AMORELLA

Analogue photographs, Leica and medium format, 2018 / digital print 2019

The project is aimed at the valuation of the shipbuilding industry and maritime identity, and it was realised last year in collaboration with two Croatian museums, the Croatian Maritime Museum in Split and the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla in Zagreb. It consisted of the exhibition of photographs and a bilingual photo book in Croatian and English. Both the visual and the textual aspects of the project present ships built in the Split Shipyard in the period from 1937 to 2012, exploring achievements of our shipbuilding industry as well as its impact on connecting different maritime cultures in the world.

The highlighted ship, the symbol of not just my project but also of the peak of the Croatian shipbuilding industry in general, is the Viking Line ferry boat Amorella, built in 1988 in Split. From then onwards, Amorella still continues to connect Mariehamn with Stockholm and Turku, and as such represents the longest running ship in history on that route that is so vital for the life of the Åland Islands and its inhabitants. This year Viking Line will replace Amorella with a new ship built in the Republic of China, which might be an emotional event in the life of her passengers and citizens for whom she represents a significant part of the city’s image.

Besides Amorella, until 2013 the same route was served by her twin sister Isabella that is still sailing in the Baltic Sea between Stockholm and Riga. The third twin sister Gabriella, built in 1992 also in Split, still connects Mariehamn with Stockholm and Helsinki. These ferry boats are not the only ships built in Split that are still sailing between Finnish, Swedish and other Baltic ports. For example, company Steana AB Groupe has built many active cargo ships in Amorella’s birth town, too.

At the exhibition “Amorella – A Floating City”, I presented a series of 33 photographs of models of large passenger, cargo, military and specialty ships built in Split Shipyard for many different international clients. Another exhibited series of photographs was taken on Amorella in December 2018 and here stands to represent Amorella as a great accomplishment of Split’s shipbuilding industry in the 20th century whose construction is still vividly alive in the memory of a few generations of citizens of Split.

Both exhibitions in Split and Zagreb were popular with the public and had an immense media visibility in Croatia. As a consequence of that, I was invited to stage a multimedia exhibition titled “The Sea as a Common Place” aboard Amorella as part of the “Curating Art Programme” of the Stockholm University in May 2019.

Among other things, my project was exploring the possibilities of presenting a rich shipbuilding heritage in a contemporary museum context and as such advocates the construction of the Sea Museum in the city port of Split, one of the largest Mediterranean passenger ports.

This is the reason for the usage of archival and museological methods in the concept of my art project which also led to exhibition design associated with museological praxis and textual forms similar to encyclopaedic or muselogical notes. It is no surprise that Croatian museums recognized the project. Croatian Maritime Museum in Split accepted the invitation to become the co-publisher of the project publication and the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla in Zagreb invited and hosted the exhibition for three months during autumn and winter 2019/2020. Aside from those institutions, the project was funded by the Maritime Faculty, the Shipbuilding Faculty and the Economy Faculty of the Split University, the Croatian Ministry of Culture, City of Split and many sponsors from the local economy.

During the exhibition and the following programme, we witnessed many strong emotional reactions of those who built Amorella and other citizens of Split who were interested in her construction and continued to follow her future maritime adventures. That makes us believe that her departure from the Stockholm-Mariehamn-Turku route she has been serving for almost 33 years, will also be an emotional, notable moment in the life of the inhabitants of her cities, and as such something worth commemorating.

Those emotions of the people involved in the life of a ship in different ways, along with other interesting facts, are the reason for which we are memorizing ships in culture, they are the reason for the existence of the maritime museums, and also the reason for this collaborative proposal and the visit of the «Amorella – A Floating City» project in Mariehamn.