A Memorial for the Twenty-First Century: The Timelessness of the Bosnian Stećak and Its Relevance to Contemporary Visual Art

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Di Mauro, Sebastian

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Halilovich, Hariz

Lovrenovic, Dubravko

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This visual art research project responds to the sculptural and social phenomenon of Stećak (pl. Stećci), a type of monumental tombstone that was prolific in mediaeval Bosnia (later Bosnia and Herzegovina) and surrounding areas at the time. The art of Stećak emerged in the area that divides and connects the East and West (the ‘Orient’ and the ‘Occident’). A specific expression of the mediaeval sepulchral art, the Stećak is the result of an overlap and fusion of different cultures; primarily, Western European, Mediterranean, Byzantine, and South Slavic. Due to the differences in type, shape, volume, decorative motifs, inscriptions, and historic context, the Stećak represents a unique phenomenon within the mediaeval European artistic and archaeological heritage. These monuments were officially recognised on a global scale on 15 July 2016, when a number of Stećci were included on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. While the Stećak temporally belongs to the wider European medieval period, it also parallels other sculptural traditions from prehistory to, paradoxically, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As a Bosnian national and trained sculptor, I have been aware of these monoliths for most of my life, though this research represents my first concerted engagement with them. Through my theoretical and practice-based research, I have come to recognise this old Bosnian sculptural practice as an anachronistic knot, or fusion, of different stone sculptural expressions and traditions. With its layered content, the art of the Stećak is highly applicable and adaptable within the context of contemporary and memorial art. Thus, I contextualise, contrast, and compare the mediaeval Stećak with its sculptural contemporaries—the work of other artists and also my own that have similar memorialising functions.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Queensland College of Art

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East and West (the ‘Orient’ and the ‘Occident’)

Art, Bosnia

Sculpture, Bosnia

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