Aslan Goisum

Volga (2015)

Volga opens with a shot of an open-ended field under a gray sky. A white car of the eponymous Soviet make—standard-issue for the imperial administrative class in the “Period of Stagnation”—is the only indication of the cultural geography of the piece. What unfolds must take place somewhere in the former USSR. In a slow crescendo of activity and tension, groups of men, women and children—twenty-one people in total—walk up to the car and squeeze into it.

The situation the viewer witnesses is one of hurried escape, as experienced by hundreds of thousands during the Russian-Chechen Wars of 1994–2009. Yet, the individuals allow themselves to be swallowed by the car with calm and dignity. It is as if their action, in all its absurdity, could also be understood as an allegory of travel in a wider and less urgent sense, or even as a stoic display of dark humor.

As often, Goisum has chosen to approach an uncomfortable truth indirectly, elliptically, bringing to the fore the spectral encounter between the seen and the unseen. It is there that lived experience becomes poetic image: both open-ended field and precisely scripted action.

Aslan Goisum (1991, Grozny, Chechnya) employs various artistic media—mainly the moving image, sculptural installation, and paper-based techniques—that articulate the collective and individual upheaval marking the North Caucasus history. He tends to mine memory—collective and personal, political and cultural—for clues about colonial realities, how they have been endured and how they might be undone. Identities come into play in his work, as embodied effects of violence but also as possible openings, new beginnings. Recent exhibitions include: Blood and Soil: Dark Arts for Dark Times, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (2019); Beautiful World, Where Are You?, 10th Liverpool Biennial (2018); How to Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien (2017); and People of No Consequence, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (2016).

HD video, stereo sound, 4′11″