Surveillance consists of photographs of the walking yard and prison cell door spyholes in former prisons of oppressive systems, such as KGB prisons in the Baltic States and Ukraine, the Stasi remand prison in Berlin, Germany, the UB headquarters in Poznan, and the MBP (UB) prison in Warsaw, Poland. A spyhole is a detail. It is a very informative object—a lens through which the warden looked at people inside of the prison cell or walking yard, and one of the visual communicative channels that obscured the personality of a prisoner into an object of surveillance, reminding us of the everyday life of people that were on both sides of it.
The Process presents photographed pieces of discarded photo paper which were found in the former KGB “Patarei” prison photography darkroom in Tallinn, Estonia. Photography in KGB prisons was mainly used as a very controlled tool for documentation, capturing the subject and recasting him as an object in the service of the prison system. These pieces of photo paper were not used for such purposes; rather, they were left discarded after the prison was closed and were “processed” by the natural light through the window in an abandoned facility formerly operated by a government that had ceased to exist.
Officially, these State Security agencies were engaged in the provision of law and order; in fact, they were instruments of political repression, spying on the population and fighting “hostile elements.” These prisons became places for political prisoners and people who were considered objectionable and “unwanted” due to their dissent and “anti-Soviet activities.” The same places in the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland were used for similar purposes by the Gestapo when these countries were under Nazi Germany occupation during WWII. All these oppressive systems used the same methods, which they developed with time based on common experience.
I think that historical origins influence us more than most of us realize. They are a part of our surrounding and of our logic, and of what makes sense when we put them together.
This project is dedicated to my father, Viktor Odnovyun, who spent more than four years in three different prisons as an asylum seeker.
Who? Valentyn Odnoviun
Docking November 23 - December 14 2018
Working on Surveillance
About oppressive regimes
Valentyn Odnoviun (Ukraine, 1987) is a photographer based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
His research in recent years has mostly been on historical and socially relevant topics and events. He approaches these topics in an innovative conceptual and abstract manner by calling into question the relation between what we see and what we perceive in advance of the act op recognition.
He has participated in exchange programs at the Academy of Arts Łódź in Poland and at the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich, Germany. He has won several awards, including the Grand Prix award at the Interphoto Photography Festival in 2017 and first place at the Krakow Photomonth Portfolio Review in 2018. He has participated in various individual and collective exhibitions in different countries.
"Valentyn Odnoviun has an interesting approach to the topics that he investigates and in more general terms to the relevance and importance of ideas of abstraction. For example in the project called Surveillance, a project that Docking Station will support, Odnoviun has photographed the spyholes in the prison cell doors in the former KGB prisons in the Baltic States and Ukraine, Stasi “Hohenschönhausen” remand prison in East Berlin, Germany, UB headquarters in Poznan and MBP (UB) prison in Warsaw, Poland. His desire to allow our imagination to connect to the traces and histories etched on the surface of the glass as a way of understanding the regimes and repression of previous state persecutors, is apparent in the way that he chooses his aesthetics and presents the images. The unending typological approach helps us understand the repetitive and continuous way in which people were, and continue to be oppressed by those in power.
Odnoviun is going to benefit hugely from the talent available to him at Docking Station and will be supported on moving forward with his innovative and conceptual approach to complex and historical documentary topics. "