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WAR ROOMS

IMAGES

2016

The Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow presents large-format dioramas in six rooms, portraying the most important events of World War Two for Russia. Realized in the 1990s by artists from the Grekov Studio, the wall paintings are not limited to the semi-circular war panoramas, but also continue on the adjacent walls of the rooms. Apart from the areas with the large display theaters, the depictions of war enter into a bizarre dialogue with the functional level of the museum. Unlike the immersive dioramas, where visitors are supposed to find them- selves in the midst of the battlefield, here the effect of the images is inverted. Real objects accidentally disrupt the rhetorics of the heroic murals, allowing museum gestures to become visible. Within the painted battlefields there are switches, buttons, conduits, electrical sockets, and doors. They break with the pictures on the walls, and as indications of the functional structure, they reveal museum strategies of staging: the use of painting as an artistically charged form of picturing war with a technical boost of sound and light effects. Documentary photo- graphs of World War Two, which named the original horror, served simply as a reference for developing melodramatic war tableaus.

In the photo series WAR ROOMS, which shows the entrance and exit situations in the dioramas, there are further pragmatic objects that seem out of place and highly charged. Interiors, furnishings, and items of equipment become isolated and bizarre objects, although they correspond like stage props with their surroundings. They enter into a strange dialogue with the depictions of war: soldiers take cover behind a desk, military commanders seem to stare at a red telephone placed in the room. In another place it seems as though a soldier is shoveling rubble onto the chair of the museum staff. WAR ROOMS presents irritating scenarios to the viewers, in which inside and out- side space seem paradoxically interlocked. Doors integrated in the war paintings become an interface – a kind of portal that seems to open up the option of fleeing from war through the pictures. They suggest an emergency exit – for the protagonists of the battles as well as the visitors to the museum.

 

Katharina Gruzei

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