Aslan Gaisumov
Keicheyuhea, 2017
Single-channel HD video, colour, sound
Courtesy of the artist
The video Keicheyuhea may be defined as a testimony-work. The piece represents, or rather documents a real event, in which the author had directly participated. In the spring of 2017, he drove his grandmother Zayanu Khasuyeva to the site where the village of Keicheyuhea had once stood, where she had been born, spent her childhood, and from where, in 1944, she and her whole family had been deported to Kazakhstan, along with their fellow villagers. Shown on screen is the journey along a road in the high mountains. We hear the story of Zayanu, and then we see the narrator herself. Returning for the first time to the place of her birth, recognising familiar sights, she recalls the past and the hardships of her life. "Nothing to see," she says at the end of the film, "No houses, no people, none of those who used to live here. Only the mountains are standing!" The testimony before us is evidence of a human tragedy, the suppressed tragedy of a whole nation.

However, the dignity of Gaisumov's film lies not only in its acute power of bearing witness. The work refers us to an eternal theme, one brought up in ancient mythology, i.e. the topic of return, while posing the philosophical question: "Is it ever possible to return home?" And here it is worth noting that this work has a second a hero, beside Zayanu Khasuyeva. The sparing pictorial poetics of the film are built on static long takes – an extended panoramic shot of the car making its way along the winding mountain road, long shots of Khasuyeva standing with her back to the camera against a backdrop of the mountain range – all seeming to embody the idea of a sustained return home, one that has lasted a lifetime. Time, temporal duration – this, in fact, is the second hero of Keicheyuhea.

Duration, as Henri Bergson wrote, being a fact of human experience, cannot be detached from memory in which the past is stands beside the present. Moreover, as the French thinker believed, the present is, in fact, constituted through the correlation of the past with the memories available. Without memory and the past there is no movement of time, no actualisation of the present. Without the past, the present would be a "foggy spot", in which no life processes would occur. In other words, the image of the house which we are doomed at some point to leave behind, is destined to constantly recur, to enter into conflict/dialogue with the place/time in which we are currently found. This dialectic of recollection and presence enables us to give definition to the present, nourishing our life experience and activating the formation of our personalities. Therefore, as Gilles Deleuze asserted, the return or, as he said after Nietzsche, "eternal return" is not so much a movement backward as a movement forward, i.e. "becoming".

The dramatic nature of Gaisumov's work is thereby multiplied. After all, its heroine, having this time performed a real, not imaginary, coming home, realised that "nothing to see ". And the point here is not only that her home was destroyed by people and time, but that a real place is always not the same as that which lives in our memory. Meeting it is fraught with trauma: the absence of a place stops time, hindering any individuation or development. In order to put time back in movement, you must leave your home, leave behind the place you have discovered. "Let's go, Aslanbek, I can't stand it anymore, let's go," Zayanu Khasuyeva asks her grandson.

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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