The project 'Square' begins with the rediscovery of a black and white photograph from 1981 showing a group of people gathered on the hill around big white letters 'Tito'. The project of building the landmark ‘Tito’ was initiated by the youth organisation of Ivanjska, a village in the northwest Bosnia, and its aim was to honour the then recently deceased president Josip Broz Tito. It was made out of stones painted in white on the steep side of the hill Kik and, for its position and size, it was visible from a big distance. The letters ‘Tito’ were later framed with a five-pointed star. The landmark was regularly painted and maintained until the end of 1980s when it lost its social and political function and slowly got overgrown with bushes and trees.
In July 2012, 31 years after the first landmark was created, I initiated a project on the same location. The land on the hill was cleared and stones of the old landmark were found, dug out and used for the construction of another sign. I proposed a new sign – a simple form of square - as a political sign with no predefined ideological agenda. Its function is to be determined by those who build it. Again, the participation in the project was voluntary. People who answered the call were now middle-aged participants of the first project, people of the older generation and a small group of youngsters. During three hot days of July, the hill was cleared and a 30x30 meters sign was constructed. The process of the construction was documented and turned into a short documentary film ‘Square’. Many people from the surrounding villages attended the inauguration of the square in July 2012 and the screening of the documentary in August 2013.
Archive photograph from 1981
“Even if the project itself might appear in some sense as quite modest – only bringing back in an altered form what was once there – the gesture is at the same time monumental. Not only because it involves a type of monument, but also because I tend to understand it as a proposal that seeks to offer something that might break some outworn and perhaps even dangerous ideas concerning the nature of politics. Because central to your project is that the people who gather to make the monument do not affirm a given situation – communism, nationalism, not even just ‘art’ – but are constructing a open site to project ideas upon. The square as an icon, you told me, is not yet determined by existing political ideologies in the minds of these people and so it offers not so much a picture but more an empty place with an outline; a political site, a site for politics. In doing so the sign does not so much signify something, but it seeks to facilitate the (open) process of signification. Making such an offer is perhaps modest (not giving a predefined agenda), but it is monumental in that it implicitly suggests a whole ‘new’ role for art in communal life, that realigns history, intimacy and labour in a distinct way.”
Extract from the text ‘Working through Square – a letter to Saša Karalic' by Steven ten Thije written for the exhibition catalogue The common whih no longer exist (curated by Anamarija Batista and Majda Turkic, 14.9 -7.10.2012, Künstlerhaus, Vienna)