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Ágalma: The ‟Objet Petit a,” Alexander the Great, and Other Excesses of Skopje 2014

She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?
—Norman Bates in Psycho

This essay is an ágalma dedicated to the Macedonian government’s project “Skopje 2014,” which recently turned Skopje, the capital of the Republic, into a memorial park of “false memories.” Over the last five years, a series of unskillfully casted figurative monuments have appeared throughout Skopje, installed over the night, as if brought into public space by the animated hand from the opening credits of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Figures from the national past (some relevant, some marginal), buildings with obvious references to Westernized aesthetic regimes (mere imitations of styles from periods atypical for the local architecture), and sexist public sculptures have transformed the once socialist-modernist city square into a theatrical backdrop.

More than ninety years ago, in a kind of a manifesto of anti-monumental architectural and artistic revolution, Vladimir Tatlin challenged both the “bourgeois” Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty with his unbuilt tower Monument to the Third International (1919–25). Since then, discourses on contemporary monuments have flourished elsewhere in Europe (“anti-monuments,” “counter-monuments,” “low-budget monuments,” “invisible monuments,” “monument in waiting,” “participatory monuments”) but this debate has completely bypassed the Macedonian establishment.

The government’s promise that the Skopje 2014 project would attract tourists and journalists to Macedonia has been realized, but for all the wrong reasons—in many articles, Skopje’s city center is depicted as a kind of “theme park,” and some of the newly built museums are referred to as “chambers of horrors.” In short, Skopje 2014 has become a laughing stock for the foreign press. According to critics, the city’s abundance of public sculptures, monuments, administrative buildings, and museums has surpassed, in terms of preposterousness and pompousness, both Las Vegas and the Neutrality Arch, an oversized monument built by Turkmenistan’s leader Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov from 1985 to 2006.

Read the full article here.