TRACING EUROPE is Mikko Waltari’s photography project start-up that aims to research the social change in Europe during the past three decades. The project is a continuation of Documentary Spectacle, and is further inspired by his holiday-experience and the snapshots presented below, as well as by Francis Fukuyama, who in 1992 published his book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama’s proposition is that the long battle between various ideologies had ended to the victory of western liberal democracy. In his opinion this might have signalled the endpoint of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. However, Fukuyama's thesis has faced a lot of critique since it's publication. The unpredictable, recent changes of the global situation have led Fukuyama to reshape his formulation.
A quarter of a century ago the atmosphere in Europe was substantially enthusiastic, despite the war in former Jugoslavia. The great wave of freedom and democracy in the East had taken Berlin wall down and collapsed the Soviet empire, while the western Europe was moving towards tighter integration. Yet, the battle between ideologies has not ended: if there is no clear left and right, today there is even starker contrast between the liberal and the conservative. Yesteryear's harmless worry of the Polish plumbers moving to the west has changed to the anxious fear of refugee’s invasion and radical islamist’s terror. Once again, borders are being closed: nationalist, isolationist, and separatist forces are being encouraged and supported from Kreml, while the delusioned #45 is creating confusion in the trans-atlantic cooperation with his post-truth era tweets.
We are facing this reality –or better: we are being fed with images of reality – in the various medias (mainstream, fake, social / printed, tv, internet) on daily bases. Evaluating the truthlikeness of the news and the possible harm of the events for ourselves is a difficult task. It requires sophisticated education and ability to read the media critically.
Representing reality in tableau-size photographs as a window to Europe, the art-project encourages us to remember what it means to be European against the backdrop of the recent history – to grow understanding and tolerance within and between societies. However, it may not be able to give a definite answer to any "WHY".
TRACING EUROPE begins in early 2018, and it's completion is estimated to take four to five years.
-In August 2017, I spent a two-week holiday in Makarska, a small Croatian holiday resort by the clean Adriatic Sea. I came to read there about the early years of tourism in Tito’s Jugoslavia and about the reasons behind the Bosnian war.
On one of my walks I ended up to an interesting-looking hotel, where I asked the concierge about the history of that particular hotel. The young man, fluent in english, told me that the hotel was build in 1984, the year of Sarajevo winter Olympics, and was soon after it’s opening rewarded for it’s genius architectural design: all the rooms in the two terrace-like corpuses offer a view to the sea.
During the Bosnian war, Makarska Riviera received hundreds of thousands refugees who were accommodated in the hotels that were understandably empty of tourists. The awarded hotel in question accommodated the diplomats and NATO generals involved in the war.
The concierge was a teenager during the war, and remembered well the refugees accommodated in his own family. Unlike in today's Europe, all refugees – Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbs, Catholics and Jewish – were given shelter and food without questions.
Just before my arrival, the Mediterranean area had suffered of a heat-wave raising temperatures near 40°C in Makarska area. Forest fires were a constant threat during my stay. The fire from the plateau, the very same plateau from which the refugees had arrived, was spreading down to the town along the small bushes and pines growing between the rocks. I was witnessing from my balcony how two yellow aeroplanes were fighting the fire by masterfully dropping loads of water on the mountain slope for two days.
The tourists representing various nationalities on the beach seemed rather indifferent to man’s fight against the catastrophe boosted by the climate change. For them, this all seemed to be too distant – unless it led to evacuation of the town in the middle of their own vacationing.
DO YOU HAVE any personal story RELATED TO a social change in your EU/EEC country, which you'd like to share? please use THE CONTACT-page!
(Your stories will remain an anonymous part of the research, unless otherwise agreed.)