Long may it wave is an itinerary that takes as
reference flags that wave at different buildings
in Ljubljana (Slovenia). This is one possible
way to raise questions about the city, its
conformation, and development at many different
levels. This proposal becomes an urban action
that aims to explore surroundings, planning,
tourism, temporary elements and routes, and
addresses strategies of space creation and use
in an urban environment.
EXHIBITION AT MoTA POINT
Gosposvetska cesta 12, 1000 Ljubljana
21st June 2014
This is the biggest national flag in the country.
Since Slovenia is part of the EU, the EU flag is permanently
displayed, along with the flag of the Republic of Slovenia, at
the seat of the National Assembly, the National Council, the
President of the Republic and the Government, and during various situations and beside other authorities.
This is a shared protocol in the EU. As a result, country
sovereignty changes. In 1957, the tariff policy was surrendered,
laying the foundations for a single market. In 1992,
currencies – symbols of nationhood as resonant as national
flags – and monetary policies were gone. Nowadays, not only but
especially the countries that have received a bailout are less
able to manoeuver independently.
The EU flag was created in 1985, although it had been already used
by the CoE since 1955. The creation of the European flag is
a mix of historical necessity (to display the sign required from
any political entity) and conjunctural motivation (to become a
It is a recent flag – like the Slovenian – and according to
the resolution 55.32 of the Council of Europe, the blue is
an evocation of the blue of the Western skies, and the stars
represent the people of Europe in a circle, a symbol of
unity; they are invariably 12, symbol of perfection and
completeness. This is why no stars are added when a
country enters the EU.
Does the visual aspect of the flag represent the cultural
references provided by the European idea? The introduction
of the EU banner has been considered a massive shock to
the experience and structures of identification of the people,
whose traumatic effects may have been underestimated,
according to Foret. In 2007, only 54% of Europeans say that
they identify with the emblem.
Flags are mainly a tool for identification and initially had
military purposes. Knights carried flags to distinguish
enemies from friends in battle. Around
1000 BC, the Egyptians used primitive versions of flags made out of wood
or metal. In the Late Middle Ages, flags started to represent
city states and communes. By the end of the 18th century,
the earliest national flags were born and in the 19th and 20th
centuries, almost every state introduced a national flag.
These flags from EU countries have been on Slovenska
Street since 2008, when Slovenia held the EU presidency for six months.
Urban arrangements were carried out by Pazi!Park, a
group of landscape architects. They improved the parking
lot, but it remains as an urban void, a space that disrupts the
tissue of the city, not being used for what it should be or was
intended. In this case, it is a provisional space until the
City Tower, an office building for Telekom Slovenije, can be
built. Actually, there is a flag next to EU country flags
from Immorent, the construction company that is going to construct
the building. They have already obtained all building permits, but are
waiting until the real-estate activity improves. There are
flags from Telekom Slovenije beside the EU flags. In general,
commercial flags are used to attract customers, enhance the recognisability of
products or services and become visible. Telekom flags are
signalling the headquarters of the company. They mark a big
institution, therefore a big power.
Telekom is the largest electronic communications operator
in Slovenia. The Slovenian government is determined to
sell it by the end of 2014 as part of the National Reform
Programme and Stability Programme. Privatisation is a
common measure among countries that are in the
spotlight for a bailout, a shared political strategy that
overcomes the role of the state.
All Western cities search for their singularity to attract tourism
and boom the economy. It is a growing process in Slovenia:
accommodation facilities recorded 3,297,556 tourist arrivals
and the number of tourists in 2012 was 3% higher than in
2011. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are in a
constant battle to attract travellers. This process of building a
distinctive city is usually known as destination personality or
destination brand, a long-term process to evoke emotional
links between tourists and the symbolic value of a place.
“I feel Slovenia” was the last slogan. It addresses both the
characteristics of the country (the Alps, the Mediterranean
Sea…) and the benefits of visiting the country.
A destination brand needs the construction and maintenance
of a national identity through the use of historic symbols in a
selective way. One of these is the national flag. However, in
Slovenia, due to its history and recent conformation as a state,
it is not distinctive enough.
The New York Times referred to this matter as “Slovenia’s
identity crisis”. Slovenia is often confused with Slovakia.
Their flags, which are very similar, do not help.
There have been some proposals to vary the flag. Mladina
magazine organized a contest in 2002, for example.
Besides, there is a thesis that reviews the constitutional
basis to conclude that it is perfectly legal to adopt the vertical
geometric rules for the creation of the Slovenian flag. This
means that the country could use the flag without the
coat of arms and not be confused with Russia. Souvenirs,
understood as mementos that evoke the experiences lived,
also represent and contribute to the singularity of a
place. The stand of the picture, apart of selling souvenirs,
marks the beginning – or the end – of one of the main commercial
and tourist streets of the city, too.
COURT OF AUDIT
The idea of supranational organisms that are not subject to
democratic control and are the true decision makers is
related to the function of the Stock Exchange. In this case,
the Ljubljana Stock Exchange is the only Stock Exchange in
Slovenia. No Slovenian flags wave outside the building. In fact,
the Stock Exchange is not a public institution as such, it is
managed by a holding company named CEESEC, and it does
not have the obligation of displaying the Slovenian and/or the
EU flag outside.
Any Stock Market hosts great capital movements providing
activities that involve trading stocks, bonds and other
securities. Stock exchanges are a symbol of power and they
are usually located within the financial sector of a city. This is also
true in Ljubljana, but the financial area is small.
The squares in front of stock exchanges have been the
scene of protests around the world. We can say that the
public space is the space of representation, where the society
becomes visible. From the Greek agora to the recent protests,
like the Arab revolution or the Occupy movement, the public
space is something from where we can relate/narrate the history of a
city. Therefore, the quality of the public space is the main
condition to acquire citizenship today, according to the urbanist
Jordi Borja. And these citizens have been broadly protesting.
The former Slovenian Prime minister was brought down in part by
street demonstrations in 2013. These protests share a claim
against social injustice, corporate greed and the influence of
companies and lobbyists on governments. In Ljubljana, 15O
protests (2011) took place at Congress Square and later moved
to the Stock Exchange. Protesters occupied the square and
the camp size accommodated 30 tents and 150-200 participants. It ended
in early 2012. During the protests, people carried messages
that we may consider ephemeral and unregulated flags.
Several flags wave in this area: a local flag of the City
of Ljubljana along with the Slovenian and the EU flag. Commercial flags (Metalka Trgovina) and flags from the Free Trade Unions of Slovenia can also be found here.
The three colours of the national flag are usually identified as
colours of liberty and revolution. They take as reference the
French Revolution colours of 1789. Besides, the three-coloured
flags are revolutionary icons across Europe. After the 2nd
World War, the tricolour flag was also used as a basis, but it
included a large red star. In 1991, the new flag with the coat
of arms replaced the star. The coat of arms is a shield with
the image of Mount Triglav (“the Three-Headed”), Slovenia’s highest
peak. Marko Pogačnik designed it as a “cosmogram”, a
geometric figure representing a cosmology. He took a holistic
approach to the territory and energy of the Slovenian identity. He
shaped a coat of arms that aims to connect the country with
its essence and the cosmos.
We can walk around noticing (or not) the flags or any other
symbol, maybe because we are tourists trying to find
something in particular, something included on our tourist
map. It can be also because we are locals used to these
streets. Somehow, this connects with a certain Proustian
idea that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking
new landscapes, but in having new eyes. There is an order
marked by signals, legal regulations, the function of buildings
and urban equipment, all related to decision centres. These
rules are mostly hidden and they are only revealed or evoked
by the absence and exclusion of those who might transgress
them, according to Stan Winford.
In between this planning of urban areas, the citizen has to deal
with everyday life. The drift can be a possibility to disrupt
it: walking as an unproductive action that can question the
logic of the urban rhythm.
Some of the latest protests, not only in Ljubljana but almost
everywhere, target the refusal of austerity, the growing inequality,
the influence of corporations over political powers and the lack of
truly democratic and transparent mechanisms.
It is necessary to have independent institutions to achieve
transparency. According to the last corruption barometer of
international transparency, 49% of Slovenians think that the
corruption is a serious problem in the country, 36% of them consider
that Government’s actions fighting it are very ineffective, and
46% of them believe that the Government is to a large extent run by a
few big entities acting in their own best interests. The Court
of Audit is the main institution dedicated to supervise state
accounts, state budgets and all public spending in Slovenia.
It is independent in the performance of its duties, but since it
is an official institution, the building waves the Slovenian flag,
along with the European one.
The Slovenian flag is formed by three equal horizontal bands
– white, blue, and red – and by the Slovenian coat of arms
in the upper hoist side of the flag, centred in the white and
blue bands. The three-coloured flag first appeared during
the Spring of Nations, and is based on the flag of the Duchy
of Carniola (Kranjska) consisting of a blue eagle on a white
background with a red-and-gold crescent.
The Spring of Nations was a series of political upheavals
throughout Europe in 1848. It remains the most widespread
revolutionary wave in European history, but within a year,
revolutions collapsed. The first Slovenian political programme,
called ’Unified Slovenia’, emerged during this episode. It
demanded to unify all the lands inhabited by Slovenian
people into one province, Slovenia. There, Slovene would be
the official language and it would be an autonomous province
within the Habsburg monarchy.