Emma Geliot's picture


Lithuanian photographer Indr erpytyt is exhibiting two bodies of work at Ffotogallery s Turner house exhibition space, both of which, in different ways, address the post war Soviet occupation of Lithuania.

I find it astonishing that in Europe in the 70s, whilst I was happily playing with my Tonka toys and watching the Magic Roundabout the Forest Brothers (the name given to the Lithuanian, anti-soviet, resistance fighters), were struggling against the organs of a brutally inhumane regime. Even the acronyms adopted by the various enforcement agencies, employed to counter such insurgence: NKVD, NKGB, MVD and MGB communicate something of the faceless banality the Brothers struggled against. Torture, over this period, evolved from being an act of theatre, to being a matter of routine that was played out quietly and efficiently behind closed doors. When a Brother was caught he would have been taken to one of the many commandeered houses dotted through the forest, to be broken for confession, batched and then, most likely, despatched.

Downstairs in Turner House is the Jerwood award winning work, A State of Silence, that first thrusterpytyt into the spotlight; a series of matter-of-fact depictions of some of the paraphernalia associated with power, set against a plain black cloth and then printed on a grand scale. The images become shrines to the bureaucratic small-mindedness engendered by totalitarianism. These dry renderings, inspite of their contrivance, communicate powerfully because they are set against a deeply personal journey,erpytyt 's attempt to understand the mysterious death of her Father, an ex-government official, in a car crash.

Making work about oneself is something that all artists, perhaps, have a right to do once, but, (with a few notable exceptions), it is not an approach that is usually creatively sustainable. I was wondering, as I climbed the stairs to view the newer work, 1944-1991,whether I was going to witness a case of second album syndrome. Happily my fears were unfounded forerpytyt had expanded her investigations to cover the broader legacy of the Lithuanian struggle against the soviet regime in the, so called, Forgotten War.erpytyt cleverly intertwines a variety of motifs, she presents a large format depiction of a swathe of impenetrable forest, the natural world at its most claustrophobic; it is both the partisan's home but also their prison.erpytyt also commissioned Lithuanian craftsmen to whittle models of the houses commandeered by the regime out of forest wood, these machetes are exhibited in a glass case in the middle of the gallery. erpytyt then photographed the models and their likenesses are exhibited on surrounding gallery walls enlarged, bland, monochrome and remote, transformed by the mechanical process of photography into real places of menace. For the final piece in this elaborate jigsawerpytyt presents pages from a series of notebooks, documenting the function of the various houses and rooting her project back into historical reality.

The juxtaposition of evidence, both genuine and fictitious, through this exhibition, makes for an unsettling and deeply rewarding viewing experience; it is well worth a visit and will be showing until 12 October.

The exhibition ran from 07 Sept - 12 Oct 2013 at Ffotogallery's exhibition space, Turner House, Penarthwww. Ffotogallery.org