Mak Hubjer: In the Shadow
Motivated by the phenomena of ideological interference in public space, the work before you is a step in the direction of rethinking the complex relationship between the monument, the space it is erected in and memory. The core of Mak Hubjer’s work are two video installations, wherein the artist focuses on the very shadow of the monument, examining, with his further action, its real, but even more so, its symbolic nature. The seemingly fragile and volatile phenomenon becomes the focus and vessel of the entire dramaturgy and an extremely complex narrative.
The installations show the process of cleaning the shadow of the monument to the first Croatian president, Dr. Franjo Tuđman, in two of the largest Croatian cities, Zagreb and Split. This approach actually represents an attempt by the artist to expose tensions that are at the core of, not only certain historical narratives that are being advanced in public space and the broader domain of public communication through art, but also of multiple and unpredictable processes of distortion, reinterpretation and erasure. The concomitant elements of Hubjer’s central installations are four smaller interventions on the photograph of the monument in Zagreb, which are in turn accompanied by relevant video recordings of the performative process.
In the first video installation, the artist spends a long time persistently cleaning the monument’s shadow in Split. He performs the action at dusk, when the shadow slowly fades and gradually dissipates, until it completely disappears at day’s end. An almost staged battle between light and darkness is a feature of the next video installation. In contrast to the former, the video installation of cleaning the monument’s shadow in Zagreb is much more dynamic. Influenced by the weather conditions, the monument’s shadow disappears and reappears. Notwithstanding, the artist stubbornly persists in his intention: to clean the monument’s shadow. The shadow of the flag that appears in the frame is also an important element, but we cannot actually see it as a physical object. At the same time, it is quite conceivable to imagine its appearance, that is, to remember the sound it produces as it flutters in the wind. It is this fluttering in the wind that indicates the fragile nature of the situation, but which is nevertheless maintained in spite of everything.
If we looked more closely at the constellation of this exhibition situation, the shadow is actually an indicator of the monument’s life and all that the monument implies, while its cleaning or disappearance fundamentally changes the monument itself, and almost abolishes and negates it.
At the time when public space, otherwise conceived as being and remaining open, is being constricted and closed by monuments and their supporting ideologies, the artist’s courageous and original act represents a departure from the mere stylisation of the problem and is a direct call to action, real action. The focus of the action is on solving the accumulated and difficult problems in the current social reality, be it at a lumbering pace, one by one.
The work In the Shadow is part of an artistic research that I conducted in Split and Zagreb, and it deals with the relationship between public space and monumental values. The subject of this research are monuments representing the figure and work of Dr. Franjo Tuđman, the first president of the Republic of Croatia and a central figure in the country’s recent history. The focus on monuments stems from an interest in public spaces as distinct places of memory, specifically, the space that creates memory with the very act of monumentalisation, while at the same time, through a general lack of engagement and reflection on the erected monuments, it creates a space that is detached from the past, where past is even forgotten, either partially or completely. The work with monuments is, therefore, an exploration of the construction, presentation, and even preservation of memory in public spaces, and by extension, it is also a study of collective discourses, narratives and (national) identities that are institutionally intertwined with the monuments that are being erected in the urban fabric. Moreover, working with the shadows of these moments of monumentalisation, this study addresses, figuratively, semiotically, and even quite literally, the ways in which the past can become a shadow. When do shadows, as inescapable and inseparable companions, represent places to hide, and when are they places in need of hiding?
Mak Hubjer (1993) is a visual artist and artist of social practice. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and is currently studying at the Arts Academy in Split. His work was shown at numerous national and international exhibitions. He deals with political and social subjects through performative and visual media. He is a member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists in Split. He is the founder and director of the Brodac Gallery in Sarajevo.