Ivo Grbic's Exhibition in His Burnt Home (April-December 1993), photo by Frana Grbic 1993.
Following attacks by the Yugoslav army in 1991, local artists used the Old City of Dubrovnik—its ruins, boarded-up monuments and shop windows—to create site-specific public artworks. Local photographers documented the destruction of the Old City, raising international awareness to the plight of the Croatian people and the attempt to eradicate their culture. Focusing on three case studies, I examine how the artists of Dubrovnik coped with the circumstances of war through these public acts, anthropomorphizing the city, and at the same time contributing to a new Croatian consciousness as the nation struggled for its independence.
The first case study examines the site-specific exhibitions of artist Ivo Grbi´c? on the grounds of his home and studio which had been bombed. Grbi´c? converted this burnt out site into an ongoing exhibition space that drew large audiences. The second case study analyzes the impromptu collaborative public art project by professional and amateur artists that took place during Christmas time in December 1991. The project, which consisted of murals on the Old City’s landmarks and shop windows, was emotionally important to the population as an act of defiance to “break the psychosis of fear.” The final case study examines Pavo Urban’s photographs of the besieged city’s architecture and citizens, which functioned both as memorials of wartime atrocities and as triggers for the formation of a new national identity after the war’s end.