Playing with ‘Variations on Mobility’, the four Creative Commissions teams in 2019-2020 have developed their projects along different trajectories traced by the unfolding movements of People, Objects, Texts and Ideas across times and spaces. As small groups composed of academics who have embraced art in their research practices, or artists working in collaboration with scholars across various disciplinary backgrounds, the Commissions engage different Theories and Methods of mobility, working with ethnographic, archival, historical, anthropological, geographical and creative methodologies. The following text and original images represent a short abstract realised by the team to help us follow the path of their creative work.

The Former State Project | Progress Post #3 On representing Yugoslavia: the case of Spomenik

The Former State Project: A Journey through Yugoslavia studies mobilities and the geo-humanities, the textual landscapes represented in a travel-guide and the project team update the form through a novel take on the travel-writing genre: a multi-media travel-guide about a place that is no longer. The project team (as stated in progress report #2 on the academic output from this project), were unable to trace the journey taken in a travel-book written prior to the formation of a socialist Yugoslavia. Yet while static we produced a paper to be published in Dialogues in Human Geography (co-author Carl Dahlman), and two creative outputs that were funded through this commission, with each artist receiving the funding to complete this work. The first creative output is a series of poems that will make up a collection called Spomenik, and the second creative output is a lyric video that considers mobility and text.

In a digital age, the former Yugoslavia holds a place in the imagination through the images that we are subjected to through social media. Mostly these are images of giant concrete monuments in various states of repair, and they fit the retro-futuristic aesthetic that we view the former state through. Simon Barraclough began to research these monuments and to engage with them, writing a series of poems, each involving a different process of looking at these objects and crafting words to describe them. Jack Wake-Walker then spent time experimenting with new technologies to make a film using the words from one poem to reflect upon the movement of words, with the film itself resembling a virtual Spomenik experience in a landscape that is void – perhaps getting at precisely the issue at hand, this landscape is more than representational, and there is a lived landscape of the former Yugoslavia as we explored in progress report #1 and progress report #2.


Spomenik I: Ink Poems

Spomenik II: Found Poem

Spomenik III: Eyebombs

Spomenik IV: Clickbait

Spomenik V: Mostar Random


Spomenik III: Eyebombs (Lyric Video)


This final progress report marks the end of this stage of The Former State Project which could be considered the remote, distant, static stage prior to the embodied, present, and mobile stage that will take place in early 2022 when the project team finally trace the journey made by Rebecca West in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – now, however, we do so with a greater understanding of what is at stake in such travel writing about the Balkans, which is the imperialism of the geographical imagination as represented in travel writing on this region. These concerns are explored in the first academic output from this project co-authored with Carl Dahlman which focuses on a contested riverscape between Serbia and Croatia. It is called, ‘Montage space: borderlands, micronations, terra nullius, and the imperialism of the geographical imagination’ and is forthcoming in the journal, Dialogues in Human Geography.

James Riding, March 2021