Perlen der Adria

2007-2012 | mixed media

"The land of 1000 Islands" was one of the touristic slogans, which attracted more then 11,5 millions visitors to Croatia in 2011. It refers to the archipelago, which makes about 71% of the nation's coastal line and plays a big role in the touristic industry. It’s less well known that, not so long ago, some of these popular tourist destinations were military strongholds. During the Cold War, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) constructed various sites to defend against potential sea attack from its NATO enemy. While the neighbouring islands and coastal region developed into internationally renowned holiday destinations, the outer Adriatic islands were handed the role of first frontline. Large areas of the islands were declared restricted military zones, and the entirety of Vis and Lastovo were closed to non-Yugoslavians for almost 40 years (until 1988).

The fall of the iron curtain, the break-up of Yugoslavia with its resulting wars, technological shifts in the art of war and, finally, Croatia’s membership in NATO rendered these seafront high-security facilities obsolete. The army abandoned most of them during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and never became therefore operative. These sites, many of them located on “places of outstanding natural beauty”, remain for the most part empty. Because of military classified information and the following Yugoslavian civil war, in which the once united army splited into enemy units fighting against each other, the island's inhabitants and the former military service servants, form the only accessible information source, which can give further information to the original function and new usage of single facilities.

Conversations with "initiated islands inhabitants" form the basis of Antonia Dika's body of work with the thematic since 2007. In the work "pearls of the Adriatic" the cartographic geotagging of the former military facilities are confronted with the actual description of the official touristic offices of the single islands, whose goal is to motivate potential tourists to visit exactly this single island. In a photographic series Daniele Ansidei captures, on one hand the current status of the facilities and on the other tries to categorise the repeating typologies of the constructions and their embedding in the landscape.

"Pearls of the Adriatic" by Antonia Dika and Daniele Ansidei was shown as contribution within the framework of "Desertmed. A project about the deserted islands of the Mediterranean"