It’s been a busy time lately as I’ve been preparing to give a talk at a conference, “The Rhetoric and Aesthetics of Memory,” at the Meadows Museum in Dallas this weekend. I’ll be presenting a portion of my thesis research on Skopje 2014, a building project in Skopje, Macedonia.
Cultural memory and memorialization is often a contested issue in the post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, despite (and because of) the fact that government-mandated art policies designed to support a regime’s power have disappeared from the region with the fall of Socialism. However, this current building project recalls the authoritarian monuments of those ideologically controlled policies. “Skopje 2014” is a current urban renovation project in Macedonia’s capital designed to emphasize a strained connection to a classical past through extensive new building and over forty new monuments in the city center.
A striking example is Warrior on a Horse, a sculpture of Alexander the Great on a rearing house atop a triumphal column that towers over Macedonia Square. ‘Alexander,’ as it is generally called, is 48 feet tall on its own, and it sits on top of a cylindrical column that is 33 feet tall. Three large ivory battle friezes wrap up the column. At the base of the column are eight bronze soldiers, each ten feet tall. The enormous structure is underscored by the fountain it stands in. Eight bronze lions surround the pool of the fountain and four of the lions spray water from their mouths. The fountain periodically shoots water in choreographed streams, tinged by multi-colored lights, in time with classical music blasting from enormous megaphones raised on poles around the square, channeling ancient Rome via Las Vegas.