MADE IN YUGOSLAVIA/前南斯拉夫製造
In the 1960s, The Beat Generation and its bible—Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—gave way to the hippie movement; a world of indulgence and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll set to a soundtrack by the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first step on the moon. Meanwhile, under the leadership of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, the Soviet Union struggled to join the space race with the United States. On the dance floor of international politics, Elizabeth II, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were still active; the Berlin wall was firmly in place as the Cold War simmered, Kennedy was assassinated and Martin Luther King had a dream.
But while the spotlight was shining brightly on the Western World, what was happening elsewhere? The popular iconography of socialism—Che Guevara’s romantic silhouette—gave youngsters the idealistic and romanticized illusion of guerrilla warfare played out in Central America. But closer to home, on the borders of the free world and the Communist union, the Former Yugoslavia was striving for independence from the Soviet Union and the United States as the leading member of Non-Aligned Movement. The country was fast becoming an orphan with no name, forgotten and left to build its own monuments to the fallen.
On September 2016, I began the shooting my Former Yugoslavia Series. The Republic of Yugoslavia was established in 1945, after the last monarch Peter II abandoned the country to Marshal Tito, whose socialist flag flew until 1991. Now the country is divided into six republics and two autonomous regions. The area and its history fascinated me, as I come from the founding period of another socialist country—the People’s Republic of China. As my homeland goes through abrupt changes, I find myself becoming ever more curious about what happens to a land after a socialist state is broken down and disappears. I hoped through my lens to explore life in the former Yugoslavia after decades of war.
In the Balkans, many people were forced to leave their villages because of the war, and the follow-up troops destroyed their houses. Even after the war, they cannot return home. Their lives as minority groups and individuals would be in danger in a region dominated by a different ethnic group. Some people are still being squeezed by oppression, losing their livelihoods and even their lives. They did nothing wrong, their only mistake was to live in a part of the world where those in charge stirred up national disputes and intensified national contradictions.
After this project, I came to understand how a communist state rose and fell, what happened after its disintegration, and what it meant for its people. In addition, I am now realizing more deeply the kind of impact ethnic conflicts bring to a country. I see the wounds of civil war and national division clearly, wounds that remain unhealed even seventeen years later. One of the reasons that I undertook this project was to show everyone a possibility—and a warning. If we can see the consequences of racial conflicts, we will hopefully not repeat the mistakes of the Former Yugoslavia.