Photographer Jan Kempenaers’ – Spomenik, The End Of History
Symbolizing the utopian vision of the former Yugoslavia, these Communist-era statues represented vision and hope toward the future. Now in a state of decay, the statues have come to symbolize a lost era.
The fundamental notion of Spomenik is “Here = There”
Lesson / Koan : Monuments tell time backwards.
“Paying attention to their careful integration in the landscape, Jan Kempenaers demonstrates that landscapes are turned into sites of memory. Commemorating the common traumatic experiences during the Second World War and the partisan battles, these monuments were intended to provide the people of Yugoslavia with a common history and identity that would be productive in its future evolution. However, in the late twentieth century, these landscapes were torn by nationalist and ethnic violence and their monuments are now neglected. The idea of progress has been buried under the weight of history and the monuments, which were once machines of sightseeing and (photographic) image production, have become obsolete and invisible.” – According to Steven Jacobs, curator for the Flemish Institute for Visual, Audiovisual and Media Art.
At first sight Jan Kempenaers’ landscape photographs appear to the straight-forwardly photographic, but the more one looks, the more they reveal themselves as conceptual rather than optical or retinal pieces.
They are powerfully mute images of semi urban-places.
Jan Kempenaers’ photographs are much more than vernacular, pictorial ideograms.
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 before our eyes a series of melancholy yet striking images.
“Spomenik” (Memorial) is a physical expression of place, memory and narrative, more specifically, spatial memory and relational geography.