I warn you (GOST, 2021) presents recent photographs by Polish artist Rafał Milach of three international border walls: the American-Mexican, Hungarian-Serbian-Croatian and Berlin walls. Milach’s insightful and perfectly observed images raise questions about how the physical presence and functions of border walls impact our sense of identity and memory. After photographing his home region of the former Eastern Bloc for nearly a decade, “I wanted to move to another location to emphasize that state propaganda is not a geography issue,” writes l artist in a recent email to Hyperallergic. “We are all involved in some kind of propaganda whether we realize it or not. “
Milach says he is drawn to the architecture of borders because it is a physical embodiment of the state control apparatus. Yet what is most striking about his US-Mexico series “13767” are the unauthorized ways in which ordinary people negotiate the border fence in their daily lives. In one photo, a group of men sit along the base of the fence, where a low pipe, a patched umbrella and a shaded mesquite transform the site into an impromptu gathering place. In another photo, Milach captures a humble, hand-made dwelling, located a few feet from the massive fence. While the photo shows no human inhabitant, a small collared dog glancing sheepishly across the house is an undeniable sign of domestic life. These still moments contrast sharply with closer shots with a hard, flattening flash, where Milach shows pieces of adult and children’s clothing pierced and impaled by the jagged loops of barbed wire at the top of the wall.
While Milach’s Mexican-American photos capture the stubborn coexistence and violent confrontations between people and the fence, his photos of the Hungarian-Serbo-Croatian border speak more of the void. Also titled “I am warning you,” this series alternates between panoramic views of idyllic forests and farmland surrounding the border fence and detailed shots of drones, cameras and other surveillance equipment. The only humans visible are cropped into uncomfortable close-ups of clasped hands and shaved heads of soldiers. If the 500-kilometer fence was built in 2015 to block the entry of immigrants, Milach notably refuses to represent them. Instead, he stays focused on the disruptive architecture and the awkward mechanisms in place to stop their movement.
More than three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, pieces of concrete from the barrier are still available for purchase at flea markets, antique shops and online. Milach’s “Death Strip” series applies photos of these rocky remains to photos taken in today’s Berlin. Although different, the two types of images sometimes share an interplay of visual qualities, colors and textures. But above all, Milach’s pairings seem to be aimed at replicating the phenomenon of memory itself, where something from the past literally interrupts and obscures the present moment, sometimes to such an extent that its influence seems stronger and even more physical than our reality. current. Together, Milach’s images of the Berlin Wall in pieces mark a moment of change. “It’s good to remember that eventually all walls fall and that we as citizens, artists, storytellers, can contribute to this process,” says Milach.
Rafal Milach: I’m warning you is available online through GOST Books.
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