Blesok no. 97, July-August, 2014
Sunrise at Sunset – Post-apocalyptic Stench of the Transition
Izgrev (Sunrise) hotel, a building paradigmatic for its overdimensioned proportions, intended for mass tourism that used to be promoted as part of the ideological matrices of socialism, was aopen on 1 September 1979, with a big celebration attended by all distinguished party and state officials at that time.
Originally constructed as a hotel and restaurant service enterprise at the tourist location of Kališta near Struga, in 1991, during the privatization process, it was transformed into a shareholding company in mixed ownership, and then sold to the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC). The latter rented it to a private company which had a financial affair several years later. After the participants in the affair were detained and following the court case against them, the facility was returned to MPC. At the moment when the black and white photographs that are part of this exhibition were made (2011-2012), the facility was ruined, stripped to its walls, without any movable property or equipment.
Paradoxically, it was originally opened at the end of the tourist season (which lasts for very short at that coast of the Ohrid Lake anyway), but also at the beginning of the end of the ideological and political system that had created it. From this very beginning, it seems that this building has been destined to also symbolically show the fall, i.e. the non-functionality of that system. Communism, although deeply humanistic in its ideological matrix, has proved to be practically inapplicable due to its unexpected capacity to really produce absolutism, totalitarism and general corruption. I felt that Izgrev, as its material, and yet symbolic depiction reflects this degradation – built with an idea of a building that was supposed to be an architectural, economic and tourist pride, it was actually practically inapplicable, economically unprofitable, comprehensive project that has never come to life.
As many other grandiose projects of the decaying system, Izgrev gradually turned into a deserted, devastated, empty facility in the 1990es, deprived from any attempt to establish its original function, but also from any possibility to be restored or redesigned. Imprisoned in the social process of “eternal transition”, from a facility with a use value it has turned to a facility with a historical value, i.e. it has become a relic. Or, in other words, it has become a monument, a work of art.
The three project components connect the past with the present and although different, they should essentially tell the whole story of Izgrev, but also indicate some universal phenomena, or phenomena that keep on reappearing. the first component are reproductions of the pages of a photo album from the celebration at the opening of Izgrev hotel. Part of the highest leadership of the Republic can be seen there, as well as a number of local politicians, party activists, businessmen and officials. The original alum has been found by accident at a flea market and it is most probably the work of a local or official photographers. The reproductions are ion color so the spirit of the time is also visible.
Тhe second component is a tourist leaflet of the hotel during its life as such. While the photo album from the opening of the hotel is a documentary presentation of a historical moment (the birth of the hotel), and the prospect of the hotel is a document that should show the purpose or the idea behind the purpose of this facility (the life of the hotel), the third component, the black and white photographs should show its state of affairs at the time this concept was prepared, in 2011-2012 (the death of the hotel).
The black and white photographs were made in the morning sun coming from the east and penetrating inside the devastated facility through the broad unhindered openings, modeling the shapes with long stripes of shadows and light, showing the texture of the materials. These photographs are framed in gilded Baroque frames, which should symbolically show that each ideology has its Baroque, it need to be framed in s kitsch, in a quasi-art, and produce quasi-art works for broad consumption. The story of Izgrev is actually a story about the black and white world of the empty monument that functions only in the kitschy, cheap gold tapestry frame.