Max Sher
A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz
Found slides, photographs and a text by the artist
Presented as an installation, the photo book, which was first published in 2013, has retained all the elements of the original version: found slides depicting people who became the protagonists of a family story made up by the artist; photographs that Sher took at these people's empty apartment after their death; fragments from their letters also appropriated by Sher; and the artist's comments in which he describes in detail how the project was created and the motivation behind it.

At first glance, this project's tone of voice sets it apart from the artist's photo books "Palimpsest" (2018) and "Infrastructures" (co-authored with Sergey Novikov, 2019). In these works, dominated by an analytical approach, the photographer's sharp eye picks up details that, although being often left unnoticed due to their seeming insignificance in the discussion about important historical narratives, in this case help viewers create a picture of the epoch. In the present work, a dialogue established by Sher between the slides from the family archive, taken during the last three decades of the Soviet era, and the photographs taken by himself in the characters' empty apartment 30 years after the most recent of the found photos were made, produces a complex system of echoes. First of all, temporal ones — the past portrayed on the slides and photographs alternately comes closer to us and recedes; and those of the historical features of the epoch that seem to us both familiar and alien at the same time.

Although the installation contains fewer slides than the book, in those included the effect of being recognizable and at the same time impersonal is even more pronounced. Many of them resemble photographs from the late Soviet period. Preserved in every home, they portray the life of close family members. Still being able to recognize the reality they depict we have little historical connection with it and many of us can hardly understand it.

The story told by Sher is documental, albeit not meant as a full-fledged narrative, and therefore is deeply individual. However, the era of these pictures per se imposes certain conventions on the presented images. In this narrative about the life of the family from the Soviet intelligentsia circle, the epoch and its features dilute individuality, which is usually characteristic of biographies, thus turning the story into a chronicle of the historical era rather than that of the individuals. This is, probably, the destiny of every biography that having lost its chronicler is left face to face with "big history".

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