Troubles in Paradise: Heritage Between Urban Developers and Post-Transitional Amnesia

    • Cover Porto 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Leila Topic, Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art, Croatia


    In my presentation I’d like to tackle the subject of de/re/constructions strategies that Croatian artists (Renata Poljak, Jasenko Rasol, Bojan Mrđenović, Ana Opalić) are using in order to negotiate certain visual myths and stereotypes of local identity formation forced upon by dominant visual representation of “Croatian urban heritage”. As Eastern European economy declines, tourism has become the only sector that post-transitional Croatian governments find worthwhile investing in. Therefore, official visual representation of country is reduced to idyllic, almost bucolic paysage images of clear blue see and islands, green pastures, and prosperous cities. So the artists are attempting to create projects, using the critical and politicized strategies, in an indirect, often behind-the-scenes manner, about the burning issues facing society and the communities. For instance, Renata Poljak, talking about her short film “Great Expectation”, stated: “: “I noticed how following the war violence, a new type of mentality was born. Violence, once ‘justified’ during the war, took on a new form in architecture. Enormous houses shielded smaller ones, and became all the more larger and unsightly. A mentality saturated with tourism, greed, unscrupulousness and denial of all tradition is the continuation of the violence and reflection of the new taste that has appeared in post-war Croatia, and which is directly mirrored in the houses of the newly rich.” Moreover, artists are presenting historical heritage in a new way that are opposing current social amnesia and historical revision. Also, they are reflecting the birth of a hybrid pseudourban context or landscape “urbicide” that is taking place in major cities and its surroundings. With their urban representation, they no longer want to represent state utopia, but to present a concrete space. They would sooner try the resistance that art can provide within the hegemonic presentation of heritage, fighting for their own visual experience. Therefore, their resistance, not at all accidentally, carries with it a marked line of post-transitional rough beauty and responsibility for future communities.