Natalia Zintsova
Directions, 2018
Cardboard, digital printing, texts
Courtesy of the artists
Created by Haim Sokol and Natalia Zintsova, the Directions project presents the viewer with a kind of exercise in the comprehensive analysis of documentary photographs, in this case depicting the Lvov pogrom of July 1941. In effect, by highlighting certain constituent elements in well-known pictures of acts of violence, the artists strip bare the politics of the photographic image and the mechanisms by which it has its impact: they draw the attention of the viewer to some details and movements that can be discerned in black and white, offering a range of verbal comments – from general comments on the nature of documentary photography to observations regarding the individual characters captured in the images.

On the one hand, they have chosen the most difficult material in the field of documentary making: as Susan Sontag notes in the essay Regarding the Pain of Others, scenes of violence tell stories for which humanity struggles to find words, and, unequivocally, create thereby a strong emotional background. However, sympathy (both for the victims and for the viewer), as well as a desire to reduce the image's emotional affect that would otherwise hinder its rational analysis, the artists use Photoshop to cut out the images of the objects of violence in the photographs, turning them into idiosyncratic ghosts of history - though the tension of the scene is nevertheless increased, despite the fact that only the outlines of the human figures have been preserved, when we see the often quite indifferent faces of those participating in the pogroms, beside those whose expressions we cannot see, but whose fate we can well imagine.

And yet for all that, Directions is more than a mere historical digression returning the audience to the events of the Second World War: in addition, the artists have created a unique apparatus to train our optics and critical consciousness today, as the development of digital technologies has led to the very notion of documentary materials and their authenticity growing ever more complicated over recent decades. Today, the way any image may be taken out of context, along with the impact that an accompanying text can have on its interpretation, constitute a common place for perception of the media space, while remaining an effective propaganda mechanism. This may well explain the origins of the name of the current project, as directions are instructions, i.e. artists are concerned not only with preserving memory, but also with the possibility of using historical materials to construct the future.

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