About This Project
Trips Across the Region
Ever since I first encountered Jan Kempenaers' late 2000s exhibition titled "Spomenik", which detailed the abstract monuments of the former-Yugoslavia, I was immediately intrigued to learn about these enigmatic works. Kempenaers' stark photographs of these visually-ancient yet highly modern and optimistic concrete megaliths instilled these 'spomeniks' with a deep sense of "mystery" to the point where I felt I had to see them in person... however, Kempenaers included precious little information on what these works meant, where exactly they were, what happened to them or why they were created in the first place. Even my attempts to learn about them online in any sort of meaningful way yielded surprisingly little comprehensive information -- pieces of the puzzle were found here and there, but I found no single place on the web which related the whole story of this network of sculptures on both the grand scale and on the individual level. Pondering upon these mysteries, I felt compelled to work towards demystifying them, not only for myself, but for all others who sought to learn more and gain a greater understanding about these imposing historical relics.
Here is a selfie photo of me, Donald Niebyl, that I took of myself in front of the "Broken Wing" monument at Šumarice Memorial Park in Kragujevac, Serbia
Finally, in the spring of 2016, I was able to spend about a month and a half traveling across the former-Yugoslav region by bus, train and rental car to take in as much as I could about the spomeniks and to document and photograph as much as possible. It was an unbelievable adventure, as I learned a huge about not only about the spomeniks, but also an incredible amount about the history, people, culture and religion of the former-Yugoslavia. Also along the way, I met dozens of people who helped me along my journey, as guides, as travel companions, as translators and as friends. Upon returning home from my first journey, I began to use the information I had gathered to create the sort of online resource of the type that I wish had existed for me the first time I went looking for information on this topic. I called this educational internet portal the "Spomenik Database". As my Spomenik Database project has grown more and more, I have continued to spend several months each year returning to and doing work in the region, while expanding the offering of the site to include a digital library, a video archive, interactive maps, artist profiles, and so much more. Nearly every day I work towards expanding this resource further.
Within this ambitious website, I aim to create the definitive destination on the internet to not only view photos of the anti-fascist monuments of the former-Yugoslavia, but I also aim for it to be a place to learn about their history, their meaning, their current condition and exactly how to find them. Within each spomenik profile page, I include a compilation of photographs I took of each monument, the translations I made of their inscriptions, the stories I uncovered and the symbolic messages I deciphered. I hope you find exploring this website as enjoyable and as fascinating as I did assembling it for you! Feel free to message me with any feedback, advice, comments or additional information/data/photographs you feel might be helpful to me! Use the below links to continue your exploration of this website and of the spomeniks.