Surface and Superficiality, part IV: Ivana Sidzimovska

Surface and Superficiality

Surface and Superficiality, part IV:

Ivana Sidzimovska

Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 19h

Photo: Ivana Sidzimovska

Photo: Ivana Sidzimovska


As part of the ongoing series Surface and Superficiality, Gitte Bohr once more looks at the cityscape as a surface. We have invited the Macedonian artist Ivana Sidzimovska, who will present a project on the "Skopje 2014" urban renewal of the Macedonian capital. She investigates the ideology and power structures behind the neo-classical facades and under the grandiose historizising redesign of the city.

In 1963 an earthquake destroyed 80% of the city of Skopje. The rebuilding of the city was planned mainly by the Japanese architect and city planner Kenzo Tange, who had also been involved in the rebuilding of Hiroshima. The result was a new city based on a modernist vision of a total and functional city, responding to a forward-looking self-portrayal of the communist state: a brutalist, yet sophisticated concrete jungle.

The urban renewal project "Skopje 2014" is a large scale government funded project to recast Skopje as a neo-classical European capital city. The project includes a reconstruction of the city centre with new buildings in a monumental classicist style, façade reconstructions overlaying the modernist concrete façades with historizising elements, as well as the erection of a large amount of monuments commemorating the history of Macedonia and its heroes.

Ivana Sidzimovska analyses the "Skopje 2014" project with the perspective of the concept of symbolic capital. She thus sees the renewal of Skopje as a symbolic reconstruction designed to rebrand, re-imagine the city as a national capital presiding over a heroic history. The historizising style and the choice of historical personalities and events to commemorate in the monuments point to a restorationist discourse, put into play by the current political leadership of Macedonia.

Some of the major critiques of the project have aimed at the exclusion of ethnic minorities from the narrative thus set up, as well as the enormous public spending on a prestigious public image campaign in a country financially stricken and with many social problems. Sidzimovska criticizes "Skopje 2014" as undemocratic, intransparent and nepotist, and the urban planning as top-down. She investigates the social production of space of "Skopje 2014," as well as how authoritarian urban narratives and hegemonic representations can be contested through the lived experience of the urban dwellers, thus highlighting alternative approaches to apprehension of urban space. Through collaborations and interviews with local citizens, experts, artists and activists, she approaches this question by eliciting stories of places from inhabitants, that reflect experiences, feelings, and fantasies about the city, and finding means of recounting and reenacting the tales.

Sidzimovska is currently working an a PhD Thesis with the title "Notes on Skopje. Skopje 2014: Hegemonic and Speculative Urban Narratives" at Bauhaus-University Weimar.

The project Surface and Superficiality aims to investigate the relationship between surfaces and superficiality in our contemporary society. It focuses on the surfaces that we interact with in every day life: The design of public space, of user interfaces, the human body, of basic commodities or artworks, of culture and nature. It asks what happens when our relation to the surface turns into superficiality, that is when we stay at the surface instead of going beyond it. Superficiality seems to increasingly be the keyword for many developments in our late capitalist society. Lack of sustainability, planned obsolescence of industrial products, disappearance of artisanal skills and accelerated consumption are conditions, which today lead to not only ecological problems. The work ethics and modes of production of late capitalism have a wide-ranging influence on our social life. Following an idea of Richard Sennett, we want to investigate the gradual alienation, which affects both the relations between people and between people and things.

Gitte Bohr - Club für Kunst und politisches Denken im:

West Germany
Skalitzer Str. 133, Berlin-Kreuzberg
U-Bahn "Kottbusser Tor" (U1, U8)
Entrance next to "Effendi Optik", 2. floor