Niels Ackerman & Sebastien Gobert: Looking for Lenin
Cloitre Saint-Trophime, Arles; 03/07/17 to 24/09/17
Just in case the premise isn’t self-explanatory: a photographer and a journalist travelled around Ukraine seeking out decommissioned statues of Lenin, purged as part of the country’s ‘decommunisation’.
I expected this to be a straightforward typology-driven documentary project, maybe a little quirky – but was really quite impressed in the end. I like its definition in the blurb as being “halfway between documentary and symbolism”, as several of the images can be interpreted as metaphors for the fall of communism: Lenin is subjected to various indignities from decapitation, overpainting in garish colours, crammed into storage, and in one case converted to Darth Vader.
Documentary doesn’t have to be serious/worthy, or have a linear narrative, or just be a neutral chronicle; it can embrace the visual language possibilities of photography and transmit an idea rather than just ‘tell a story’.