Heroes of my time
In the series of photographs entitled Heroes of My Time Jaka Babnik follows the principles of ‘aftermath’ photography in order to document places where some of the most resounding, groundbreaking and unexplained events occurred in the past – events that still influence the socio-political reality in Slovenia today. The artist seeks out specific trees that witnessed covert and concealed events, trees that “saw” what most of the public did not see. He focuses on specific places, the symbolic significance of which have already fallen into oblivion, or have been exploited for different purposes, or simply relegated from public discourse. Quite ordinary seeming places are understood entirely differently once their broader context is revealed, and so the photographer, with his historic obsession and forensic preciseness, creates a topography that opens up questions about the relativity of historical and media discourses, and the ease with which they are modified through time. Among the images are the apple trees that witnessed the mass murder of prisoners, killed by the Nazis in Frankolovo, Slovenia, in the spring of 1945, and was later canonised in local history and mythology; the pine trees that saw the still inadequately clarified assassination of presidential candidate Ivan Kramberger in 1992, a Slovenian version of the JFK assassination; and a pear tree in front of which the arrest of Milan Smolnikar took place in Depala vas, near Ljubljana, the affair that hinted at an attempted coup d’etat in 1992 and ousted the defence minister Janez Janša. Beside their relevance to the immediate political context Babnik’s images raise question about the nature of photographic medium, its production, presentation and distribution.