I do not think that testifying to the exigencies of community or freedom,
and then elaborating their meaning, is a modest task. – Christopher Fynsk

In 1968, the Belgian conceptual artist Marcel Broodthaers created the first of a series of installations entitled Musée de l’art moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles), a fictional museum department without building or collection, only existing as a constellation of ideas, debates, exhibitions, lectures, objects, and labels. The Département des Aigles was first of all a space in which it was possible to imagine what a museum could be.

In 2011, the Department of Eagles was established in Tirana, Albania — the ‘Country of Eagles’ — as a weekly reading group bringing together students and scholars from diverse disciplines in an attempt to reinvigorate the discourse of the “liberal arts.” Over the last years, this interdisciplinary group has developed into an independent project bureau for artists and thinkers in and beyond Albania.

Albanian Lapidar Survey
50

Days

657

Monuments

7547

Kilometers

53427

Photos

The three-volume catalogue Lapidari is now available through Punctum Books.
About the Albanian Lapidar Survey

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 exYugoslavia 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

Albanian Lapidar Survey Documentary
Publication "Lapidari"

In June and July 2014, philologist Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and photographer Marco Mazzi undertook the Albanian Lapidar Survey, a project to map, document, and photograph the large majority of Albanian lapidars, a particular type of monument, mainly produced in the period that the communist Labor Party of Albania ruled the country (1945–1990) to commemorate the partisan victims, battles, and military units from the National Anti-Fascist Liberation War (which coincided with World War II), as well as historical figures from before the liberation and the accomplishments of socialism in Albania afterward.

These lapidars, which can still be found, albeit in ever decreasing numbers, all over the country — in cities and villages, alongside roads, in forests and on mountain passes — are witness to an enormous expenditure of labor and resources to turn the landscape into a site of what was called “monumental propaganda.” The Albanian Lapidar Survey aimed to capture these monuments as fact.

The results of this project are collected into a three-volume catalogue, under the title Lapidari. The first volume comprises a series of critical reflections on Albanian monumentality of the period 1945–1990 from a variety of perspectives, as well as historical documents and a full indexation of all inscriptions found on the documented monuments. Volumes 2 and 3 feature the photographic documentation of all 649 recorded monumental sites by photographer Marco Mazzi.

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