Video loop, 7 minutes, wooden construction 2013
Odesa (formerly Odessa) was built by Italians for Catherine the Great, a major seaport on the Black Sea and formerly headquarters of the Imperial Russian fleet. Sergei Eisenstein’s famous film The Battleship Potemkin celebrates a famous mutiny in 1905, a precursor to the Russian Revolution of 1917, showing the solidarity of the Odessan citizens with the brave sailors rising up against their oppressors. This film has one of the most iconic scenes in cinema, of Imperial Cossack guards shooting the onlookers who are cheering the sailors of the Potemkin. A pram rolls out of control down the steps, close-ups of horrified faces, smashed spectacles, and the cries of mercy of a distraught mother carrying her dead child up the steps to challenge the unprovoked aggressors. A modern Pieta. The massacre of course never actually happened. The scene was shot in Odesa, on the Potemkin Steps – which were renamed after the film. But history has taken over. The Russian Revolution did happen. The Utopian cry in the film, ‘The Future is ours’ was answered, though perhaps only in the art of that period. Other worse massacres left less spectacular images. In the film, tourists and locals visit the Potemkin Steps, drawn by the vestigial memory of the film, to perform on this staged historic landmark.
At ICIA, Bath, for the exhibition The Faces They Have Vanished, the film was projected into a wooden construction inspired by the designs of Gustav Klutsis, built as a model space for viewing.