Spitak - Armenia. A sculpture/model for drawing photographed in an atelier for young students. The atelier is in a “domik” (metal container) a former temporary house of the teacher.  3 JUL 2014. On December 7, 1988 a strong earthquake destroyed completely the town of Spitak. The damage in the region was so big that the Soviet authorities decided to ask for help also in the western countries. 25 years after the disaster the city, although rebuilt, still bears the marks of the tragedy.

Sputnik Photos

Interviewed by Raimonda Tamulevičiūtė

Photos: Sputnik Photos

How would you describe soviet heritage? What meanings this heritage have today? Is there such a thing as common (collective) heritage in post-soviet countries?

My point of view is still very much external and on the surface. I see it as a heritage of some kind of general devastation that the whole region still has to deal with and will for many more generations. It is destruction of the environment, of the landscape, architecture and last but not least of the mentality. I feel it strongly always while travelling in the region. Somehow we all at Sputnik must feel that way as in our work you mostly find subjects related to some kind of decomposition. Or maybe we just document the reality where some kind of decay is one of the key factor…

What do you think is “immaterial” heritage? In Lithuania, immaterial heritage, according UNESCO is cross-craft traditions and Baltic folk songs and dances. Can we still consider only ancient cultural values as immaterial heritage? What about social behaviour or some social phenomenon in post-soviet countries, could we call it as immaterial heritage?

I guess I have the same association. It is hard for me to think of some immaterial heritage created during or after the communism. For sure there are traditions that were in some way incorporated or transformed by the communism but as I said above I see the communism mostly as a period very destructive for the cultural heritage of the ex- Soviet Republics. I have the feeling that in many cases the local culture was destroyed or at least strongly affected. During the communism times this fact was recompensed with the ideology and the current grow and development. But once the system collapsed, from my point to view, people were left in some kind of a vacuum with both the local culture and the system that was replacing it destroyed.

Traveling circus base at the outskirts of Rustavi, Georgia. 20.09.2013. Rustavi placed 25km from capital Tbilisi was built as the result of Stalin’s accelerated industrialisation process. City’s urban landscape has not changed much since it’s creation and is well preserved example of Soviet architecture.
Traveling circus base at the outskirts of Rustavi, Georgia. 20.09.2013. Rustavi placed 25km from capital Tbilisi was built as the result of Stalin’s accelerated industrialisation process. City’s urban landscape has not changed much since it’s creation and is well preserved example of Soviet architecture.

Do Sputnik Photos have any particular storytelling? How do you explore post-soviet topic and what distinguishes Sputnik Photos in its exploration of this theme from other photographers?

In telling our stories we try to be as subjective as possible. We believe the subject gets interesting for the audience only when it was strongly filtered or interpreted by the artist. And than in our collective artistic practice we try to combine these different personal visions in order to create a larger picture. Till recently we have mostly presented the separate stories one next to another creating contexts and dialog between each other. Today we are working hard to prepare our new show called Lost Territories Archives (working title) where we take our collective collaboration one step further. We mix the photos from different stories and take them out from the initial contexts. And than from this kind of modern archive we construct new storylines. It is a very exciting process where we dilute the authorship and get a new collective vision of the region. In order to achieve this new storylines we work with external curators such as Pawel Szypulski and Jorg Colberg.

Sputnik Photos as a collective is nearly 10 years old. From your own experience, can you see some changes while having been exploring this theme until now?

I guess the change was mostly in our approach that evolved from initially more politically and socially involved to more subjective visions.  I guess the biggest changes are among the young generation that depending on the country takes new attitudes toward the Soviet past and culture.

What kind of audience your projects are directed to? Yourself and people from the East or maybe audience from the West?

As most of us have never lived in USSR we have a more external and probably more western approach. At the same time as the satellite states we understand this reality probably more than people who have not experienced the communism at all. Maybe that is why we find our audience is at both sides of the old iron curtain.

Primeval forest/ Interior of the house of a taxidermist in Pruzany / The images were taken in Belarus, around the Belovezhskaya Pushcha between March and October 2011.
Primeval forest/ Interior of the house of a taxidermist in Pruzany / The images were taken in Belarus, around the Belovezhskaya Pushcha between March and October 2011.

Is it possible to decode some soviet rituals and cultural signs in your photography for audience from the West? How this social behaviour can be understood and transmitted? What message does your project give to the audience in the West?

Definitely the understanding and the interpretation of photography depends on the viewer background. For the western viewer we go further than the stereotypes and clichés of the region. But still the outcome of the project is more about violence, destruction and oppression and in this sense we stay with the stereotypical western vision of the post-soviet reality.

In the last years the post-soviet life theme was very often analysed in a large context by different artists, writers and researchers, has this topic remained interesting?

We are talking about a large part of the world in a state of fast transformation and constant change. The societies in most cases are struggling with the past and try to build on the scratches of the old empire while being stuck in the present geopolitical situation. I can’t imagine how the audience or ourselves we might loose interest for this dynamic reality. On the other hand in our artistic practices we turn our attention on local stories and phenomena that makes it even more fascinating.

Yerevan, Armenia / Traditional constructions for growing grapes self-made from reused materials in Kond; one of the old districts of Yerevan situated on the highland near the city center. / 09.2013 / Urban farming has a long established tradition in Armenia. In the times of prosperity it is regarded more as leisure activity. It develops and intensifies in times of food crisis.
Yerevan, Armenia / Traditional constructions for growing grapes self-made from reused materials in Kond; one of the old districts of Yerevan situated on the highland near the city center. / 09.2013 / Urban farming has a long established tradition in Armenia. In the times of prosperity it is regarded more as leisure activity. It develops and intensifies in times of food crisis.
Paskelbta: spalio 16, 2016

Įrašo “Sputnik Photos” komentarų : 1

  1. Such a very beneficial article. Very thrilling to read this text. I would really like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this amazing article.

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