The memoirs of yan khtovich

Asya Zhetvina

1935 - Ongoing


Questioning the very basic notion of photography as probably the most indisputable historical source, I was trying to build a narrative that intensely takes you back in time and tells a fascinating story about a secret group of ornithologists working in Germany during WW2 to defy the Russian Army using spy pigeons.

Conceived under the form of a personal diary and memoir composed by the leader of the group, Yan Khtovich, authors Great Granddad the project builds a narrative through the combination of written accounts, images, documents, collages and contemporary photographs printed with old printing techniques. The result is a realistic account of this experimental operation, and the reader is guided into believing the accuracy of the story with a mindfully tailored path of historical and personal facts about the so-called “author” Yan Khtovich and his work for the Spy Pigeon project. Initiated by the notion of the employ of pigeons during wartime (a historical fact), mainly as messengers, the artist, born and raised in a country such as Russia where propaganda has always overcome the actual historical truth, also addresses the über contemporary concept of post-truth. Named by the Oxford Dictionary as 2016 word of the year, the lemma has become part of our vocabulary due to the incredible outburst of fake news and manipulated information the world has witnessed lately. Conceived in the context of contemporary research, the thought-provoking project creates a non-ceasing dialogue between today and the past, between fiction and truth, with an innovative language based -of course- on photographic material, but also on the combination images with other forms of so-called documentation of the past. The result of is a poetical and delicate memoir of a non-existing -yet real- Yan Khtovich and the story of his life.

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  • Yan Htovich, the head leader of the ornithologist group, 1946.

  • The abandoned house of the old laboratory, 1954

  • The spy pigeons in a battlefield during World War II,1942

  • The scientists are trying to fix the microchips on the pigeons, 1941

  • A small pigeon in the laboratory, 1941

  • The secret map of the pigeon mission

  • The USSR soldiers are looking for a spy-pigeons

  • The spy with his spy-pigeon during the mission, 1949

  • The spy-pigeon’s leg, 1944

  • The ruins of the spy-pigeon laboratory, 1944

  • Soviet Union soldiers are killing assistant of the laboratory, 1944

  • The last spy-pigeon, 1945

  • Dedicated to the group of ornithologists who were working for the secret spy-pigeon project during World War II. In the picture the ornitologists upon their first meeting. Germany, Pigeonburg