About the Photographer
Belgian, b. 1968
Jan Kempenaers photographs monuments throughout the former Yugoslavia, mostly Croatia, which were built in the 1960s and ’70s when that
country was a socialist republic. Originally meant to be reminders of a glorious past and extoll the virtues of a socialist future, many of these monuments went derelict during the war and the dissolution of the republic in the early 1990s; a few were preserved for tourists. Some of the
monuments are figurative, in the tradition of socialist-realist sculpture, but many are abstract concrete and steel forms.
Shooting them each frontally, with no special effects to enhance feelings of either grandeur or disrepair, Kempenaers resists the temptation to portray the relics cynically, but he also refuses to make them pretty. The landscape in which they exist is not important to Kempenaers, and he provides no geographical or historical information. Instead, he simply records the monuments’ mysterious and heavy forms and material. The landscape and its history thus become secondary, undermining our desire to know what these structures symbolize or mean. We are left to our own imaginations; each structure simply reflects its status as a thing that reminds.
Jan Kempenaers completed a PhD in the Visual Arts from the School of Arts Ghent, Belgium (2012). He has held solo exhibitions at Spomenik, Fowler Museum, LA (2013), Kiosk, Ghent, Belgium (2012), De Garage, Mechelen, Belgium (2010), Crown Gallery, Brussels, Belgium (2006), Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2004), and Museum voor Fotografie, Antwerp, Belgium (2001).