Robert Polidori — Remembering Chernobyl
Past: August 27 → October 8, 2016
The Galerie Karsten Greve announces Remembering Chernobyl, a photo exhibition dedicated to the work of the Canadian artist Robert Polidori, in tribute to the thirty years of the nuclear disaster in Ukraine on 26 April 1986.
Through a course of twenty-two works, the artist presents a panorama of urban and natural environments closely affected by the explosion of reactor number 4 leading to the spread of a colossal amount of radioactive elements in the atmosphere. In 2001, with a special permit, Robert Polidori entered the nuclear exclusion zone, established at the time by the Soviet army and extending over an area of 2600 km2, including the town of Pripyat, built in 1970 to house the employees of the nuclear power plant. Fifteen years after the photographs taken of the plant by Anatoly Rasskazov, the first photojournalist to relay the scale of the disaster, Robert Polidori travelled around the uninhabited stretches of Chernobyl and Pripyat and immortalized the deep sequelae caused by human activity.
Imbued with melancholy, the series called Zones of Exclusion reveals the state of neglect and disrepair of the peripheral areas at the epicentre of the disaster. Avoiding sensationalism, the artist conveys a modest vision based on the absence of subject staging, the use of natural lighting and the choice of a raw overview that is true to reality. Whether the views are shot indoors, in schools, maternity wards, kindergartens, hospitals, or outdoors near the nuclear plant, Robert Polidori succeeds to capture the particularly distressing atmosphere of this region that has become silent, frozen in time and makes the danger inherent in these places readily palpable.
His photographs evidence the recent past, the remains of an industrial and economic but also social activity in that they document what the daily life of the community of nearly 50,000 people settled in Pripyat was. This aspect, generally ignored by the public, is at the centre of the artist’s work. Although some objects remain partially intact, such as textbooks, pictures of Lenin or the gas masks visible in the background in one of the images, Classroom in Kindergarten # 7, Golden Key, Pripyat; the dilapidated state of the interior spaces and the ambient chaos nevertheless attest to the brutality and precipitation of the evacuations.
The presence of these relics of the Soviet empire in the work of Polidori, so close to decay, appear therefore as a metaphor for the political evolution of the communist bloc: Pripyat a modern city par excellence, with quality infrastructures, is no more than a ruin, reduced to rubble and abandoned to a future that is far from certain.
Robert Polidori was born in 1951 in Montreal. In the 1970s, he settled in New York where he began working with Anthology Film Archives under the direction of Jonas Mekas. In 1980 he obtained a Masters of the State University of New York. Twice he was awarded the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, which honours magazine photographs (in 1999 and 2000). The World Press Award was bestowed in 1998 for his photo essay on the construction of the Getty Museum, and the Communication Arts Award was awarded to him in 2007 and 2008. The work of Polidori can be found in the collections of numerous institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, as well as the national Library in Paris. Robert Polidori lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
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