Art & Photography / In Pictures

Searching for Irony in Places Abandoned by Communist Regimes

From roads leading to nowhere to strangely charming landscapes, Martin Kollar's new photo book documents the uncertainty and humour of the voids left by collapsed social ideologies

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Provisional Arrangement
Provisional Arrangement© Martin Kollar, Courtesy of MACK

Martin Kollar’s new photo book, Provisional Arrangement, presents a series of snapshots of a strange, unnamed land that, on first glance, appears plagued by stagnation and uncertainty. It's not until the photographer explains that he grew up in Czechoslovakia during the Communist era that the book’s title makes sense – as for this project, published by MACK, Kollar set about documenting landscapes like his homeland, where communist regimes have collapsed and left a void behind. Rather than focusing on the resulting dilapidation, however, Kollar’s photos capture the irony of the inevitable instability arising from such situations; almost like a shrewd “back at ya” in the face of their policies. 

Empty communist architecture and barren landscapes are among the most conspicuous images of prolonged impermanence that the series exposes, while others seem to be stolen moments that are all the more curious for their impenetrability. In fact, only a person who has grown up with these false certainties, like Kollar, can truly understand their meaning. “Through the motto, with the Soviet Union for all Eternity – which has been one of my few experiences with eternity - people of my generation fight against the void left behind by the abandoned dogmas,” he explains. By photographing these scenes, Kollar freezes them in time, juxtaposing temporary situations with three-dimensional objects which will last forever.

In spite of the tendency for this sort of work to slip into the bleakly desolate, there's a tongue-in-cheek humour and an oddly universal optimism to Kollar's images; a field full of colourful vegetables sits in stark contrast to a concrete road leading confidently into nowhere; a bunker-like building collapses on its legs; one man snoozes indiscriminately in a rust-ridden yellow car, his mouth open and drooling, for example. Kollar’s photos offer a glimpse at places attempting to re-establish a collective state of mind, one that carries on with a sense of renewed purpose; an innately human endeavour, and a humorous one at that.

Provisional Arrangement by Martin Kollar is out now, published by MACK. 

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