When I said that I was going to visit Ljubljana the first thing that people asked me is “where did you say that you were you going?” The second question was how on earth do you pronounce it? So for those of you who are still uncertain here it is phonetically – lyoo-BLYAH-nah and if you don’t know where it is, it’s in Slovenia.
Street art or graffiti in Metelkova Mesto?
Ljubljana is a beautiful city, clean, laid back and picture postcard perfect. There is however another side to the town about a 15 min walk away from the old town centre. It’s known as Metelkova Mesto and is one of the largest urban squats in Europe. It sprawls across about 12 500 sq meters of an old abandoned army base. It is also the home of alternate art and music. This is Ljubljana’s version of Copenhagen’s Christiania best known for its inhabitant’s alternate lifestyles.
Metelkova began its life in 1990 with the idea of using the barracks for creative purposes. In 1991, after the Ten Day War, the Yugoslav People’s Army withdrew from the site then in 1993 it was decided to demolish the site. So that they could protect it squatters moved in and created ‘Metelkova Mesto’ as a cultural centre.
After numerous attempts to remove the squatters the government gave up and in 1994, with a change in government, all charges against the squatters were dropped and the ruined buildings were brought back to life by the inhabitants.
When I walked through it during the day it was deserted, except for a couple of people lazing around in the sun. There was an eerie feel about it. Even so I felt safe. The walls are crumbling and there are upturned oil drums all over. Rusted sculptures, vibrant tiles and brightly painted walls stand juxtaposed. There are mosaics, urban art installations and of course, graffiti everywhere, or is it street art?
Street art or graffiti?
This brought up an interesting dilemma for me. What’s the difference? To me it was street art so I delved a little deeper to satisfy my own curiosity.
The general consensus is that both are subversive art movements. A graffiti artist usually does not want the work to speak to the general public. They are expressing themselves to other graffiti artists. Street artists want you to engage in their work. They are trying to make a statement. Both forms can be seen as contemporary art. To me Metelkova is an expression of street art, but to you it might mean something different.
At night the area comes alive with hipsters, locals, squatters and even the occasional tourist who can be found looking for a lively night out. Music can be heard wafting on the breeze until the early hours of the morning.
Exhibitions, installations and performances are held during the year. Underground artists and DJS come from all over to embrace the alternate lifestyle of this city.
The area also includes the notorious prison that has now been turned into an incredibly cool boutique hostel. The prison was built in 1882 and was used for a 100 years before it was abandoned. In 2003 the newly refurbished prison opened its doors as the Celica Hostel. Find out more about this amazing hostel in a separate post.
Whatever you do don’t miss visiting this quirky, vibrant part of town. It’s like nothing else I have ever seen! To say nothing of the fact that I was completely taken by surprise, but I was also fascinated by the expressive art. Why not explore it and decide for yourself if it is street art or graffiti?
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