Mechanical Dream has been inspired by the news that Crvena Zastava, a state car factory from former Yugoslavia (now in Serbia), had been sold to Italian automobile magnate Fiat. The work deals with culture and social phenomenon which this event had triggered. It explores different aspects of collective identity as defined by political and economic dynamics in the today’s shifting reality, starting from a particular case in the Eastern European context. Being a major industry product of the former communist state, Crvena Zastava cars contributed both in a historic and a symbolic way to the creation of the ‘authentic’ national identity to Yugoslav nations; yet, they were imitating foreign car models (mostly Fiat’s) from the very beginnings of the factory. In accordance to ambitions and paradoxes of the system that produced them, those cars represented something of a collective “mechanical dream”, which was synonymous to the 20th century progressive West and of its consumer-driven society. U.S. was actually the market where Crvena Zastava (Serb. ‘red flag’) reached its exportation peak! After the break apart of Yugoslavia in 1990’s, which was followed by the general collapse of its economy (lead by the same car factory), the image of socialist society changed dramatically: its ‘authentic’ values disappeared and its former identity was deconstructed entirely. The new fate of the factory - as that of many other factories in countries in transition - and its social reality bring a ‘solution’ for that crisis; a solution whose consequences remain unknown when viewed through the lens of economic and cultural colonialism.

Mechanical Dream has developed into a series of five photographs, a single-channel video and a painting. Commissioned by Cairo Prize 12, the work was first presented in the form of a mixed-media installation at Museo della Permanente, Milan. It has been subsequently shown both as installation and separately as video, photo-series or painting.


2011 |  photographic series - video - painting / installation
Mechanical Dream
Mechanical Dream
Mechanical Dream
Mechanical Dream
Mechanical Dream

VIDEO |  HD 16:9, colour-sound, language Serbian, subtitles English, 11:00 min

The video introduces the viewer to the local reality of Crvena Zastava. Following the visit to the factory and its location, the video displays the current factory architecture and cityscape by using a relay of static shots and moving the camera. The narration of the video consists of the parts from interviews made with the factory’s former and current employees. Intimate expectations, fears and the mood of the locals towards the moment of transformation have been “neutralized” and “concealed” by my monotonous reading of their statements. The video is intermitted by 30-second inserts from old Zastava TV commercials found on Youtube.

PAINTING |  acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 200 x 140 cm

Mechanical Dream also includes a painting of panoramic dimensions, which is based on photographs of the damaged factory following the 1999 bombing, found on the Internet. The painting alludes on the historic-fantasy genre from the Western European painting tradition of the 18th and 19th century, and it contains a patchwork made of newspapers which document some of the economic and political moments over the past year. The painting works both as a diorama background for the video inside the installation and as autonomous painting.

Mechanical Dream - installation

Museo della Permanente, Milan | Beo_Project, Belgrade | Kunsthaus Essen, Essen

PHOTOGRAPHIC SERIES |  five photographs, lambda print, 42 x 30 cm

The series of five photographs reconstructs and interprets old commercials of different models of Zastava cars, which were emblematic of the marketing strategies of the period as well as the values of the then system. Naïve and enthusiastic about the consumerist reality, they imitate the “western” models with all their seduction mechanisms and fabrication of desires. 

Following the standard formula “car + woman” of the original commercials, the new pseudo-commercials are created - this time, with myself interpreting a fashion model, while the background of new “commercials” is contextualised by the present urban landscape and everyday setting of Zastava cars.

© by Iva Kontic

I Spy with My Little Eye, Kunsthaus Essen, Essen