Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander


‘The Aesthetics of Destruction’ k

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. The Polygon Nuclear Test Site XII (Dust To Dust), Kazakhstan 2011nad.jpg

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.


Reflection on fish experiment

Reflection on fish experiment


I started this experiment by taking photos of a mackerel fish on its own. I then added ice, ink, and wooden planks and started manipulating the fish.

Above are a couple of photos of the fish on its own.

To my surprise, the photos of the fish on its own were actually the most successful photos that came out; I was expecting the most successful photos to be of all of the materials I had added in and I had created a lookalike landscape, however it makes sense that these were not actually quite so successful because I think that this would come across as rather cliché and literal; a landscape that isn’t really a landscape; you would be able to tell what the materials actually are i.e. fish and ice cubes etc. This spoils the ambiguity. I think that the photos above were some of the most successful because they hold potential. These photos capture the beautiful intricate textures and colours of the fish. They do not abstract the fish, but the force viewers to look at the fish in a different way. You see it less as a fish and more of a combination of textures, colours, details.  My visiting practitioner pointed out how it would be interesting to use a macro-lensed camera and film the surfaces of fish up very close, giving a short pan from left to right. He mentioned Billingsgate Market, a huge fish market. I think I would like to pay this place a visit and film some fish up close.

It would be interesting to show films displaying the surfaces of fish (up so close that you cannot tell that they are fish, but instead become just form and texture; an abstract landscape of sorts. The ambiguity a contribution for the sense of sublime. Perhaps with sound of some sort; I could attend a church ceremony on Sunday to experience the sound of choir; sublime is a large part of religion due to the idea of God as a sublime being.

The simplicity of the white background works rather beautifully too. I think it takes the fish from its original environment, thus emphasising the form aesthetically.

My plan had been to build some large rocks and arrange these with the video installation but rocks have connotations of lakes/sea etc which relates to fish. It could be interesting to trial this just to see whether it works or not. However, my visiting practitioner suggested it’d be interesting to create a juxtaposition i.e. using objects that are so unrelated and not sublime to create a contrast. He pointed that my work at the moment captures the sublime, but stops there, which is something that has been done before countless times. He said that it would be interesting to push it further, creating a juxtaposition between the ordinary and the sublime, which could thus say something interesting about what we deem as sublime. i.e. having a collection of marbles scattered underneath the film projection.

Arguably, I have done this already by using fish to create a feeling of the sublime. However, I used fish because I find that aesthetically, they capture sublimity; it was less of a statement about how the fish, being a mundane object, is an overlooked thing that can actually be something quite sublime and overwhelming. I think what I find most appealing is the idea of creating an ambiguous, abstract landscape where the viewer cannot decipher what it is they are looking at.  For instance, with the ice, I think what could have been improved would have been if the viewer could not tell that they were looking at ice, because at present, the viewer is watching ink being poured into ice and, to an extent, that is that, which detracts from the power and suggestiveness of the piece. I also think that my experiments with mixed media, sometimes with a light, where the photos or films taken were taken from afar and the viewer could tell exactly what was happening, were perhaps less successful for this reason; there is no ambiguity. I think that for this reason, they pose very few questions and they do not create a feeling of awe nor that humans are fragile. This ambiguity is lacked in the photos of the fish, too. However, I am glad that I did them because they drew to my attention their potential.

I think that the above photos are still interesting, especially aesthetically. I think the viewers attention is drawn to combination of form. But the lack of ambiguity does not create a feeling of sublime at all.

I think that next, I will print of a couple of photos of the surface of the fish large scale so see the affect that it has.

Then, I could consider going to the fish market.

My visiting practitioner suggested I read the book ‘Travels in Hyper-Reality’ by Umberto Eco. He used the idea of having a film interjected by a clip of Meryl Streep talking about winning the Oscars (as an example), following the idea of the ‘ordinary’ imposing on the sublime. This would pose questions, I think, about different realities, celebrity culture and hyper-realities. He also mentioned how his friend had done a piece in which two people were taking about the end of the world in one film and opposite was shown a comforting film of animal fur. Benji mentioned how this created an interesting contrast between something as intense as the end of the world and such a comforting film. It is interesting because they are actually both very important; the fur is an element of what the world is composed of. One could talk and talk about the end of the world but this film actually shows what is in this world. It is similar to how one would struggle to live a happy life when every single conversation was intense and deep; about life and death. Instead, small talk is a beautiful thing that mustn’t be looked down upon; it is what oils the wheels for friendships, eases us into relationships and connections. Both are necessary for happiness; looking from a deep perspective every now and then to appreciate what we have and from a comforting, light-hearted perspective. This is relevant because it is about the contrast between the sublime and the light-hearted. I am uncertain as of yet as to whether I want to include the light-hearted. Perhaps I should try out combining with light-hearted and with more sublime related content. For instance, I had been thinking of creating boulders to show it with but I could alternatively show it with a bunch of i.e. teddies. Or perhaps the film could be viewer from a bed, creating this contrast between the importance of the sublime and the equal importance of the comfort of one’s own home.

It could be interesting to show these sublime projections on one side with an arm chair/ used coffee mug lit up by a reading light opposite, in an otherwise empty and blacked out room. This would create a contrast between the sublime; looking at abstract realities, and the mundane/ comfortable – itself being just another form of reality. They are both perhaps just different types of realities.