Europe Without Monuments
Commissioned by Manifesta Biennial 14 : Prishtina
July 22 – October 31, 2022
The city of Mitrovica lies 37 kilometres north of Prishtina along the Ibër river; one of the many territories long disputed by Serbia. Defined by its expansive Trepça mine, Mitrovica is home to Kosovo’s third largest population – yet is often described as the ‘most divided city in Europe’.
Following the atrocities of the 1998-99 war, the Ibër river has splintered the city into primarily Serbian north and Albanian south banks – with different languages, religions, mayorships and currencies.
Although a new bridge has been built, for over two decades it remains a barricaded point of tension, witness to sporadic ethnic violence. Continuously patrolled by Italian KFOR-MSU military, the bridge has seen a rise in pedestrians over the last years – although it still remains blocked to cars.
Project Curator : Petrit Abazi
Europe Without Monuments is a playground and pavilion; an artwork placed in the middle of the Ibër river by the city’s New Bridge.
Its three forms are taken at scale from Mitrovica’s iconic concrete Monument to Fallen Miners built by architect Bogdan Bogdanović commemorating the unified revolt of Albanian and Serb workers from the Trepça mine against Nazi occupation of the city.
A difficult monument for both sides of the river, Bogdanović’s trilith weighs heavy with the promise and betrayal of Yugoslavia; belonging to everybody and nobody at the same time. Built from scaffolding in steel and zinc (a material still mined in Mitrovica), Pinchuk’s work re-imagines the city’s riverscape as a fluid and ambiguous boundary, rather than a strict geopolitical divide.
Open until the end of summer, the installation celebrates a popular bathing spot; providing a playful point of congregation in a city where green and public spaces are profoundly lacking. Like a shimmering whale skeleton washed ashore, the scaffold recalls the process by which Bogdanović’s monument was once cast, that can now be walked into and explored; where new narratives might form in the space left empty.
A Serbian humanist and intellectual, with ancestral roots in Kosovo, Bogdan Bogdanović was a publicly outspoken critic of the rise of Milošević’s nationalism. Once a Mayor of Belgrade, Bogdanović would spend the remainder of his life exiled in Vienna – close to his beloved Danube river. In his last interview, Bogdanović wished that he never had to build such monuments:
‘I dream of a Europe without monuments. By that I mean without monuments of death and disaster. Perhaps philosophical construction: monuments to love, to joy, to jokes and laughter.’
Despite their tragic context, Bogdanović unusually loved the idea of children playing around his works – designing them to hold meaning and wonder long into the future, for when war in Europe would be a distant memory.
On 22 July 2022, Manifesta will open in Kosovo. 700km away, Ukraine will enter its 149th day of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Kharkiv, Pinchuk’s home city, will enter another day with sand-bags and scaffolding protecting the monuments that are still standing.
While we dream of a Europe without monuments to death and disaster, we still face a Europe that may be without monuments at all.
Bogdan Bogdanović Archive : Architekturzentrum Wien
Structure: Architecture For Humans
Contractor: BS BauMetal with Saime Halili & Besart Nevzadi, Ramë Gashi, Fatlum Halimi, Amir Jusufi, Xhevdet Smajli, Ardian Veliu & Refik Veliu
Producer: Lendita Idrizi
Photography: Marcello Maranzan
With gratitude to: Australia Council, NCCA, Dr. Prash P, Yavuz Gallery & Piers Greville.