to arrange this memorial’s construction. This board consisted of municipal officials as well as generals and officials of the SR of Bosnia who were from the Sanski Most region. The chairman of the board was Yugoslav WWII hero Petar Dodik, at this time a lawyer from Sarajevo. Funding for the project was raised by this board largely via public voluntary donations from those in the community. Three specific notable designers were considered by the board to create the monument, all who had varying ideas of what the monument should look like. Belgrade architect Bogdan Bogdanović, wanted to construct a ‘Tower of Babel’ themed structure, but the design selection committee found this concept unacceptable. Famous Zagreb sculptor Vanja Radauš suggested a bone-shaped memorial, but this was also rejected, as it was felt it might incite feelings of anger and hatred towards Croats in general, especially as the memorial was intended to be a place of healing and reconciliation… not horror.

The project was eventually awarded to Sarajevo architect Petar Krstić, whose primary composition, completed in 1970, consisted of an aluminium flame-like obelisk set within an open paved courtyard. The complex’s approaching pathways were lined with stone tiles commemorating the victims killed and executed in the uprising. In addition, long crisscrossing concrete tubes are arranged around the monument as seating for visitors and as an outdoor classroom for students. The official commemoration ceremony for the memorial took place on August 2nd, 1971, a date which recognised 30 years since the 1941 St. Elijah’s Day killings. During the memorial’s construction, there was an alleged incident where when workers were digging in the ground to construct the memorial’s crypt, blood started to bubble up from the earth. After an investigation, it was determined to be human blood (presumably left over from the massacres which occurred on the site) which had seeped into the ground and mixed with moist clay, allowing it to remain viscous and suspended. However, I was not able to find definitive corroborating evidence of this event. Also, after the monument’s official opening in 1971, a series of annual poetry reading events called the ‘Šušnjar Literary Festival’ were held at the site every August 2nd during the monument’s remembrance ceremonies.

 

Symbolism

It has been stated by the creator of this memorial sculpture, Petar Krstić, that its sharply irregular and luminescent form is meant to resemble the shape of a shining leaping flame and that said form is meant to be symbolic of the light of life and the victorious process of overcoming the threat of fascism which caused such sufferings to the people of the Sanski Most region. Such a universally understood image of the flame representing the ‘light of life’ was mostly surely chosen by the memorial’s selection board with the intention that it would be an inclusive and non-incendiary symbol pleasing all members of the town’s ethnically divided population. In addition, Krstić explained that his sculpture was meant to symbolise not only the suffering of people in Sanski Most, but suffering of all people throughout the ages. Such statements reinforce the ‘universalist’ interpretations of this sculpture. Interestingly, Krstić’s original design called for the memorial sculpture to emit sounds and lights from a machine within the structure, which would symbolise the struggle and suffering of the people of Sanski Most – however, this experimental concept became cost prohibitive and was never integrated into the site.

Anonymous text. “Sanski Most,” on the Spomenik Database website Nd [Online] Cited 22/07/2022

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

Built in 1963, this monument in Niš, Serbia commemorates the 10,000 people from the area that were killed during World War II. The three clenched fists are the work of sculptor Ivan Sabolić.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

This monument is in Korenica, on the border of Croatia and Bosnia. It commemorates Yugoslavia’s victory in World War II.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

This monument is dedicated to the soldiers who freed the city of Knin, Croatia from the fascists during World War II.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

Built in 1949, this monument was designed by Vojin Bakić and is dedicated to the fallen fighters of the Yugoslav front.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

The Kadinjača Memorial Complex commemorates those who died during the Battle of Kadinjača.

 

 

Serbia’s most grandiose spomenik (Yugoslav-era memorial), Kadinjača commemorates the Partisans from the Workers’ Battalion who perished on this spot fighting the Germans in November 1941. Rising on a green hill like some futuristic Stonehenge, the arresting series of white granite monoliths of various heights and angles culminates in two 14m-high pillars that together form a symbolic ‘bullet hole’ sculpture. The 15-hectare complex comprises a stone pyramid with a crypt for the fallen soldiers.

There’s a memorial hall with an exhibition about the historic event. The Partisans’ heroic defeat at the battle of Kadinjača marked the end of the short-lived Republic of Užice, the first liberated territory in German-occupied Europe. Proclaimed by Yugoslavia’s legendary resistance movement, it covered an area of about 20,000 sq km in western Serbia and lasted only 67 days.

Anonymous text. “Kadinjača Memorial Complex,” on the Lonely Planet website Nd [Online] Cited 22/07/2022

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

This sculpture was built in 1973 and designed by Bogdan Bogdanovic. It is dedicated to the long mining tradition in Kosovo.

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

'Spomenik' by Jan Kempenaers

 

 

Jan Kempenaers website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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