On February 24, Shcherbenko Art Centre will open a project Black on Prussian Blue by Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, in which they continue to research collective trauma. In this project, the focus of the artists is World War II seen by a Wehrmacht soldier and the perpetrators' gaze on the lands occupied by them. The project presents the reconstructions of amateur photographs from the soldier’s albums created with the help of land, video, and copies of archival images.
During the residency in Vienna, the artists stumbled upon an extensive family photo archive, which belonged to an Austrian soldier who served in the Luftwaffe. The owner of the archive participated in the most important events of World War II, so all of them were present in these albums meticulously tagged. It was also noteworthy that occupied Western Europe – Belgium and France – was represented mainly by beautiful landscapes, architectural monuments, and stunning scenery. Otherwise, pictures from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus are mostly photos of soil. Ground, dirt, unpaved roads occupy at least two-thirds of the picture while houses and trees were somewhere up away from the photographer.
Are those photos an embodiment of a perpetrator’s gaze? Do they depict the aggressor’s perception of the recently conquered countries as nothing more than a resource stripped of any subjectivity and even beauty? Or was it a conscious choice of the photographer to lower his eyes and thus avoid seeing violence and blood, for example, the scenes of the Holocaust that his army had brought onto these lands?
"To research the perpetrator’s gaze on the Eastern soil, we are reconstructing the photos of occupied land using soil. Soil becomes here a symbol of a notion that causes the war as well as something present in a literal way. The blue spots instead of the sky refer to the traces left after the Zyklon-B gas in the gas chambers," said Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev.