On the day of April 27, 1986 people in cities and villages of the Chernobyl zone heard a notice of a temporary evacuation because of the “adverse radiation situation”. For that moment not everyone understood that under that words was meant an explosion at the nuclear power plant in Prypiat. The Soviet government promised people that they would return in a few days. They didn’t allow people to take with them anything except the most necessary things, which they would need for this short period. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see their homes again, as well as such priceless things as letters, photos of relatives and friends. With time these memories were coved with a thick layer of trash, mud and radiation.
Nowadays, for everyone Chernobyl is associated only with a tragedy at the nuclear power plant and its consequences. But what if we come back to the flourishing times that were so far from the events of 1986? This is where the UNTITLED PROJECT starts.
When I crossed the border of the exclusion zone for the first time, I was fascinated: entire villages and cities were disappearing under heavy branches of trees and shrubs. The once prosperous territories now were watching me silently. My project started as a visual exploration of the abandoned areas, villages and homes.
But over time I discovered that these houses, like museums, stored so many memorable things, which all this time were just rotting under a thick layer of trash and mud: old films, family photographs, postcards, letters. The more time went on, the less memories of people, who inhabited that lands, remained. Looters took everything that was worth at least something, except these historical objects. I couldn’t watch how a huge part of history was disappearing, all my attention was turned to an attempt to find and save these memories.
This project is like an archaeological dig. Going through heaps of garbage in nearly destroyed houses, I learned more and more about their inhabitants. Lost memories were everywhere: on the floor and under broken furniture, some of them totally destroyed, some still intact. It was impossible to predict whether found films retained at least some images. Everything was covered with dirt. It took lots of time to clean it, dry and sort it out. Among photos eaten by mold, appeared smiling faces of people, their holidays, wedding ceremonies, the birth of children. I didn’t expect to find such a huge archive. Chernobyl was no longer associated with death and tragedy for me.
My visual exploration of the Present led me to the Past, and the two spaces were intertwined with each other. Observing the deserted and silent landscapes of the territories that were destroyed by the nuclear energy, at the same time we are witnessing life full of happiness, hope and love. The same villages, the same houses appear to us in the state as they were before nuclear energy pushed humans out of their homes. This is the story in which Chernobyl is still an unknown city for the world, here you won’t find traces of grief or tragedy. This project shows the consequences of nuclear development and the life that existed prior to this destructive force.
So the question is, do we really in need of nuclear power? And do we have the strength to control it?