26 works were submitted for a competition released in March, while the panel of judges unanimously decided on the unusual solution of the author duo Robert Ozić and Filip Tadin. Despite being completely aware that such a solution is bound to provoke mixed reactions in a small-town community, they wanted to steer clear of the conventional ways in which defenders are portrayed. The panel of judges included representatives of various Croatian political parties (CDU, SDP, HDSSB), as well as representatives of defenders’ organizations , while all were in agreement that the Freedom Square in Beli Manastir is in dire need of a major overhaul.
The authors’ primary task was to preserve the poetic from the pathetic and by way of simple form select a plethora of symbolism. A piece of land with a tree raised on columns would be the shortest description of the work. It consists of polished inox steel columns that raise the flattened platform made from composite materials. Grass and a Slavic oak as symbols of life grow on the platform. The columns symbolize defenders, while the land itself is a symbol of Croatia. They raise her up and celebrate her, while at the same time creating a landing which can house a spectator, protecting him.
The size of the monument is approximately 5×5 and it’s situated in the midst of the Square as a pavilion in itself, for solely practical functions. Compositionally, the work can be interpreted as a modern reinterpretation of the triumphal arch. Use of historical references is also reflected through the use of columns as a visual arts expression denoting winning, triumph (Trajan’s) or strength (Doric). Likewise, the tree has served as a symbol of life and connection to the otherworldly since the Prehistoric Period.
The emphasis is on celebrating life, its fragility, interpersonal solidarity, while the authors were particularly inspired by excerpts from Siniša Glavašević’s “Stories from Vukovar”:
“Who will protect my city, my friends, who will carry Vukovar out of the dark?
No one’s back is stronger than mine and yours, and thus, if it’s not too hard, if there’s still enough youthful breath left in you, join us.”
The judges conclusion:
The work “Croatian Land” is an exceptional urban sculpture with architectural elements, carried out with a combination of materials giving it exceptional static and architectural strength. The work is envisioned as a contemporary urban pavilion. A piece of convex concave dynamic pane is situated on its many columns made from polished stainless steel, envisioned as a piece of elevated Croatian holy land. The columns are pegged down into an armed concrete foundation board. They symbolically represent defenders’ hands, as well as the liberated Croatian people. They can be read as a modern reinterpretation of the triumphant arch, while the 12 columns carry a strong Biblical symbolism (the 12 apostles). The pavilion is a hymn to the defenders’ courage in defending their country from the aggressor. On the elevated pane an oak tree is growing. The tree is a symbol of nature and eternal dialectic self-renewing life energy. Semiotically, this work can be interpreted as a contemporary artistic code as well as a creative potential with a universal meaning, which, as such, could be set anywhere in the world.
This pavilion is envisioned to leave its imprint as a long-lasting trace in space and time with certain metaphysical and transcendental meaning. The highest level of quality this original work achieves with its suggestive strength of envisioning the future. It is not a surface and short-term solution that cheaply flirts with conventional symbols and signs, it has the power of a well-thought-out form with a highly expressive imprint of a strongly connected simple form and profound symbolic-allegorical-iconographical content.
The young authors, Jozić & Tadin is already an award-winning duo, the monument in Kašteli having been realized. The monument to slain defenders in Zagvozd is underway, however, in Osijek, in view of the Starčević monument, hasn’t been that lucky, despite the City committing itself to realize the winning project. They managed to enrapture the expert panel of judges with their conceptual solution, while the then mayor Anto Đapić wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about their idea and insisted the third-place figurative solution by Miro Vuco be realized.