Rob Hornstra & Arnold van Bruggen – The Sochi Project

Opening: 24.10.2017, 7 pm
Talk: 24.10.2017, 8pm
Rob Hornstra will be present.
Exhibition: 25.10. – 2.12.2017

Kuabchara, ABKHAZIA, 2009 – Brothers Zashrikwa (17) and Edrese (14) pose proudly with a Kalashnikov on the sofa in their aunt and uncle’s house. They live in the Kodori Valley, a remote mountainous region on the border between Abkhazia and Georgia. In August 2008, Abkhazia gained control of the officially demilitarised Kodori Valley. The valley’s 2,000 Georgian inhabitants fled over the border. A few families refused to be driven out: ‘We are mountain people. Borders don’t mean very much to us. But if I had to choose between a Georgian and an Abkhazian passport, I would choose a Georgian one.’
© Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery

The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus

Photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen have been collaborating since 2009 to explore and document the turbulent region of Sochi, Russia. Over the course of five years and eleven visits, they practiced a form of “slow journalism” in order to delve deeply into the complexities of the area, and its remarkable transition in preparation to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. A subtropical Soviet- era resort on the Black Sea in the heart of the Caucasus region and far from central Moscow, Sochi lies in close proximity to the conflict zone of Abkhazia, and the impoverished, unstable republics of the North Caucasus. As a place where beach-tourism abuts terrorism, corruption, and poverty, it is full of contradictions. Not surprisingly, Hornstra and van Bruggen met with closed border crossings and overzealous law enforcement officers in the process of developing this project, and nearing its end, they were denied entrance to Russia.

Sukhum, ABKHAZIA, 2010 – The Sukhum Primate Center in Abkhazia is the oldest primate research laboratory in the world. Founded in the 1920s, the institute now strives for relevance amid Abkhazia’s struggle for independence from Georgia, dwindling funds, and the loss of a large portion of its animals to a modern lab in neighboring Russia. © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery

Through photographs, texts, videos, and books, Hornstra and van Bruggen draw viewers into the story of Sochi and the Caucasus, focusing on evocative individual narratives that collectively chronicle larger issues. Along with their accompanying hardcover book of the same title, The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus, this exhibition unpacks the story of Russia’s continuing search for a post-Soviet identity. In the process, Hornstra and van Bruggen expose the far-reaching implications of international political and economic decisions as they meet with local conditions.

Eshera, ABKHAZIA, 2010 – The second time we visit Mikhail Yefremovich Zetunyan (88) in his house with a magnificent view of the Black Sea. Despite the subtropical climate and stunning location most of the houses in Eshera are empty. During the war with Georgia in 1993, all the ethnic Georgians were driven out. Young village residents were killed in the fighting. Only a quarter of the village’s population remains. There are simply not enough people to keep the village going, leaving everything to fall into further disrepair. Mikhail Yefremovich doesn’t care. He feels his time has come and is busy making his own coffin.
© Rob Hornstra/INSTITUTE

This exhibition at foto-forum offers a glimpse of Abkhazia, one of the three explored regions within The Sochi Project.

Tkuarchal, ABKHAZIA, 2010 – Tribute to victims of war in the cultural palace in Kuarchal. During the War in Abkhazia (1992-3), Tkuarchal withheld, through Russian humanitarian and military aid, an uneasy siege by the Georgian forces. Since 1995 it is the centre of the newly-formed Tkvarcheli district.The town’s population was 21,744 in 1989. The three main ethnic groups were Abkhaz (42.3%), Russians (24.5%) and Georgians (23.4%). As a result of the War in Abkhazia the town’s industries all but stopped and its population decreased greatly and according to the 2003 census data its population was 4,786. © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery


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