POTOM, 2016
Single-channel video
Courtesy of the artist
The action of the film "POTOM" unfolds in two places in the city of Liepaja. The first of them is a closed room, dilapidated, abandoned, and apparently non-residential. Once it was the House of the Assembly of the Russian Navy, then a tuberculosis hospital, and later becoming a military hospital. The history that has passed through this space has left its traces, and so it can rightly be considered a place.

To clarify, we are dealing in this case with a quite specific type of place. In fact, the ruin before us is a motif with a rich tradition in European culture. Beginning with the romantics, ruins were perceived as evidence of the fluctuation of time, the loss of what once seemed an integral part of the present. As a living reminder of the immensity of time and the transience of existence, the ruin as a spectacle refers to the aesthetic category of the sublime, as well as other phenomena of a scale exceeding the human dimension. These include another motif in romanticism, the vast maritime element that flows to the horizon. The coast of the Liepaja Gulf is, in fact, the second location in the film. And the meeting of these two motifs in the work of Epnere is quite logical – after all, a ruin is none other than the embodiment of the omnipotence of nature, her revenge for man's attempts to perpetuate his actions.

The immensity history and nature are the two principles the film's protagonist comes up against, a retired officer who swore an oath to a country that no longer exists. And although what gave meaning to his past life has sunk into oblivion and become a ruin, he remains faithful: he wears the uniform of a non-existent army, subordinating his daily life to military order. We might say that we are confronted with a man-ruin, a vestige of the past that does not fit into the modern era. The hero of the film has a real prototype in the artist's father – a Soviet naval officer who stayed in Lithuania, where he lives – according to his daughter – a "life on hold". Whatever prospects and opportunities are open to him in the new life, he is inclined to defer them: "I'll do it later... potom..."

And yet a ruin clearly demonstrates that some remnant of the past remains in the contemporary, albeit incomplete and altered in form. It is evident that the indomitable power of nature has modified this structure from the way it was when man first created it, but a new form is created in result, in which the formative will of man coexists with the ceaseless becoming of nature. The ruin thus returns man – as noted by both Hegel and Simmel – to the source of his energy, to the core of his "I", where nature and the mind find common roots. This is why Ieva Epnere's hero, on the one hand, mobilising his body and spirit, stands guard over his place, and on the other devotes himself to something played little role in his former life – contemplation of the sea horizon.

Viktor Misiano
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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