Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia at the moment undergoes one of Europe’s biggest urban and art upheavals - the project is dubbed Skopje 2014. Labeled as a "building bonanza", by the British Guardian, Skopje 2014 project was planned by the Government for several years under relative lack of transparency, until it was officially presented in February 2010. The plan seeks to transform the city center of Skopje into a rich concentrate, with a wide range of interventions and numerous new buildings: a triumphal arch, fountains, memorials, new Macedonian Orthodox church, museums, footbridges, a new theater, the national archives, the foreign ministry, the constitutional court, the electronic communications agency, etc. The central part of Skopje 2014 is the Sculpture Project with over 50 sculptures, all of them to be placed within a 1.5 km radius in the city center, of which centrally located is a 22 meters-high monument of Alexander the Great.
Image Courtesy of Vladimir Krle.
Architecture as Politics
Skopje city square. |
Warrior on a Horse monument (back), the “Accidental Meeting” sculpture, 2009. (front).
Image Courtesy of Petar Kajevski
In a carnivalesque sense, Skopje 2014 could be interpreted along the lines of Slavoj Žižek’s "In defense of Lost Causes": When Macedonians appeared unable to resolve the name dispute, they pushed their position to the extreme, and they did not reject the rejection, but they reinvented the rejection, providing even more material to be rejected by their northern neighbor. And the timing of Skopje 2014 proves it. After Greece blocked Macedonia to join the NATO alliance at the Bucharest summit in 2008, the Skopje 2014 project was initiated, so the Government actually acted according to the strategy which Žižek explained with quoting Beckett’s line: "After one fails, one can go on and fail better".
When in the above-mentioned interview for the Guardian, the former minister was asked to comment on the plans to erect a 22 meters bronze monument of Alexander, having in mind the 20-year long name dispute between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece over the name Macedonia, and the right to claim Alexander as a national hero, he replied: "This is our way of saying [up yours] to them!" Known otherwise for his reserved and rigid overall attitude in public, the minister’s alleged outburst immediately produced a line of hilarious comments in parts of the Macedonian press: "The Warrior on a Horse" monument was ironically renamed into "A Finger on a Horse", with journalists writing that instead of a giant monument of Alexander, it would have been much cheaper for the country "to simply erect the minister’s middle finger in its natural size". The "digitus impudicus" (impudent finger) already mentioned in the Ancient Roman writings, was immediately denied by the minister; however Guardian refused to correct its statement. But, regardless of whether the minister used his body language or not, the international community already considers the monument of Alexander to be an irrational political "digitus impudicus" intended towards the neighbor.
Part of the Warrior on a Horse monument.
A detail from assembling of the monument.
July 2011. Image Courtesy of Build.mk
[Update: 10 July 2014]