Medicine, museum


Dasha Trofimova
Limbo, 2020

Digital print on paper, plywood
200×133×2.1 cm
Courtesy of the artist

In medieval Catholic theology, limbo was the place for souls who did not go to heaven, hell or purgatory; those who deserved neither eternal torment nor salvation, for example, unbaptized babies or those who died before the coming of Christ. Dasha Trofimova’s Limbo features things left behind. They are no longer used by humans, but have not yet been recycled. The series began with objects from the artist’s home in Pavlodar (Kazakhstan), abandoned following her family’s emigration to Russia. It continues to unfold in the spaces of former Soviet research institutes temporarily rented out as artists’ studios, among other things, but which, at the next turn of the samsara- gentrification wheel, are destined for demolition to make way for luxury housing. A personal story featuring family objects thus becomes a prototype for a collective one, reflecting the historical moment of creative clusters’ fragile presence on the ruins of scientific institutions, before the earth beneath them takes on a new life involving a mortgage. The photographs in the exhibition were taken at Moscow’s Giredmet and Phazotron research institutes, which are marked for demolition.

There is no nostalgic mood or trendy vintage styling in the series. Trofimova collects things into seemingly unstable, absurd, somewhat sad, and slightly ironic heaps, which look like they will collapse immediately after the shoot. Rather than documenting a moment gone by in the manner of Susan Sontag, here photography is used by the artist as a means of staging a possible presence of things in space and time, and new connections between them. The large scale of the prints means the things are almost life-size. Mounted on sheets of plywood leaning against the wall, they appear to transfer the artist’s “collages” into the exhibition space. It is not the ruins of former utopias—a subject much in demand by previous generations of artists working with the medium of photography—that stand before us but a speculative documentation of current processes, where the artist demonstrates an interest in collective memory, including the memory of these alien found objects that is shared with other people.