The very first thing that I saw in Skopje was the construction of a 25-meter tall figure of a warrior on horseback which, from what I later found out, was the statue of Alexander the Great.
In 2010 the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia started an extensive project to revamp first the capital and then the entire country into the sense of connection with its alleged ancient roots. Alexander the Great, one of the most recognized and powerful rulers in history was acclaimed as the father of present Macedonian nation. However, modern Macedonia is a young post-Yugoslav, poorly developed country.
Greece was strongly opposed to any claims of this piece of history that, they believe, is exclusively Greek heritage. In order to protect its cultural consistence, the government blocked foreign policy of their neighbor, causing the isolation of the Republic of Macedonia.
A dream of lost nobility was the spark that ignited minds on both sides of the border. Over 2000 years after the collapse of the empire two countries started a dispute of origins and history as distant as they are illusory.
What was supposed to elevate the rising nation to dignity broke its spine while the elected authority radicalized and concerns about the rule of the law within the country began to rise. Macedonian government engaged considerable public funds and a serious propaganda apparatus in reinventing tradition and stimulating national consciousness.
Is it even possible to create a hybrid identity and to institute a myth to give the nation its pride, by erecting monuments made of bronze or plaster? That leads to crucial questions such as what constitutes a modern nation or who owns antiquity - which is also the foundation of western society. The Macedonian question remains unanswered however.
Although we know the tragic destiny of the hero and the futility of his actions, surrounded by the monumental decorations made of plaster, we keep waiting for the catharsis.
Who? Michal Siarek
Docking March 6 - 26
Working on Alexander
About the history of Macedonia
Michal Siarek is a student at the photography department of The Leon Schiller National Film, Television and Theatre School in Lodz. He is fascinated by the Balkan Peninsula issues. He spent three years on his debut essay “Alexander” focused on myths, identity and nationalism in one of the ex-Yugoslav republics. He is a nominee for the 2016 Joop Swart Masterclass and co-founder of Paper Beats Rock publishing house.
Independent curator in photography and film
" When I first discovered the project Alexander by Michal Siarek in the Show OFF section of the Krakow Photofestival in 2016, I accidentally interpreted his large format scenes as being staged constructions. Therefore I was not surprised to find out that he was doing his graduate studies at The Leon Schiller National Film, Television and Theatre School in Lodz, Poland. Siarek tries to capture a reality he discovered by accident while travelling to a country we all have heard of but do not really know: the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. Siarek plunges us into the young history of this country, now subject to a radical historical re-construction ignited by a wish to reconnect with its supposed roots. Roots going back as far as the heyday of Alexander the Great.
To find a provocative way to bring his story to a wider audience, Siarek is looking for collaborations with specialists and creatives. His aim is to gain and deliver an in-depth knowledge about the current mechanisms at play in Macedonia. Another visual strategy as an addition to the large format prints could proof to be sufficient to let us participate in his investigative journey.
A three week stay in Amsterdam will help him to take necessary steps and give him a lot of inspiration from experts in the field of visual and digital storytelling."