SOPHIE MEI BIRKIN
Archives of Memorialisation
documentation of Miodrag Živković ’s memorial sites, archive and studio
Following the People’s Liberation War (1941-45) thousands of war memorials were commissioned across the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to commemorate the Partisans and civilians that died in the struggle against fascism. The memorials were the embodiment of a collective identity based on the trauma of the past, reinforced by national commemorations and educative excursions promoted by Josip Broz Tito’s regime. The eventual dissolution of Yugoslavia and the rise of nationalism generated antagonism towards socialist heritage and the memorials were forced into a new context, markedly different from the utopia Tito envisaged. Many monuments were destroyed, others transmuted from celebrated memorial sites to contentious reminders of a socialist past.
These documentations are part of a research project, which began in 2016, on the monumental works of Serbian artist Miodrag Živković (b.1928). Through interviews with Živković and rigorous research into the memorial site and artist’s archive, this project seeks to counter misconceptions about the monuments, owing to popular online phenomena which emphasise their ‘otherworldliness’ and so-called ‘alien’ nature. Underlining this is the belief that the contemporary predisposition for decontextualised aesthetic appreciation, often adhering to the clichéd mode of representing post-soviet territories in decay, obstructs a holistic engagement with the memorials.
Previous iterations of this research have been awarded by the Faculty of History of Art, Cambridge University and shortlisted by the National Association for Art History.
SOphie MEI birkin
Sophie Mei Birkin is a London based artist and researcher. Having studied Art History at Cambridge University, Birkin is currently Euan Uglow Scholar at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL where she is undertaking a Master’s in Sculpture and the History and Theory of Art. Recent shows include, Shelter at The Take Courage Gallery, London, Interim Show at Hortensia Gallery, London and Inkwell at The Heong Gallery, Cambridge.