“He who travels much has this advantage over others—that the things he remembers soon become remote so that in a short time they acquire the vague and poetical quality which is only given to other things by time.”
Autarcheum is photographic-conceptual reflection on and a working through the massive ruin of an Italian-built thermo-electric power station and its ambivalent legacy.
The Vlaška power plant began operating in the Raša Valley in Istria in 1939, as part of a large-scale industrialisation of a previously rural, marshy landscape. It supplied power to the mine in nearby Raša (Arsia in Italian). Raša was built in 1937-8 as a model industrial settlement and designed as a self-sufficient Città dell’autarchia (City of Autarchy). The plant was bombed by the Allies during World War 2, and restored when Istria became part of Yugoslavia, operating until 1976.
The exhibition title, Autarcheum, reflects its status as an autarchic mausoleum, full of ghostly traces of its workers’ efforts, and the political systems under which they laboured, willingly or otherwise. The location is both sulphurous and serene.
Since 2021, cdx-foto (Alexei Monroe) has lived as an exile in the area, and has come to know its ruins intimately. They are a source of constant reflection, inspiration and are ideally non-ideal sites for an exile to temporarily (re)-locate himself and to temporarily enter another state (even in full awareness of their dark historical and environmental legacies).
In parallel with a selection of images harvested from the site, the exhibition also includes an audio-visual element. TEV-22 is a collaboration between the sound artist Sz. Berlin (featured in the 2016 2nd NSK State Folk Art Biennale at BCA) and film-maker Nik Panic. Panic’s visual documentation of Vlaška’s main hall is accompanied by and Sz. Berlin soundtrack, derived entirely from photos and videos gathered on site.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Cultural theorist, Alexei Monroe is currently a Research Fellow of Burren College of Art and is the author of Laibach and NSK: The Interrogation Machine (MIT Press, 2005) and Autopsia: Thanatopolis (Divus, 2016). He was the editor of State of Emergence: A Documentary of the First NSK Citizens’ Congress (Plöttner Verlag, 2012) and co-editor of Test Dept: Total State Machine (PC Press, 2015). His research interests include architecture, industrial and electronic music, dystopianism and the Stag as an art historical symbol.
cdx-foto is the photographic alias of Monroe, now based in Croatia. Since 2018, his photos have formed the basis of A/V performances by Sz. Berlin, including Towards a Concrete (Dys)Utopia (London, 2019), RZZ-22 (Nova Gorica, 2022) and SZB-22 (Berlin, 2022). His online exhibition The Tower – a study of an abandoned Brutalist block in London – was held at Martin Delaney Photography in November 2021. His 2015 photos of the doomed Birmingham Central Library were used in the Slovene book Nonument. His photos have been used for album and DVD releases by Eden Grey, Riotmiloo and Am Not. Entirely self-taught, his main photographic interests are architectural and industrial sites and land and skyscapes.
Created in 2007, Sz. Berlin is a cultural intervention force formed by Monroe in 2007, operating in the fields of a/v performance, sound art and installations. From 2007-2019 it performed frequently in London. It has also performed in Bosnia, Ireland, Germany and Slovenia.
In May 2011 it participated in the first Time Machine Biennale with installations and a performance in the former Yugoslav command bunker at Konjic, Bosnia. In June 2016 it participated in the 2nd NSK State Folk Art Biennale at Burren College of Art with a video installation and live performance. The Brutalist-themed project Towards a Concrete (Dys)Utopia premiered in London in 2019. In November 2021 a new video was issued as a soundtrack to the cdx-foto exhibition The Tower. In May 2022 the a/v performance RZZ-22 – based on the historic cranes of Rijeka – took place at the R.o.R. Festival in Nova Gorica. In collaboration with Nik Panic it performed the action PLM-22 in a ruined coal separator in Istria October 2022, and this autumn also sees the premiere of a new work – SZB-22 – based on the history of Tempelhof Airport. TEV-22 – a film collaboration with Nik Panic – accompanies the cdx-foto exhibition Autarcheum at Burren College of Art.