"Please don't take my picture! Or they'll shoot me tomorrow."

Chapter 1 of the work "Victories of the defeated".

"Please don't take my picture! Or they'll shoot me tomorrow!” was shown at la Biennale di Venezia, at the 56th International Art Exhibition 2015, in the exhibition “Hope!” in the Ukrainian Pavilion and in the exhibition “Das ist nicht meine Geschichte!” at ROTOR Center for Contemporary Arts in Graz, Austria as part of Steirischer Herbst, 2015

View of the show in the exhibition “Hope!” :

 RES

 

 RES 7

 

 

 Today's Paper

You’re reading a quality-looking newspaper with a seriously dubious name:

LATEST PHONE CONVERSATIONS

You wouldn’t call it a tabloid, but still, this little paper looks like somebody’s bad dream, some splurge of out-of-control fantasy. And yet that’s what it’s called, not something normal. Ludicrous? A bit. Pretentious? Perhaps. But that’s child’s play compared to the headline on the front page:

TODAY’S PHOTO-STORY IS TOMORROW’S ARTILLERY TARGET

Recoiling in horror? I bet you are. The journalist is making you read yet another dispatch from this inglorious war in the east of a European country of minor importance, a war being fought for reasons unclear even to the people fighting it.

How tired we are of this war! Isn’t there a limit to how much you can ram this kind of thing into our heads? Surely it’s about time you chucked in some other news – something in slightly better taste?

Your objections are justifiable, I agree. Just walk on by, it’s fine.

And then there’s the article itself which, funnily enough, seems to be about love:


THE ARTICLE ITSELF

Under cover of fog, they repaired workshops and coal mine buildings damaged in the bombardment. One of them admitted to me that at the time, he thought mostly about the sea.

Fog isn’t frightening, it inspires people to do great things.

 

 

Some of the workers dangled their legs, sitting high up on the scaffolding, as if gazing down on a deeply breathing sea. In fact, they were just contemplating the vast coal mining lands.

Just then, you came up to me, and probably as a joke, you said: get out of here! You’re not from here. You’re bothering us. And besides, it’s probably no coincidence you’re here. You’re investigating us with your camera. You’re taking pictures here now, and tomorrow, they’ll come and fire shells at us.

I tried to convince you this wasn’t true, but to no avail. Once you get something in your head, you stick to it, stubbornly as hell! Tell me, does a camera really bear any relationship to war? Or to murder? You obstinately insisted that it did, and yet you don’t even respect photography.

But I’d hardly deserve to be called your friend if I wasn’t up for reconsidering particular photographs or indeed photography as a whole. 

It helped our friendship that there wasn’t any firing that day.

War gave us a little friendship. Does that mean it served at least some kind of purpose?

This little luxury – to live through a day without firing – made one of the miners I was friendly with deliriously happy. And he showed me flowers planted at the mine. In summer 2014, miners went to work while under shelling fire, and yet even this didn’t stop them digging up a few sods and sowing a handful of seeds.

Bullets can’t do anything with flowers which decide to blossom during a bombardment

And so it goes. A mining town knows how to keep itself busy in wartime. The miner was carefree, and so were you.

I’m trying too!

And everything would be wonderful if it weren’t for my stupidity, my stubbornness and my phone calls. But more about them tonight. It’s not right to talk about these things in daylight.

You hang up. I dial your number. You hang up. I dial your number again.

Are you fed up with my annoying phone calls?

Hello! Hello!

Can you hear me?

Yes, yet again it’s me calling, again.

No, I only called once today, in the morning.

I can’t get used to the fact you’re living in another country! But, I really can still call you both, can’t I?

It’s not a stupid question. Although stupidity does permeate everything, like water.

Be more modest? Yes, I’m trying, to keep myself in check as much as I can.

Why don’t you just leave and come here?

Naïve’s my middle name! What? Pompous?! Look who’s talking!

No! Don’t hang up! OK, I won’t ask how’s things.

I thought we agreed that I wouldn’t ask how’s things under any circumstances. Even if they shoot at me, I won’t ask you “how’s things”.

You can’t talk? You can’t bear these conversations?

You’re wrong. We’ve got plenty of war! There’s lots of it to go around, they’ll never finish us off.

No, that’s not a reason for you to stay there! It’s worth thinking about. It’s good to think – I read that somewhere.

Well you should. They say that reading helps in any circumstances.

Why would you want to burn books!?

Wait! Wait! Why are you going? No-one’s listening to us!

But they didn’t force them to, did they?

You say: No-one forced anyone! They’re all volunteers! In fact, when they were sending them to the front line, two braver ones broke rank and asked how much a pair like them were worth. We heard this big thwump, and saw brains spattered on the tarmac, and then all these lads who hadn’t had a shower called out “Hurrah! Up with Novorossiya!”

It’s like I’ve been listening to your voice close to, as if you’re here, next to me.

Come here. You should escape!

No more photographs. I promise.

Forbidden? Is nothing permitted?

Hello! Hello!

Can you hear me? You’re not allowed to forbid me from asking you to come here. Now’s not the time to be brave!

I can’t hear anything. I think she put down the phone, or it cut out.

Or maybe there is reception – and she can hear me, but I can’t hear her any more?

If by chance you should meet my friend, in the street, in a café, or at work, please ask her: am I succeeding in getting through to her, or am I just talking to myself.