Janina Boldyrewa, Nowosibirsk
Aleksandr Isaenko, Odessa
“It is weird but we thought that in one or two years our project would only remind people of the nightmare they had experienced, but it is still topical”, — say the artists. — When we started our project, we could not be silent. And many people in Russia were against a war with Ukraine. Now this is a customary thing, which has its own history. What first startles us becomes part of ourselves as the time goes. We think our project is about it”.
We wanted to make a philosophical and abstract essay on the subject, to demonstrate the depth and the tragedy of what is happening. Therefore, we fully gave up the documentary style and made images ourselves using scanning: we scanned our own photos, changing them mechanically, damaging the paper and making collages. Symbolically, our work demonstrates the impact of war on people, change and destruction of human personality by it. Hence come all the cracks, torn edges and distortions. People in a war are material to be disposed, like paper and waste.
There is another plane of viewing the project, explaining why we made use of paper. The whole history of the events of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is permeated by propaganda, rumours and parallel worlds erected around it. In this case, paper acts like simulacrum of reality: we work with photo copies, with their distortion and deformity. The borderline between reality and a lie is like a border between the fighting sides: on the one hand, it is very clear, and on the other hand, it keeps changing.
At first sight, this image is a mess of cut paper, but the rhythm of its formation makes us see more: this is a formation of soldiers. This is a parade like celebration strewn with confetti, an act of senseless bravado foreboding death. The shot was placed on the first pages of the book on purpose.
A human ear and a screen: this is an attempt to hear, to get through the noise to the real thing. As material for the book, we used our own photos, some of which were taken specially for the project. Then we had to tear them or crumple in certain places, if we had a clear idea what was needed for the book. There are pictures here which were taken long before the project but we used them, because they seemed suitable to us.
Burning screens or empty window panes after bombing — both images match, as two sides of the same medal.
War changes a human face more cleverly than any surgeon. We see loss of identity, transformation, a new man… Our friends acted as models for our photographs, but in fact, this was not important: it was simply easier for us to work with friends and get them to do what was needed. Our project is not a documentary series: it conveys images, not facts. In this case, it was important for us to create an image of a ruined person with emptiness around.
Destruction of unity, the impossibility of being together: a wounded man tries to hold to the picture of his loved one. Many images go beyond the limits of a specific theme and turn our work into a philosophical essay.
Execution, a trajectory of a bullet
People are like crumpled paper. Like disposable material. Either emptiness or black background forms a very important symbol of our project. On the one hand, that means abstraction: we show a moment snapped from reality, clean it from any signs of time and place. On the other hand, this is the precipice which is formed when we get immersed into ‘dehumanization’ and killing of each other. Everything loses its value.
The solemn cargo of death
The gaping emptiness and the flame of fire — here again, there are two images on one photo. This is the territory without the right to return home: Burnt homes, refugees...
These are people declared missing. The faces are like one, because they are distorted by grimaces of terror. Terror unites and averages all.
This scan is interesting, because we can see the image of birds. The common symbol of a human soul is also subject to deformity. Taking a closer look, a viewer will see not only deformity but also that the herd of birds is only paper fragments. Substitution of a soul by accumulation of paper — this is what is happening to the people because of propaganda and psychological violence.