During the communist period, the regime erected a large number of so-called lapidars in virtually every village, town, and city in Albania. These concrete monoliths on the one hand functioned as monuments commemorating a variety of “heroes of the nation” and “partizans” but on the other also monumentalized the presence of the communist party in every part of the country. Their function as markers of social progress as well as commemoration is clearly shown in the 1984 Kinostudio documentary “Lapidari.” The ubiquity of these monumental structures and their relative opacity in the current cityscape – neither being demolished nor maintained, but having largely fallen into disrepair – makes them emblematic of the common attitude toward the undigested communist past of Albania. Moreover, they are unique cultural asset to Albania and mapping their presence would be essential to develop cultural tourism, as well as foreign and domestic research interest.
The research project “Albanian Lapidar Survey” involves archival research into the construction and topography of all lapidars in Albania and their historical context. Moreover, an effort will be made to photograph and geotag all remaining lapidars in Albania, the results of which will be disseminated online as well as in the publication of a catalogue raisonné. Although forms of communist monumentality have led to a number of artistic projects in other post-communist countries such as ex-Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the current project intends to overcome a mere esthetic appreciation of communist architecture but rather provide a thorough documentation of a unique mode of communist monumentality, making them accessible as possible for future research through an online database and open access publication.
During June and July 2014, 50 days of field work have been undertake by researcher Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, photographer Marco Mazzi, and assistant photographer Xheni Alushi. The final two-volume catalogue, to appear in a bilingual (English/Albanian) edition and as free PDF at Punctum Books, Brooklyn, will contain contributions by Julian Bejko, Matthias Bickert, Raino Isto, Kosta Giakoumis, Gëzim Qëndro, and Muharrem Xhafa, as well as archive material