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Mari Bastashevski photographs the rooms of victims of kidnap. “Abduction as a concealment tactic became prevalent in 2000 during the second Russian-Chechen conflict. The practice continues today. The rooms are preserved by family members who don’t know the fate of their loved ones,” says Bastashevski.

It’s no surprise that since her Open Society Grant and subsequent exhibition in New York and Washington D.C., Bastashevski should have become the trendiest thing in art-documentary. (The New Yorker, Lens Blog, ThePhotographyPost)

I’m not being flippant here; I think her work is remarkable and I also think it is successful in translating the bleakness of the situation for abductees and the families left behind (not all photography can elevate an issue in this same way).

File 126: Disappearing in the Caucasus’ has all the right ingredients to hook the Western audience; the cachet of post-Cold-War politics; the same cold-exoticism of photographers such as Carl de Keyzer or Bieke Depoorter; the details of anaesthetised domestic interiors; and fundamentally, hundreds of profoundly tragic and must-be-heard stories about political terror.

Russian-born Bastashevski read the case files before she began visiting families. Human rights organizations in the Russian North Caucasus have spent years documenting the abductions of young people, which they attribute to the state security forces conducting a brutal counter-insurgency campaign[ …] Some stories verged on madness, like the genteel lady who was certain, after five years, that her sons were still alive in a secret prison in the forest, if only she could reach them. (Source)

DIFFERENT CONTINENT, SAME CRIME

One of the reasons I am so interested in Bastashevski’s work is that it mirrors the work – intellectually and in terms of its activism – of those photographers exploring and documenting the legacies and memories of the Disappeared in Argentina. (“Those photographers” I have written about before here, here, here and here).

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Image Caption: On June 10th, 2009 a group of military officials conducted a special, counter-terrorism, operation in Nazran, Ingushetia. In a course of the night, the men seized out of bed and dragged away a 23 year old Albakov Batyr. For two weeks Batyr remained missing. On June 13th., 2009, after two weeks of silence and uncertainty Batyrs mother saw her son on television. Literally torn to pieces, with arms barely connected to the torso, his body was dressed into insurgency clothing and was displayed covered in bullet holes. The TV network announced Batyr as one of the most wanted terrorist leaderer, killed during a spec. operation in the mountains. © Mari Bastashevski
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