“I remember watching black and white television in my room and seeing news reporters broadcasting from the center of Red Square in Moscow. That image of St. Basil’s Cathedral behind the reporter reminded me more of Disneyland rather than the evil empire of which he spoke. It was difficult to understand the contradiction between the harsh ideas Americans had of Russia and the whimsical nature of what I was seeing on television.”
So begins Michael Kirchoff’s statement about “An Enduring Grace” his show at Baange & Burne in Chelsea. (547 W. 27th St. #319)
The work is dark and beautiful. Through the use of Polaroid Type 665 Kirchoff allows the process to add a surreal and almost fractured sense to the images. Kirchoff shoots almost from a child’s-eye level that allows him to explore the dichotomy between the reality of Russia, and the politically created reality from his childhood. His photographs are silky and lush, seeming to hover between dream and substance.
We see Russia in a fresh way through Kirchoff’s photographs; as empty landscapes and steadfast architecture that defies time. The boldness and strength of these buildings, churches and monuments allows them to exist in the landscape devoid of people. They are spread out through the country, and do not need people to give them life. Unlike monuments and famous structures in the U.S., these buildings exist whether people visit them or not.
I was amazed to see the “Black Tulip” monument to those who died in the Russian debacle in Afghanistan in the 1980s. How unusual for that country to mark the deaths of their soldiers in that long war. But this monument is in the middle of nowhere, commemorating only those in the region who died. As moving as it is, “their Vietnam,” there are no people leaving mementos or tracing the names of the dead. For Russia has always had a reputation as a place of untold melancholy and fatalism. While Americans fetishize grief and remembrance, Russians seem to take it in and move on.
Unfortunately this show will only be up until tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 18. I urge you to go and see these photographs. Baange & Burne is a floating gallery, getting its initial funding through Kickstarter. Very cool.