Monumentomachia: The 'Colourful Revolution' as the Participatory Turn in Art and Politics

Suzana Milevska
Prof. Dr. Suzana Milevska
  Polytechnic University of Milan


The paper will address the unique outburst of public discontent of the protestors who organised the biggest visual intervention in the public space in Macedonia, mainly in the main square of the capital city Skopje (in 2016). The protestors combined the calling for withdrawing of the President's decision for Abolition of 56 prosecuted individuals with a severe critique of the megalomaniac and overspending neoliberal and nationalist cultural policy, on the expense of the social and economic stability of the already impoverished and largely unemployed population.

The main target of the protests became the recent government's monumental and urban project known as "Skopje 2014" that was initiated in 2010 and consisted of numerous statues and monuments dedicated to various events and figures from the nationalist past of the country (that gained its independence after the dissolution of Yugoslavia), grotesque architectural interventions (e.g. neo-classicist make-overs of the existing buildings that were unique examples of late-modernist, brutalist and metabolic architecture that could also be interpreted as "critical regionalism") and new office buildings for the growing public administration employees. Different leftist parties as well as civic society organisations and artistic groups argued that the Macedonian Government did not take into account the public opinion and the right to public space because it was built without any deliberation and democratic procedures. Additionally "Skopje 2014" is criticised for lack of representations of the many ethnicities and the dominance of militant and masculine figures with only few female statues (which even in such patriarchal context surprise with the explicit sexist visual regime of representation of the female body). I therefore want to propose an analysis of the so called "Colourful Revolution" in which the protesters threw paints on the figurative historic monuments and memorials (parts of the "Skopje 2014").

The lack of existing terminology to analyse the consequences of the unique phenomenon that I proposed to call "monumentomachia" (battle of people against the monuments) and the public discussions questioning whether the results of the "Colourful Revolution" could be interpreted as protest art induced the need to introduce a new concept: "participatory institutional critique". I want to argue that despite the limitations of the usual background of the IC as individual artistic practice that can easily be recuperated in a vicious circle by the art institutions that are targeted by the very same critique (as it is usually argued in the context of contemporary art history), in this context it can be still relevant to investigate the emancipatory potentialities of the "merge" between political and artistic "participatory institutional critique".

Based on agonistic pluralism, the democratic understanding of the right to the city public space and the solidarity ignited by shared negativity the paper also aims to propose a kind of critical discussion regarding the reciprocal, but also problematised relations between social movements and the general (mis)understanding of the discourses of visual culture, art and aesthetics by contesting the ideas of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau.

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