The Monsters of Metelkova Mesto
I have a large archive of photographs from past trips, so every Friday I will be posting a FRIDAY FLASHBACK of a previous adventure. Sometimes it will be a full post, sometimes it will just highlight a single photograph. Whichever way, I hope you enjoy it.
The offbeat is my jam.
The punky, the funky, the colorfully chaotic. The eerie and alternative and eclectic. I like re-appropriated art and spray paint and neon lights and trashy clashy kitschy aesthetics. I used to collect mannequin heads. I am The Wild Mind. It’s for me.
So when I heard about an autonomous alternative artist squat on former army barracks in the heart of Ljubljana, Slovenia, I knew that I HAD to go.
Its name is Metelkova Mesto, and it captured my imagination. Beyond the fact that the phrase “autonomous alternative artist squat” already made me giddy, it was located in Eastern Europe—in the former Yugoslavia!—in a city with consonants smashing into each other in bizarre places. And this makes my heart race.
My sister Hillary and I travelled to Ljubljana during our 2011 backpacking trip and were immediately smitten. The city is a dream, full of riverside cafes, rolling green parks, art festivals, live music, and bicycles. So we rented some cheap bikes for the day and rode through the summer heat to the heart of Metelkova.
Metelkova Mesto houses many venues, artists, and organizations, and has been celebrating alternative art culture for nearly twenty years. When the city tried to demolish the empty barracks in 1993, over 200 people occupied the space and turned it into an artist squat. The city and the squat eventually reconciled, and Metelkova continued to grow into the vibrant, multifaceted area it continues to be today.
When we visited Metelkova during the day, it was quiet—but visually cacophonous. Wild creature sculptures dripping from the buildings. Graffiti on the walls, on the ground, on the ceilings. Art installations of bike wheels and gears, brightly-colored panes of glass, lo-fi poster collages. It was straight sugar for the eyes.
We returned in the evening and found the place had transformed into a series of music venues! There are lots of live performances and music events at Metelkova every night. We hung around the punk show, dancing and people-watching and soaking up the summer evening bacchanalia of Metelkova. The sculptures seemed to stretch and morph in the dark. The colorful daytime graffiti glistened subtly in the starlight. The nearly deserted installations of the morning were dripping with funky pink-haired tattooed revelers.
It was dreamy.
I loved this place so hard and I’m really grateful we included Metelkova in our itinerary.
It’s a little slice of heaven, for me: warm Eastern European nights, surrounded by madmen and monsters.