The Serbian and Croatian word Spomenik means cenotaph, memorial or monument. These monuments were commissioned by former Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito from the late 1950s to the ’80s to commemorate sites where World War II battles took place or where concentration camps stood.
Designed by different sculptors, they conveyed a powerful visual impact intended to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. These monuments attracted millions of visitors per year, especially “young pioneers” receiving a “patriotic education.” After the Republic dissolved in the early 1990s, they were completely abandoned and their symbolic meaning lost forever.
The monuments always stand amid untamed nature, outside of cities and away from urban life. This adds to their impact, but what really makes them extraordinary is that they are always abstract in form, as if the artists wanted to pour their feelings into concrete, as if they had freed themselves from literary and figurative forms to lure the narrative away from the subject: heroism, power and the meaning of winning independence.
During WWII, Yugoslavia had the largest partisan movement in Europe and was almost the only nation to free itself from Nazi occupation, with no outside help. Because of this, Yugoslavia held a special position after the war, not only in the region, but also throughout Europe. The country seemed to freely choose the Communist system, apart from Soviet influence.
Looking at these objects, one appreciates how abstract forms can express meaning and feeling in a certain way. Many have geometrical and organic forms, which aroused my interest, not because I wanted to document them with photographs, but because I wanted to find a way to capture the feelings awakened by these pure, abstract forms.