Afghan: phantom pains

Afghan: phantom pains
Evgeny Ivanov

Thirty years have passed since the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The era has changed, generations have grown up in Russia for which that war has become only a page in history. And many no longer understand what our troops were doing in a faraway country, for which 15,051 people died, 417 went missing, 54,000 were injured. But they honestly fulfilled their military duty and piously believed that all this was in the good of the Motherland. February 15, 1989 is considered the date of the end of the war.

The exhibition photo project of Evgeny Ivanov is built on the combined perception of three main aspects: the connection of real and virtual wars; discovery of a new person; question of choice. The name of the project is based on the interpretation of the phrase “Phantom pain”, denoting pain that occurs after the loss (amputation) of a limb and is felt as pain in the missing limbs. The “Afghan war” in the perception of the Soviet and post-Soviet society is a period of the presence of Soviet troops in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and participation in hostilities against armed opposition groups from 1979 to 1989. However, the internal political crisis in Afghanistan actually began in 1973, from 1978 entered an acute phase and is still ongoing (2019). Phantom reads in the perception of the territory where the hostilities took place - it is the center of Eurasia, the junction of the “South” and the “Central” - Asia, which puts Afghanistan among the key regions in ensuring the stability of the military-political situation in the entire Central Asian region, where over the centuries, the national interests of all the leading powers of the world intersect.

Creating material during individual photo shoots, Yevgeny Ivanov synthesized what he saw experience and filmed photographic series. One of the main methods of visual work in this project is mapping, the other is working with light and the third is the built perspective. The heroes of Ivanov's photographs are at the same time representatives of this historical period and contemporaries of today's events, they live in time, changing with everything that surrounds them. Through the figures of veterans of the Afghan war, Ivanov also shows the next generations of children and grandchildren, each of whom lives his own special life, different from the lives of their predecessors and descendants, but given by them.

The exposition, presented in the hall and corridor of the library, consists of three blocks: photographic portraits of the Afghans in the interior / exterior environment; panoramas that show the development of the life story of the characters in the present tense and photographs of documents from the home archive, emphasizing the important role of the artifact for the preservation and transmission of memory.

1. Real and virtual war. The structure of "past - present - future" is always relevant both for the individual human existence and for its perception of social reality. Ivanov calls to remember not only about where we were born, who our parents were and how they spent their childhood or youth, but also the events that took place in society during these years: wars and peaceful days, riots and holidays, fashion and preferences of past years. Memories are a very controversial historical source. On the one hand, they often provide the only opportunity to find out how this or that event happened. On the other hand, the question of objectivity inevitably arises, because in the absolute majority of cases, we can look at these events from a single point of view, from the point of view of the author of memoirs. Real war can be seen with my own eyes. Virtual war becomes through political mechanisms, prioritization, openness or hush up facts. You can get closer to the realities of war by talking to people who have been there. Ivanov's project is a subjective study, the result of which is not only photographic series, but also changes in the perception of the topic of War. War cannot and should not dictate its logic to society, subordinate all aspects of social life to its rhythms. Ivanov develops the idea that not only military actions belong to the essence of war, but also their expectation.

2. Discovery of a New Person. The psyche of combatants is influenced by many factors: the constant threat to life and health, changes in the combat situation, prolonged exertion, often exceeding the limits of human capabilities, loss of comrades, participation in cruel violence against the enemy ... Naturally, all the experienced trials affect the character and human appearance. Yevgeny Ivanov personally did not know the participants of the shooting, therefore, when translating the hero’s “recognition” process into photographic material, the discovery of a New Person took place, a comparison of the ephemeral image of the hero with a specific personality.

For each of us, people who have been to the war are a priori heroes. But at the same time, they are people with a profession, family, hobbies. Each of them has a favorite book, melody. The story, preserved by the memory of people, is an oral story. The events that create the main storyline of this story (the “narrative narrative”) are exactly what people consider necessary to convey to others. The historical event itself is the result of the desire to bring information to the attention of contemporaries and descendants and discuss it. It is a man, re-seen by a contemporary, becomes the center of the historical universe. All the details that make up his life, relatives and friends add up to a common visual outline, where a person is the core.

3. The question of choice. Each person has a choice, many of the participants in the hostilities deliberately went to war. Like in Mikhail Ptashuk’s film “Time has chosen us,” which tells about the events of the Great Patriotic War, the reasoning in this project is: “I choose? Or do they choose me? ”Ivanov investigates the reasons for the decision in the presence / absence of a plurality of alternatives. What was the chosen way of imposing responsibility for the implementation of one of the available opportunities? The choice is especially significant for a person when it comes to life and death. War is inextricably linked with pain, death, and change. On the other hand, the choice situation itself no longer implies any ideal solutions. When you have the perfect solution - the problem of choice does not make sense.

An outsider (observer), having incomplete, fragmentary, not always reliable, conflicting information, on the basis of these fragments, must construct a coherent social reality and work out a strategy of orientation in it. In other words, the subject acts under the conditions of overcoming the transgression: the primary transgressive chaos of fragmentation and uncertainty, he must lead to sustainable unity.