The Absent Presence Of Abandoned Industrial Spaces Of Belgrade: A Semiotic Study Through Photographic Imagery

  • Abstract:

    The spectral existence of abandoned industrial sites has been described by being neither dead nor alive. Yet, these sites will become dead soon, either through willful demolitions or through urban decay. Thus, the study focuses on the abandoned industrial spaces in Belgrade as the examples of modernities in transition. Mainly two study areas are chosen that have marked the development of industrialization starting from late 19th century on the confluence of two rivers (Sava and Danube). The discontinuity in urban development and degradation of initiated projects in Belgrade, throughout the 20th century, could be ascribed to turbulent social and historical processes, radical shifts in political course and ideological changes, which left behind a decaying fabric of built environment, empty industrial spaces with the absence of content, function and programme. In this interplay of absence and presence, floating signifiers between the function and the sign is interpreted through a semiotic approach in reading the signs as the collective products of historical, social and cultural interaction. The dialectical relationship between the absence and presence is the main departure point for the analysis. Yet, unlike the general tendency, this paper tackles with the trace, a Derridian term defining a mark of the absence of a presence, which is absent presence. The industrial spaces stand in ruins without any traces of machinery or interior elements. Whereas, graffiti is a common trace left on abandoned buildings providing another layer of meaning overlaid on the existing one. Therefore the intention is looking beyond the material form, in order to analyze descriptive (synchronic) concepts and how these concepts and their meanings have changed over time and space. Taking photograph as the medium and digging into layers of meaning, the paper strives for identifying the ways in which urban creative changes are perceived and experienced.