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Revolution and Revolutions in Art

September 12, 2019

Out team member Božo Kesić is currently attending the "Revolution and Revolutions in Art" conference - the 5th International conference for PhD students and recent PhD graduates which is being held at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana (Slovenia) from September 12 – 13, 2019.



You can find the full conference program here and more about the conference on the Facebook event, but as a sign of support for our team member, we would like to wish him good luck with his presentation and share his abstract in full with you directly! 


Božo Kesić - What is Monumental in Monuments? Some Examples of New Monumental Aesthetic in Post-Homeland War Croatia


The first part of the following text will focus on defining the adjective „monumental“ as signifying a variety of features that have historically constituted structures we generally recognise as and call monuments, i.e. public monuments realised in the medium of sculpture. The word monumental in this regard would be synonymous to the one of “monumenthood” (qualities that make monument a monument), connoting a set of properties that have profoundly influenced the common view and description of monuments (structures large in size, made in rigid materials such as bronze or stone, pronouncedly vertical, representing historically significant events, comprising highly commemorative [especially celebratory or mournful] imagery, and so on). This way of conceiving and thinking about monuments shaped human perception of them for centuries, and this is still the case today, especially when they work as vehicles of ideological coding of public space. However, there are other inherent, yet perhaps historically sidelined or insufficiently explored terms and possibilities in the discourse of monuments that tend to increasingly (re)appear in the wake of the postmodern deconstruction of the term monument. Thus, in the second part of the text I will try to analyse some examples of monuments in Post-Homeland War Croatia that, in my personal opinion, form a different kind of monumental aesthetic, perhaps more suitable for our age. This approach, both in practice and in theory, may be identified as something that could broadly be called a “monumental turn”. Even if this tendency is undeserving of such significant label, I think it would be safe to say that it is a noteworthy branch in the production of contemporary monuments. In any case, this paper is based on the hypothesis that, for some time, there has been, if not a revolution per se with regards to a strong shift in thoughts on monuments, then a gradual change in their production in a sense that many of them resist or expand the traditional notion of monumentality in the context of public monuments. I believe that this branch of monument production reflects the shift of values from structuralist (modern, which in the talk of today’s monument production ironically equals traditional) to poststructuralist (postmodernist) worldview. Some of key terms in this respect are Foucault’s epistemes 22 and archaelogy, as well as Derrida’s deconstruction. The choice of relevant examples in contemporary Croatia that will try to serve as a proof for this hypothesis are: Broken Landscape (Gordan Lederer Memorial), Hrvatska Kostajnica; Wall of Pain, Zagreb; Monument to the Devastation of the Jewish Synagogue, Split; Sea Cube (Liberation Monument), Dubrovnik. Each of them redefines monumentality in different ways, enriching and expanding the existing monumental sculpture vocabulary in their own right. This paper will elaborate how they do this, for instance, in terms of design, authorship and participation in monument, affirmation of alternative etymological understanding of term monument, and abandonment of media previously regarded as synonymous with monumental sculpture. To illustrate this even more explicitly, I will confront these examples of “new” monumental aesthetic with other monuments that were erected around the same time as previously mentioned examples (War Veteran, Otok near Sinj, Monument to Franjo Tuđman, Zagreb, The Voice of Croatian Pain – Wall of Pain, Zagreb, etc.).

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