MARTINA HOOGLAND IVANOW, FAR TOO CLOSE — 1000 WORDS MAGAZINE (Spring, 2011).
Essay by Natasha Christia
First came eviction and the prison camp. Then, exile and the plain awareness of finding oneself not just beyond the Ural Mountains but also beyond history. In Dotsoevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Burst into Tears, the Hungarian writer Laszlo F. Földenyi beautifully recreates what all those years in South Siberia must have felt like to the Russian author. Semipalatinsk was a small town surrounded by desert. Dostoevsky lived in a small ascetic hut with a bed, a stove and a table, where he read, among others, Hegel. While thousand of people were arriving to Siberia, the German philosopher, who at the time was lecturing on universal history in Berlin wrote: ”Siberia lies outside the constraints of our study. The characteristics of this country do not allow it to work neither as a setting of historical culture nor as a model for universal history”. Reading these lines, Dostoevsky felt deeply hurt. Now he knew; Europe had expelled him not just beyond its frontiers but also outside history. He found himself confined to a state of non-existence in a non-place. Paradoxically, that very vantage point would afford him both a decisive turn in his literary production and a unique perspective of the world that has since fuelled many generations of transcendental existentialism.
Likewise, the pictures of Swedish-born photographer Martina Hoogland Ivanow are to be found in a blurred territory on the periphery of perception, far beyond the borders of historicity and its written laws. By analogy to the places they depict – some of the most remote and sparsely inhabited locations of the planet that have long represented the fokus of discontent, bitter dispute and disaffection – these pictures eloquently account for various experiences of emotional attachment with the world that surrounds us. They provide the scenarios wherein collective memory and its traumas intermingle with the subjective consciousness of the solitary traveller and the banal domestic of family interiors. They trigger the empathy mechanisms that connect us with places and inanimate objects, while reiterating the way photographs irremediably filter our gaze as pre-mental constructs. For we need photographs to visualise what lies before our eyes. We need them to speak for themselves beforehand, as much as we need ourselves to be part of the visual tale they engage, its protagonists and observers at the same time.