SPARKS (2014-2016)

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Sparks is a multi-layered portrait of a contemporary war in Europe. The war in Ukraine is a paradoxical conflict juxtaposing scenes that would remind World War I: the trenches, the industrial landscapes of Donbas; and the modern weapons, the technologies and social media used by soldiers to document their personal image of the war.

Portraits of young and nonprofessional soldiers form the backbone of the project. They went to fight in their sneakers, with weapons stolen from a museum. They left their previous identities and occupations: mechanic, astronomer, music DJ, bank assistant, philosopher, high school student… none of them were prepared for what they were to experience. The inspiration for Sparks’ portraits was the tradition of military portraiture. In the past, the soldier’s portrait, made by a studio, was often the first and the last picture of the person. Given to the mother, girlfriend or sister, the image was preserved as a relic, and worshiped as being the only representation.

War, seen as a repetitive phenomenon, turns the order upside down. It provokes the recurring distortion of behaviours and the same consequences. The Sparks sceneries picture the places described by soldiers: the front lines, trenches, mines, observation points, basements, ruined houses full of debris and void, the aftermath of the fights.

Inhabitants living near the frontline call the shrapnel of missiles “sparks.” Looking up to the sky and seeing the hail of “sparks” approaching, they do not have time to find a shelter. The “sparks” mercilessly pierce the walls of their homes and embody death and fear.

Sparks explores the subject of human vulnerability and human condition in proximity of danger and traumatic experiences. In the video Portrait of a soldier, Volodya shares his story and his thoughts about the time he spent in the war zone. A boy in The String is trying to stretch the bowstring, innocently undertaking men’s duty.

Minds Directing is based on the quotations of the people who faced the fights. The videos aim to shift the viewers’ thoughts towards witnesses’ experiences. Minds Directing is a bipolar installation, where the models play the symbolic roles of women and men in wartime. In the sequence How bad we are mortal, the sniper tactical scope's laser overexpose the bodies and reveals the shapes of bones and veins.

Wiktoria Wojciechowska holds with intensified delving into the subject, not just through theoretical research, but also by picking up little fragments, shreds of words, the symbolic and found images interfering with one another. The first-hand documents are crossed with the artist's work to serve the subject, having the same level of importance. Wiktoria Wojciechowska practices repetitive-meditative tasks of manual work. She handwrites the words of war witnesses on easily breaking thin papers and on the walls of exhibitions. Or, working with the collages, she slowly covers the dead with gold leaves. The Golden Collages series is based on the pictures taken by soldiers and shared with the artist. Similarly, the noisy and immersive video Triptych was edited from Romek’s mobile phone recordings of the battles.

The Black Collages has been conceived after seeing volunteers on a training camp in Ukraine fighting with sticks. Its resemblance to the painting of Francisco de Goya, Fight with Cudgels, which depicts two men battling, trapped knee-deep in mud, is a highly symbolic image of the absurdity of war.

« It took him few days to get clean, all the water was black from the ground of the trenches » said Yurko’s wife when he came back from the front line. Sparks explore the mechanisms that led people to deal with the trauma of war. In Beard grows like an experience, Andriy decides to cut his beard after 12 months spent in the war zone as the symbolic way to end this period. In Women came to the hospital, the volunteers’ hairdressers are cutting hair of soldiers, uncovering the scars on their heads.

Sparks is built with layers of perception, with several ‘’understandings’’ of the phenomenon of war. The works, whether they are using photography, collage or video, whether they are produced or collected are all linked together to transmit the experience.