Mechanical Dream is a multi-media piece by Iva Kontić that consists of series of photographs, a painting and a documentary video. The presentation was initially released on VASA Film Series and the film can be viewed HERE.
The ten-minute video gives insight into crude reality of political and economic transition in Serbia following the case study of Crvena Zastava [red flag] car factory in Kragujevac, Serbia. The factory used to be one of the driving forces of former socialist industry in Yugoslavia which produced domestic brand of cars affordable to (mostly) every individual. Zastava became one of the most significant Yugoslav trademarks that is still deeply rooted in the collective memory of the people since almost every family would own one in the 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays, when due to the poor economic situation in Serbia (and across former Yugoslavia) nostalgia for the past became omnipresent Zastava represents one of the most notable remnants of the period when social welfare was guaranteed. However, nostalgia is inevitably related to romanticizing.
Zastava was actually not original product of Yugoslav industry but rather a licensed brand based on Fiat engines and design. Despite that fact these cars became a matter of national pride and identity. However, with the collapse of the state in 1991 and consequent civil wars the factory faced inevitable decline. The town of Kragujevac which used to be called Yugoslav Detroit went into permanent state of crisis suffering from unemployment and lack of prospect. It is indeed a classic story of economic transition where common property slowly slipped into private hands. And thus in 2011 Fiat announced takeover of the company which by that time reduced its production capacity to the minimum; partly due to the economic breakdown and partly due to the damage caused by the NATO bombardment in 1999 which completely destroyed the most vital part of the factory. The artist focused on the period of insecurity after the factory was shut down. She interviewed (former) workers who spoke about the slow but consistent necrosis of the company and about the town which lost its initial purpose. The insightful interviews interpreted by the artist (as most of the people did not want to speak in front of the camera) are combined by the footages of the streets of Kragujevac showing the quintessential picture of post-industrial impoverished environment. Factories and companies are replaced with kitschy shopping malls, former local products are replaced by multinational brands – the globalisation at its worse. Therefore Kontić showcased the transition from industrial into consumerist society and its effect on the local community. It is just another example of economic occupation.