July 7- Aug 1, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
It was Proust who so succinctly, elegantly even outlined, essentially, three types of memory: It was Proust who so succinctly, elegantly even outlined, essentially, three types of memory: The subjective. Memory that is intentionally or willfully recalled. The collective. Memories one “subjectively” remembers but did not necessarily experience. The involuntary. Memory that is provoked or maybe invoked by something.
The images in this show represent of but a handful of the monuments in the former Yugoslavia. And the hundred or so still remaining are but a fraction of the thousands created in the era following WWII.
Spomenik is the word for “monument” in the language(s) of Yugoslavia. The root of the word, “spomen,” means “memory.”
The first and probably most important thing to understand about the spomenici (plural of spomenik) is that like most everything in this region, they hold different meanings for different people. To some they are the legacy of a bygone era, or the markers of past suffering. They are the physical manifestation of hope in the future of a generation, or objects of defiance. They are proof of triumph or symbols of resentment. For as many monuments as exist there differing ideas, feelings, reasons as to their existence.
What is incontrovertible is that they are a series of memorials built from the 1960s-1980s during Tito’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Their primary intent was to honor the people who died between 1941-1945 fighting in what was called in the region the National Liberation War. What we refer to as World War II.
In my early research and preparation to travel in the former Yugoslavia for what would become my ongoing cheese project, I became aware of these crazy, oversized, sculptural monuments that supposedly dotted the countryside where I would be traveling. I needed to know more but English language resources were scarce and available photographs were limited to work from a single monograph by a Belgian Photographer.
Fast-forward nearly 2 years, I’m on the road in the region, driving to far flung villages, interviewing individuals about cheese & tradition and trying to coordinate my itinerary to take me past some of these spomenici. Upon visiting the first one I was awe struck, dumbfounded, overwhelmed. The photos I’d seen provided no context or scale or framework to comprehend what I was seeing. In fact it seemed the photos intentionally decontextualized them and in a region where context is everything
The work in this show is my effort to contextualize and comprehend the uniquely Yugoslav space these monuments occupy, specifically through the lens of memory. It is also an attempt to understand what it is to have monuments to fighters for a country, an ideology, that no longer exists.
Babs Perkins is a photographer and writer from Norfolk, Connecticut. Her work focuses on cultural documentation and preservation.
Occupationally Babs has taken what could be referred to as the scenic route to her career. Initially wanting to be a chef, she apprenticed in several kitchens in the northwest corner of Connecticut, obtained a degree in hospitality and tourism in North Carolina and then studied culinary arts in Colorado. All the while, her camera very close at hand.
Circumstances then conspired to bring her back east and redirect her path away from food…but her camera, pen (and journal) remained her constant companions.
A series of seemingly unrelated jobs, including stints at a boutique PR firm, a time management consultancy, staffing agency, law firm and several years at a design firm helped develop and hone skills essential for life as a independent/freelance/self-employed photographer and writer.
Eventually, all the threads of her previous careers would weave together her love of the outdoors, food and travel and give her a platform to draw attention to issues important to her.
Babs has spent the last several years researching and documenting traditional food producers, including the farmers, shepherds, cheese makers and beekeepers of the Balkans, specifically in Bosnia and Hercegovina and Serbia. She is currently producing stories about cheese. Seriously. Cheese. Ask her about it!