|Northern Soul: Landscapes of Longing
During the past seven years I have I have photographed abandoned military areas, above all nuclear missile bases, mostly in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus, left by the ex-Soviet army. The buildings, once the focus of military and ideological struggle between superpowers appear now as bare and vulnerable. The forces of nature invade the buildings: vegetation takes over, devouring man-made structures.
What began as curiosity towards the remains of recent history evolved into in-depth exploration of the Cold War period.
Austere missile hangars. Lots of them, most of them made of similar, pre-fabricated elements. L-zones, which were storage areas for nuclear warheads. Missile launch pads with their distinctive, geometric iron parts. Missile silos, now silent, over 30 m deep into the ground. But, also buildings which were used for recreation: canteens, sports halls, culture centers, swimming pools, saunas. One of my interests has been the ways in which the aforementioned spaces have been decorated. In addition to the soviet propaganda-imbued murals there is an abundance of images which refer more to an intimate, quotidian sphere, distanced from the militaristic and heroic iconography, often combined with text.The social function of the spaces in the military areas is visible through the imagery.
I have been curious to see so many representations of landscapes in the areas dedicated to recreation or office use. These paintings, often made directly on walls, have been made mostly with very simple means.
One can see that, nevertheless, they convey a sense of longing for another place somewhere else, melancholy. Something which brings solace in the harsh reality of military life. There is a whiff of northern romanticism to the paintings. Another approach of the landscape theme is the application of photo wallpaper at the missile bases.
I merge documentary and conceptual approaches to image-making, focusing on the ways in which geographical, historical and political situations are inscribed on the earth's surface. One can see that the places I photograph are in a state of abandon. Soon they will not exist.
For a more extensive selection of images see
Sarjasta Kaipauksen maisemia / From the series: Landscapes of Longing
Pigment print, 2014
From the series Landscapes of Longing. Pigment print, 100 x 150 cm, 2015
G11 Galerie Former Power Station: Exhibition space for LANDSCAPE - METROPOLIS in Berlin Schöneweide. 10 July - 8 Aug 2015. Photo: John Power