Exhibition and book project by Kiosk - platform for contemporary art in cooperation with the Museum of Yugoslav History, Belgrade
Socialist Yugoslavia was known as a country of the 'socialism with a human face'. Its founding principles were ideas of brotherhood and unity, anti-fascist struggle of all Yugoslav people during the WWII, a break-up with the Soviet Union and Stalin in 1948, its unique model of self-governing socialism and the politics of non-alliance combined with a strong personality cult of its leader – Josip Broz Tito.
Main ideologists of the second Yugoslavia saw the socialism as a transition period leading to a communism of the future. In the new Yugoslavia after the WWII, only children were tabula rasa, the clay system could have shaped. With a correct and controlled upbringing they were to become real architects and citizens of the brave new world, a project realized in the present but to be achieved in the future. By looking at the numerous photographs that were sent every year as birthday presents to the ‘most loving friend’ together with greetings, dedications, poems and literary works, both paradigmatic shifts in the Yugoslav socialism and the ideological frame in which generations of Yugoslavs were growing up could easily be identified.
Josip Broz Tito died in 1980. His country and his cult outlived him for a bit more than a decade. The world was entering a period of dramatic changes and proclaimed ideals of the Yugoslav state were taking a meaningless form. In 1989 Berlin Wall fell. Two years later Yugoslavia entered into a long process of disintegration and wars. The Yugoslavs who were taught to cherish the brotherhood and unity among the country’s nations from their earliest age found themselves on the opposite sides of the war. The long lasting project of creating a happy socialist childhood, together with all the other projects led by the Yugoslav socialism, failed. The state ended in the longest and the most violent conflict in Europe after the end of the WWII. The dead, displaced, and utterly conflicted memories and understanding of the past among its former fellow citizens were left behind.
Today, Yugoslavia is more often than not perceived as a country in which no nation could have been satisfied, as an utopia, its prosperity and modernity as nothing more than a myth, a country whose disintegration was inherent and unavoidable. The dominant public discourse in every newly formed successor state is imposing a kind of collective amnesia about decades that now divided nations spent living together. One possible way of understanding the period of the socialist Yugoslav state and of reconstructing its dominant models could be achieved through a research and interpretation of representative visual documents that the country left behind – photographs.
Project supported by: Balkan Trust for Deomocracy, forumZFD, Ministry of Culture and Information Republic of Serbia, Austrian Cultural Forum - Belgrade