After a day or so of overcoming jetlag, Sonja and Darko suggested that I go for a walk and discover Blato on my own. I will go in fresh without any preconceived ideas or input from them if they were with me, as they would potentially tarnish my response and reaction to the place as I wandered the streets. So this I did…
As I wandered around Blato I became very aware of the close proximity of the houses to one another.
I imagined that Blato began as a village and grew on from there into the town it is now.
I thought it would be interesting to find out when the main road was built, the park, the council buildings, etc.. as they seem to have decent amount of space and what looked like a potential plan in their build, surrounding physical space, etc.. Also when were the roads surfaced and sealed?
I can see many layers in the changes of Blato just in the creation/build of the town. As a result of growth one can see the changes in the styles of the buildings and add-ons along the way. Many houses have varying textures.
Rock seems to be the main material and varying techniques are visible, e.g. tiled roofing using thick rock that looks like slate, large rocks form the corners of the foundation, the walls, etc…
These changes I am assuming also show the exodus of people who may have left their houses bare and abandoned. These abandoned houses remind me of a conversation with Sonja. We were discussing photography and different cultures’ responses to the photo since it was invented. Sonja mentioned how she had read that some indigenous tribes believed that taking a photo takes one’s soul away. For this reason many indigenous people rejected photos being taken of them.
With this thought I was looking at the street, houses and spaces as places where a “soul” or “trace” may have been left behind from those who left.
I was asking myself:
- Where are their “traces”?
- Where did they once live?
- Were their houses taken over and repurposed? or
- Were they abandoned? A reminder the owners were no longer there.
As I wandered and observed, a lot has been left behind – most likely in the last few years, e.g. food wrappers, bottles of drink both juice and alcohol, etc.. These obvious traces imply people’s current movement through the space.
The town is not abandoned, it is just something that stood out, it was a real contrast as the rest of the town is in good order and is being well taken care of – so these spaces I focused on are perhaps the “traces” I was looking for, the hidden, the unseen and the absence…
There were houses where curtains were left hanging in a window of a seemingly derelict building. The building looked long abandoned with little glass remaining, semi-broken doors but stone remaining steadfast despite the years, decades and I’m sure centuries of change. The stone holding everything together.
Traces of previous buildings retaining an almost shadow of a building that was once there, or has been added onto giving it a new lease of life.
Stone are the foundations, the material of the walls clearly visible as the blocks for the walls and in more recent times the rock in the cement used for now concrete walls. Rock is everywhere, big and small.
The buildings can tell us much of the changes of the town without talking to the people – we can surmise and project onto these inanimate (or not, depending how you judge their organic changes) existing structures.
So by studying the buildings we can learn a lot – but what of the traces of people living, remaining, visiting, leaving, returning? etc..
These are some of the questions I hope to discover:
- What kind of gap was left behind?
- Skills, business, was the town in shock or in mourning as a result?
- When did people in Blato know where those who left landed?
- How long did it take?
- How did they feel?
- Which countries?
- Did any return, to either live back in Blato or on a holiday?
- What did they leave behind?
This exploration was of the physical town. As I slowly wandered around the small streets I often felt like I was trespassing onto people’s properties. The town is so intimate that I was noticed and observed but also acknowledged through greetings from everyone I crossed paths with – “dobar dan”, “ciao” or “bok”.
The town felt like an almost Escher-like space, it was hard to tell at times what came first and where some things began and where other things ended.
For more visit Blato Walk