Marija Mojca Pungerčar: From the Brotherhood and Unity series
Authors of the included photographs:
Leopold Pungerčar Sr. (left-hand photo, 1958)
Nada Žgank (right-hand photo, 2006).
The Brotherhood and Unity project is a story of two roads and the people who built them. It is set in the vicinity of Novo mesto, on the site of the 2006 roadwork on the Hrastje–Lešnica leg of the A2 highway, which opened on 23 June that year.
The year 1958 saw the construction of the main Dolejnsko arterial road on the same site, part of the so-called Brotherhood and Unity Highway, built by volunteer Youth Labor Brigades from all of the former Yugoslav republics. My father Leopold Pungerčar took photos of the volunteers working there as well as living on the site in shacks. The photographs were intended as mementos for the workers commemorating their work in this shock brigade.
Nearly 40 years later, in 2006, I returned to the same spot with photographer Nada Žgank, to take photos of construction workers employed by various contractors building a new section of the highway. I conceived the photographic compositions as montages of shots from the past and the present, entering into dialog in this way and underscoring the remarkable coincidence of two construction sites on the same location at different times and under different social systems.
The second part of the project consists of a documentary video of workers at work on construction sites and in workers’ hostels where they lived in 2006. For the most part, the workers were from former Yugoslav republics, permanently or temporarily employed in Slovenia. While the erstwhile shock labor had a higher goal and purpose in connecting volunteers of various nationalities and backgrounds, the workers in 2006 only shared the fate of not being able to find enough work to make a living in their home environments. Formerly part of the common homeland, Slovenia was now for them merely a foreign country where, away from home, separated from their families and often destined to a lifetime of seasonal work, they built the modern infrastructure of progress and the future.
The Brotherhood and Unity project saw its first public showing in 2006 at my solo show at the Simulaker Gallery in Novo mesto. My late father would have been amazed today to see all the places his photographs have been seen since: Graz, Sarajevo, Velenje, Cetinje, Pordenone, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Vienna as many as three times.
Marija Mojca Pungerčar, 2015
Courtesy of the artist.