URBAN SUBJECTS
SABINE BITTER | HELMUT WEBER

Making Ruins

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Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber’s photo installation Making Ruins thematises the transformation and eradication of the architectural appearance of the Macedonian capital Skopje by the current government. In the course of the efforts to renationalise Macedonia – against the background of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the current demarcation between Greece and the country’s status as a potential EU member – the traces of the 20th century’s history, symbolized by the post-war Yugoslav modernist architecture, are radically erased. The contradiction and absurdity of the undertaking is also expressed in the way it deals with the heritage of the Japanese architect Kenzō Tange and his plan to rebuild Skopje after the 1963 earthquake.
“Just now, at a time when the Macedonian government is making the few remaining architectural
traces of this plan disappear under a layer of dubious historicizing measures – measures which are vehemently challenged by the inhabitants of Skopje – the work Making Ruins touches upon fundamental questions about history as a continuity of breaks, the remains of which always raise questions about the political construction of nations”.(1) The installation is based on historical photographs of Tange and his metabolistic ideas, complemented by contemporary photographs
of the capital’s controversial urban renewal. The work illustrates in an impressive way, how ideological concepts about architecture and urban planning define themselves and the arbitrariness which prevails in dealing with history and in the production of new historical facts.
(1) Walter Seidl in exhibition folder „What is left?“, frei_raum Q21 exhibition space, Vienna, 2016

(Andreas Kristof in the exhibition catalogue “In die Stadt”, Verlag für moderne Kunst, Vienna, 2018)


“How are we to understand the conflict and contradictions produced when the existing
cultural memory of a city is covered over by a false narrative constructed from an imagined antiquity? The Skopje 2014 program has been met with significant controversy. Citizens, architects, artists, activists and intellectuals have criticized the program in local and international media, and have initiated a “colorful revolution”, where activists shoot paint balls or throw plastic bags filled with brightly coloured paint at the monuments and buildings central to the new constructed narrative of Macedonian history.
Can art enable citizens to remember another past, to recall the body of architecture,
evaporated or absorbed into those freshly fabricated ‘historical’ buildings? The
photographs are part of an artistic work we have created called “Making Ruins”.
This work joins other forms of protest in questioning this thick layer of fictitious history.
Photographs of the last remains of Tange´s and Konstantinov´s buildings point to the
corpses of architecture hidden away under foamy camouflage. The artistic intervention is meant to rework the still visible architectural remains into ruins, acting to interrupt the linearity of false historization, preserving memories of a particular moment of past
international solidarity and claiming an alternative future for Skopje.”
(Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber)


(Excerpt from our essay “Making Ruins” on architecture and memory in Memory. Published by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and UBC Press. Edited by Philippe Tortell, Mark Turin, and Margot Young, 2018)