33 photographs printed on aluminum composite material followed by short stories written by Nikola Bajto; photographed in 2018. / printed in 2019.

In the 20th century, the Yugoslav shipbuilding industry was one of the 6 leading industries of its kind in the world, and the Brodosplit Shipyard in Split its largest production plant that, to this day, extends over half of the city’s northern shoreline. During the last few decades, the construction of more than 450 ships generated approximately 12,000 jobs in the city of barely 200,000 people. Such a formidable shipyard fostered development and growth of technological and scientific centres, universities and national shipbuilding companies, thus preserving the maritime identity of its population.    

As a consequence of the global relocation of the industry to the more competitive east, and following the privatisation contract with the EU, Brodosplit lost its commissioned orders and state subventions, so the remaining 2,000 workers are currently counting down their last months of employment. 

Split changed as a result of losing its industry, it became a monochromatic tourist destination whose economy is measured only in numbers of overnight stays abstract in meaning. Local administrative structures do not even recognize the potential of its cultural heritage and contemporary artistic practices, which serve, during warmer seasons, merely as perfumed water to the hospitality industry that is eroding the most valuable urban spaces.   

At the same time, the industrial ambient of the centennial shipbuilding tradition, which is in its death throes in Split, continues to hide the living memory about the origin of the modern city and the new middle-class society that snatched its population out of the Balkan rural mud. However, there is an undoubtedly attractive material that recounts the success story and accomplishments of this working middle-class in Split in the 20th century, that is hidden away in the closed museum on the shipyard grounds. The models of passenger, cargo, military and specialty ships, look like toys in today’s world without a real marketplace for them. There is something in them that is the equivalent of dreams and desires of the people who built them, those who sailed them and those who waited for them. Each model signifies one ship launch and the long voyage of its crew, while they jointly represent the communal launching of the entire society into a “brave new world,” which we are now looking at from the ship’s stern as we sail away into some unknown, unstable seas.  

The ship’s names are inscribed on the models using different typefaces, languages and scripts, and they concurrently inscribe maritime and geographical maps, and connect different ports, people and cultures. When searching for the ships’ names on the internet, it is possible to find details about the ships themselves, for example, we are able to follow changes in ownership or the names themselves which were obviously motivated by different geopolitical situations, we are able to find out where they sailed from, where they are currently sailing to, or when and at which boat scrapyard they perished. Nomen est nomen, and the model too.  

Multimedia Cultural Centre, Split, April 2019
Technical Museum Nikola Tesla Zagreb, 2019 – 2020