Sacred Defense

posted by Bridget on 09 September 2014

At this year's Rencontres D'Arles portfolio reviews I met a young photographer whose project on the Iran-Iraq War enchanted me.

sacred defense

Wawrzyniec Kolbusz is a young Polish photographer whose understanding of history and how it is told and re-told through visual mediums is impressive. His project Sacred Defense looks at the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988 and how it is being re-told in Iran, through government sponsored museums and cinema.

When you look at Wawrzyniec's images it is easy to think you are looking at war, seen through the marks left on the landscape. It is no mistake that when we see an empty road winding its way through hills we think of Roger Fenton's photographs from the Crimea War, further assuring us that this is indeed imagery made on the battlefield.

But these marks are illusions as they are made at Cinema City, a place where war movies are made for consumption in Iran.

Sacred Defense 2

Elsewhere Iranians can experience the 1980s war through historical reconstructed exhibits in museums, whose mission is less about preserving artefacts and more about creating reconstructed history to offer an illusory memory.

sacred defense 3

It is easy to find humour in this work, how funny that a government would want to create group memory with such apparently amateurish presentations. But for all the sophistication of the west's display of artefacts and historical reconstructions found in world class museums, there remains a subjectivity that can reveal the ideological colour of their paymasters.

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