‘The Aesthetics of Destruction’
In the above image, it is interesting how the building exists in an otherwise desolate landscape; contrast between man/ mans doings and actions and thus human nature, and the untouched landscape; the result of man onto the planet and both the creation and destruction that we bring.
Nadav Kander explores the result of the Cold War through radioactive ruins of secret cities between Kazakhsyan and Russia.
These places are closed, restricted military zones. They were discovered by Google Earth. Enlisted to pursuits of science and war. – interested how a place can become a signifier for human pursuits; human destruction and human curiosity.
Places become pinpoints/defined by for how humans have shaped/used/treated them.
Falsely claimed as uninhabited, the cities, along with nearby testing site ‘The Polygon’, set the stage for one of the most cynical experiments ever undertaken. Scientists watched and silently documented the horrifying effects of radiation and pollution on the local population and livestock.
Demolished to preserve their military secrets, the areas now consist predominantly of the ruinous architecture and desolate landscapes featured in Kander’s haunting photographs. A result of the Cold War and of the relentless quest for nuclear armaments, the ruins stand as accidental monuments to the melancholic, dark and destructive side of human nature.
Interesting idea that places become silent pinpoints for human behaviour i.e. the desolate landscapes or the ruins contain the history of the Cold War and all that led up to that/ everyone involved, thus creating a sense of the sublime in knowing the history of the landscape. Also it is symbolic of, as is stated above, the destructive side to human nature.
Landscapes become symbolic of human nature; an interesting idea, seeing as nature existed before humans. You see in the landscape the presence of the past; perhaps only when it is known, yet in Kander’s photographs, there is a sense of foreboding, a darkness, as though the landscape contains some secrets or history that is left mysterious.
Thus it is interesting how Kander presents these histories as stake facts, but creates in them a poetic atmosphere. Facts and feeling are two very different things. You could state that a war took place in an area, but it is different to create the FEELING that a war took place, and thus this is creating a sense of the sublime; that importance of feeling over fact. It is sitting at the top of the mountain and FEELING insignificance rather than purely finding out that the biological funtions in your body will at some point fail you. It is the overwhelming sense of awe that one cannot put into words. The FEELING of looking at the stars and understanding that nothing that you are concerned about is quite as important as you once thought. FEELING that you are just a tiny spec in a vast and complex history of billions of other human lives, being brought forth upon this planet each in different shapes and sizes, diferent sounds, different lives, feelings, experiences; no one quite the same. FEELING that human life is a mere coincidence, and that being able to speak is a biological coincidence, and that genetically we are so nearly the same as pigs or slugs, that animals are creatures just like us and that nothing will live forever. FEELING the power of nature for not being subject to such fragility that we are subject to.
I remember when I was young, I was on a walk with my mother and father and as I was lingering ages behind as always, stuck in my head, and I looked at them standing and waiting for me, and they were these two tiny blobs in my vision, and behind them were these utterly enormous trees, swooping high up into the sky; these two tiny blobs were specs compared to these ginormous green giants; these awe-strikingly immense, mountainous trees. And I just felt so overwhelmed. I felt so humbled. I believe that was the first itme in my life that such a blatant sublimity had been shown to me; I truly grapsed how tiny and fragile and insignificant humans were.
“empty landscapes of invisible dangers,” – I could find a place about which I know the history to gain a sense.
His photos are powerful because the buildings have just been left there since the war took place, which is interesting because it becomes a physical emblem of human destruction. You see the areas of before and those of after.
As Will Self writes in his foreword to Dust: “These images do not make beautiful what is not, they ask of us that we repurpose ourselves to accept a new order of both the beautiful and the real.”
The blatant form of photography presents these buildings in a very factual, clear way so that the focus is shifted onto the objects inside the image, and thus the viewer I forced to think more about the building and its history.