LANSCAPE OF THE MEMORY: EDVARD RAVNIKAR-BOGDAN BOGDANOVIĆ
War memorials in former Yugoslavia
Curators: Filippo Bricolo, Maria Angela Gelati, Elena Re Dionigi
Coordinator: Filippo Bricolo
This work aims at investigating about an exemplary though scarcely known topic: World War II memorial cemeteries accomplished in the former Yugoslavian region since 1950.
The different experiences of two architects, Bogdan Bogdanović (1922) and Edvard Ravnikar (1907-1993), will be studied and exposed in particular, as they designed and built a large number of monuments and memorial complexes dedicated to the memory of the tragic events which occured during World War II.
Bogdanović and Ravnikar’s experiences, though considerably distant in their outcomes, show fascinating convergences, such as the rejection of the praise of violence or hate through architecture, the deep symbolic value of the compositions associated with the shared abnegation of references clearly ascribable to religion or political ideologies (such as the cross, the hammer and sickle, the five-pointed star), the search for a deep relationship with the landscape carried out through a close dialogue between the essence peculiar to the places and the transfiguration of drama in enigmatically-speaking figures endowed with a deep pathetic value.
Notwithstanding these common traits, the similarities between the two masters abruptely break off because of the evident dissimilarity of the shapes. What, in Ravnikar, leads to the “non-accomplished” (Memorial Cemetery, Kampor, 1952), to the apocryphal imperfection of signs that conquer the space with a latent, romantic irresolution, is transformed by Bogdanović into strong, determined figures moved by an hyper-combinatorial fury that produces amazing surrealist half-breeds, which are the results of hybridizations of men, animals and architectural elements.
If we take a look at the white necropolis of Prilep (Commemorative Monument, Prilep, 1961) the figures do not hide themselves, but, on the contrary, they seize the observer communicating through the almost playful reiteration of elements characterized by physiognomical assonces. The comparison with the shapes repeated by Ravnikar in Draga and Begunije (Memorial cemeteries of Draga and Begunije) highlights the incompatible difference between the mutual cultural and formal cosmos.
While Ravnikar clings to the rules of architecture, Bogdanović indulges in sculpture, and the figures assume more evident features in his shapes. This different attitude is evident if we compare the Memorial Cemetery of Kampor by Ravnikar with a work such as the Kruševac wing-stones (Commemorative Monument, Kruševac, 1965) .
But the differences are also manifest when Bogdanović actually undertakes architecture, as in the house-archetype-monument of Čačak (Park of the remembrance of the fight and victory, Čačak, 1980), or the Monument to the history of the fight for freedom in Knjaževac (1871), with its elements that intertwin references to the Bogomili Tombs with misterious ancientness, or, again, the symbolic warriors of Bela Crkva (Monument to the Rising, Bela Crkva, 1971) and the monument in Vukovar (Dudik Memorial Park, Vukovar, 1980).
The differences between the two masters are such that they open a series of complex considerations that the research and the subsequent exhibition deal with, through the study of two fascinating and different ways of interpreting the difficult topic of the building of the places of memory amidst the search for an identity and the drawing of the landscape.
The existent published documents are few, and many of the two masters’ works are still unedited and unknown even to those who work in this field. The critics’ attitudes on every single work are few and the comparisons between the two masters are almost nonexistent.
The first phase of the research aims at activating an intense project of study and knowledge that will concentrate on the 40 memorial cemeteries projected and/or accomplished by Ravnikar and Bogdanović. This phase will focus on the gathering of edited and unedited documents such as critical contributions, original drawings, iconographic material...; at the same time, a network of contacts will be activated among researchers, historians and architects who have dealt in different ways with the works that are the subject of this study.