Michal Siarek: Alexander

Michal Siarek: Alexander
International Photography Grant 2019

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 recognised and powerful rulers in the history was acclaimed the father of present Macedonian nation. However, modern Macedonia is a young post-Yugoslav, poorly developed country.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

Prilep, 2015. Marble excavated in Sivec quarry near by Prilep is recognised as equal in quality to Carrara but substance was not used in constructions and replaced with cheaper materials.

Greece was strongly opposing any claims of the piece of history that, they believe, is exclusively Greek heritage. In order to protect its cultural consistence the government blocked foreign policy of the neighbour affecting isolation of the Republic of Macedonia. Dream of the lost nobility was the spark that ignited minds on the both sides of the border. Over 2000 years after the collapse of the empire two countries started the dispute of origins and history as distant as illusory. But generations already been born as Macedonians, within two countries and three geographical Macedonias.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

02.12.2015, Skopje. 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.

What was supposed to elevate the rising nation to its dignity broke its spine while the elected authority radicalised and began to rise concerns about the rule of the law within the country. Macedonian government engaged considerable public funds and serious propaganda apparatus to reinvent the tradition and stimulate national consciousness. Would it be even possible to create the hybrid identity and the establishing myth to give the nation its pride, by erecting monuments made of bronze or plaster? That leads to crucial questions such as what do constitute modern nations or who owns the antiquity – which is also the foundation of the western society. However the Macedonian question remains unanswered.

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.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

9.12.2015, Skopje. Mockups of monuments ordered by the state, including infamous “Warrior on the horse” in the workshop of sculptor Valentina Stefanovska.

Project Alexander by Michał Siarek has been awarded with Second Place Award in Story category at Photogrvphy Grant 2016.

Michał Siarek (born 1991) – documentary photographer, student at cinematography department at PWSFTviT in Lodz, Poland. 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. Nominee for the 2016 Joop Swart Masterclass.

Website: michalsiarek.com

Alexander © Michal Siarek

13.02.2013, Skopje. The most significant statue and unofficial symbol of pursuit for new identity is the infamous “Warrior on the horse” which reignited the conflict with Greece due to its reminiscence to Alexander the Great.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

13.02.2013, Skopje. The construction site of the future Archeological Museum of Macedonia.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

02.12.2015, Skopje. So called “Project Skopje 2014” aimed to depict the legacy of Alexander the Great by giving public buildings of Skopje the classic appeal. Three artificial boats on Vardar river are amid the most spectacular investments in the city centre.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

28.08.2013, Skopje. Man showering after work on the construction site of the Supreme court in Skopje. Every facade is made of hollow block casted form concrete.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

4.02.2015, Skopje. The construction site of the Church St. Constantine and Elena.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

26.03.2015 Bitola. Local craftsman from Bitola cast figures and decorative elements from concrete and steel in his workshop.

Alexander © Michal Siarek

20.06.2013, Skopje. Every year in the summer period The Museum of Macedonian Struggle hires young people to entertain tourists in the city centre.

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International Photography Grant 2019