The Eerie, Spaceship-Like Ghosts of Communism

A photographer explores the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in search of the Eastern Bloc's forgotten retrofuturistic monuments

Having grown up in the former Eastern Bloc, I vividly remember the bizarre and beautiful monuments commissioned by the communist leaders of the 1960s and '70s, which remained as retrofuturistic remnants after the fall of communism, like the undying ghosts of an era most people sought to forget but would always remember. These are the subject of Spomenik—a peculiar book by contemporary Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers, who took a laborious trek across former Yugoslavia and The Balkans to photograph the strikingly beautiful yet odd structures tucked away in the region's mountains.

The results are haunting and eerily powerful, evoking a felt sense of a fold in the space-time fabric of sociopolitical reality.

"Kempenaers did not set out as a documentary photographer, but first and foremost as an artist seeking to create a new image. An image so powerful that it engulfs the viewer. He allows the viewer to enjoy the melancholy beauty of the Spomeniks, but in so doing, forces us to take a position on a social issue." ~ Willem Jan Neutelings

What's most fascinating about the structures in Spomenik is that up until the 1980s they attracted millions of visitors, yet today they stand unknown by the younger generations and neglected by the older, their symbolism a fading flashbulb memory in the collective mind of their host cultures.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Via MetaFilter. Images via Crack Two.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Global

Just In