15 minutes ago
Fully aware that the Sutjeska Battle Monument was not only cover image for MoMA’s Toward a Concrete Utopia exhibit, but that it’s also posted to architectural Instagram about three times a day, it seems just a bit inessential to post my own photos of it, especially when spomeniks have come to enjoy such an internet cult and I’m no expert.
However, in posting this, I really wish to convey just how extraordinary this memorial truly is: what an exceptionally masterful and moving work of modernist sculpture it is. Set on a panoramic promontory in a spectacularly beautiful alpine valley, the enormous bipartite bulk of Miodrag Živković and Dorde Zloković’s raw concrete form seem like a frozen detonation: the moment before two armies, rushing in advance, clash and kill and die. The dynamic abstraction, so arresting from afar, is made bracingly real up close with the shock of that the soldiers faces cast in the cliff-like interior: the jagged masses, looming gigantically, suddenly scale down to to the proportion of noses, furrowed brows, jutting chins. A distant war becomes instantly human: it is not the battle commemorated, it is the dead.
The negative space between the two sides seems almost electricity charged—the intensity at the frontier of their collision; you can almost feel the explosive force which seems to lift the cenotaph and thrust its winglike branches against the mountain: to move around the sculpture is to see it at one moment crashing together, and the next moment an overpowering centrifugal force rips it apart.
The publicity plates for the MoMA exhibit were taken either in winter or with overcast skies: Sutjeska was shown emerging from a misty snowstorm, a crisp white drift around it. I am guessing that this was an attempt to market the exhibit to fans of brutalism—to create a brooding mood, especially in its adverts. Perhaps it is just seeing it in person but the sculpture against the deep green of the midsummer mountain slopes is such a thrill. It really is like nothing I’ve ever seen, I was quite impacted by the solemn, powerful experience. Miodrag Živkovic, architect, Djordje Zloković, engineer, 1964-72. Photos 2019 Bauzeitgeist.