[ FUJIFILM/YOUNG TALENT AWARD 2016 FINALIST ]
The very first thing that I saw in Skopje was the construction of a 25-meter tall figure of a warrior on horseback which, from what I later found out, was the statue of Alexander the Great. In 2010 the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia started an extensive project to revamp first the capital and then the entire country into the sense of connection with its alleged ancient roots.
Alexander the Great, one of the most recognized and powerful rulers in the history was acclaimed the father of present Macedonian nation. However, modern Macedonia is a young post-Yugoslav, poorly developed country. Dream of the lost nobility was the spark that ignited minds on the both sides of the border. Over 2000 years after the collapse of the empire two countries started the dispute of origins and history as distant as illusory. But generations already been born as Macedonians, within two countries and three geographical Macedonias. Greece was strongly opposing any claims of the piece of history that, they believe, is exclusively Greek heritage.
In order to protect its cultural consistence the government blocked foreign policy of the neighbor affecting isolation of the Republic of Macedonia. What was supposed to elevate the rising nation to its dignity broke its spine while the elected authority radicalized and began to rise concerns about the rule of the law within the country. Macedonian government engaged considerable public funds and serious propaganda apparatus to reinvent the tradition and stimulate national consciousness. Would it be even possible to create the hybrid identity and the establishing myth to give the nation its pride, by erecting monuments made of bronze or plaster? That leads to crucial questions such as what do constitute modern nations or who owns the antiquity – which is also the foundation of the western society.
However the Macedonian question remains unanswered.
28.08.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. Man showering after work on the construction site of the Supreme court in Skopje. Skopje 2014 is a project led and financed by the government of FYROM with the focus on giving the capital Skopje a more classical appeal by the year 2014.
4.02.2015, Skopje, Macedonia. The construction site of the Church St. Constantine and Elena.
29.04.2015, Debar, Macedonia. Western wall of the country, neighbourhood of Debar where significant resistance against Turkish empire happened in XV century.
April 2015, Ohrid, Macedonia. Prof. Pasko Kuzman in his office “Troy”, controversial archeologist and historian often considered as one of the ideologists of Skopje 2014 (Kuzman denies). Former head of the National Museum and advisor to Prime Minister Gruevski. After highly political campaign against him, he was accused of trafficking artefacts and removed from the office.
30.04.2015, Prilep, Macedonia. Marble excavated in Sivec quarry near by Prilep is recognised as equal in quality to famous Carrara but substance was not used in neoclassical constructions and replaced with cheaper materials.
23.04.2014, Skopje, Macedonia. Props workshop in the National Opera and Ballet in Skopje.
20.04.2014, Bitola, Macedonia. Heraclea Lyncestis, archeological site of ancient town established by Philip II of Macedon.
13.02.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. The construction site of the future Archeological Museum of Macedonia.
26.03.2015 Bitola, Macedonia. Local craftsman from Bitola cast figures and decorative elements from concrete and steel in his workshop.
13.02.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. The facades of properties in the strict centre were transformed to align the new, neoclassical appearance of the town, while most of the yards remained in ruin.
June 2015, Skopje, Macedonia. Popular club and restaurant “Roger Pijano” located in the outskirts of Skopje is one of the examples of grass rooted influences on the visual representation of the Macedonian identity. Although “Skopje 2014” was led by VMRO-DPMNE ruling party and financed by the state, many citizens supported and alluded to the neoclassical concept and ideology.
30.10.2015, Jakupica, Macedonia. The cliff in Jakupica mountain range in central Macedonia; legend says the men could see the city of Thesalloniki (Solun) in Aegean Macedonia from the peak (Solunska Glava).
9.12.2015, Skopje, Macedonia. Mockups of monuments ordered by the state, including infamous “Warrior on the horse” in the workshop of sculptor Valentina Stefanovska.
6.12.2015, Tetovo, Macedonia. The sculpture of Alexander’s legendary horse – Bucephalus – carved in wood by craftsmen Budimir Apostolski.
20.06.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. Every year in the summer period The Museum of Macedonian Struggle hires young people to entertain tourists in the city centre.
27.08.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. Within 2 years of “Skopje 2014” execution in the capital, over 100 monuments and sculptures representing meritorious citizens, national heroes and pop stars were erected.
13.02.2013, Skopje, Macedonia. 12. The most significant statue in the city centre and unofficial symbol of pursuit for new Macedonian identity is the monument “Warrior on the horse”. Because of its intentional reminiscence to Alexander the Great, reignited the debate with Greece over Macedonian identity.
Michal Siarek , Born in 1991, Siarek is a documentary photographer, student at cinematography department at PWSFTviT in Lodz, Poland. Fascinated by the Balkan Peninsula issues he has spent three years on his debut essay “Alexander” focused on myths, identity and nationalism in one of the ex-Yugoslav republic. Nominee for the 2016 Joop Swart Masterclass, he’s the co-founder of Paper Beats Rock publishing house.