International Biennial of Contemporary Art Ljubljana,
23 June - 24 September 2000
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Cankarjev Dom
M1 & M2
Anton Olshvang
  *1965, lives in Moscow

Battle Field, 1999-2000, photographs

Photographs exhibited by Anton Olshvang are a kind of a peep-show which through private snapshots takes us into the intimate world of contemporary Russian everyday life. These shots belong to that perishable amateur type of photography which has no chance of surviving the generation it depicts. The artist found the exhibited shots in small photo labs from across the states of the former Soviet Union. They all come from the numerous ranks of "abandoned" photographs, rejected by customers due to some technical imperfection. During the stage of project preparation and photograph selection, the artist did not look for unusual pieces. On the contrary, he focused on the most typical examples and created some kind of a collective family album of contemporary Russia. From the mass of accumulated images, the monolithic structure of a former common culture emerged, which was not a system of shared values but a product of the collective subconscious. According to Olshvang, he wished to minimise his role as an artist, therefore completely equating the exhibited work of art with the material from which it is made. He attempts to present the spirit of a certain time and space, a recycling of a culture and an understanding of a curious blend of beauty and horror, of humanity and inhumanity emanating from the photographs. Olshvang's "rejected" shots feature two conflicting characteristics - they are as "normal" as the life they depict, but in this banal reality, they are crippled and deformed because of their technical imperfections (blurred image, incorrect use of the flash, unusual colours). We are faced with an involuntary "avant-garde" of family photography which would have ended up in a trash bin if it had not been exhibited on the gallery walls. Because of his interest in the curious destiny of unwanted objects, the artist plays the role of a "good-natured vulture", hunting after "dead bodies" and "not yet" dead images, and crosses the boundary of the private and invades the intimate world of his soldiers. His approach evokes the memory of the ancient fear of the image as a double which takes possession of the sitter's soul. Like Gogol's Chichikov, Olshvang collects souls which in contemporary Russia are rejected by their owners.

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