During the 1960s and 70s, thousands of monuments commemorating the Second World War called ‘Spomeniks’ were built throughout the former Yugoslavia; striking monumental sculptures, with an angular geometry echoing the shapes of flowers, crystals, and macro-views of viruses or DNA.
In the 1980s the Spomeniks still attracted millions of visitors from the Eastern bloc; today they are largely neglected and unknown, their symbolism lost and unwanted.
Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers travelled the Balkans photographing these eerie objects, presented in the book Spomenik as a powerful typological series. The beauty and mystery of the isolated, crumbling Spomeniks informs Kempenaer’s enquiry into memory, found beauty, and whether former monuments can function as pure sculpture.
Yugoslavia is a term that describes three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans, during most of the 20th century.
The first country to be known by this name was the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which before 3 October 1929, was known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It was established on 1 December 1918 by the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia (to which the Kingdom of Montenegro was annexed on 13 November 1918, and the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris gave international recognition to the union on 13 July 1922). The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers in 1941, and because of the events that followed, was officially abolished in 1943 and 1945.
The second country with this name was the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, proclaimed in 1943 by the Yugoslav Partisans resistance movement during World War II. It was renamed to the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946, when a communist government was established. In 1963, it was renamed again to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). This was the largest Yugoslav state, as Istria, Rijeka and Zadar were added to the new Yugoslavia after the end of World War II.
The constituent six Socialist Republics and two Socialist Autonomous Provinces that made up the country were: SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Croatia, SR Macedonia, SR Montenegro, SR Slovenia and SR Serbia (including the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo which after 1974 were largely equal to the other members of the federation). Starting in 1991, the SFRY disintegrated in the Yugoslav Wars which followed the secession of most of the country’s constituent entities. The next Yugoslavia, known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, existed until 2003, when it was renamed Serbia and Montenegro. [Source: Wikipedia]