Steppenläufer (Tumbleweed). 2018
Installation: archive photo, textile, latex, ventilators. Places exhibition in Jewish Museum, Moscow. Human condition project, session 4. Curator Viktor Misiano
The tumbleweed is a bushy steppe plant that grows into a spherical form which,once uprooted, can be carried over long distances by the wind.
My stepfather Alexander Davidovich Hilgenberg was a Russian German. His life, like that of many of his countrymen, was difficult. He was born in 1912 in the Volga region, in the village of Phillipsfeld, but in 1941 his entire family – his father David Davidovich, brother David and sisters Irma, Erica and Olga – were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia. From there, Alexander Davidovich was conscripted into the Labour Army, and sent to the Ivdel work camp in the Northern Urals, where he married a German woman named Emma Mayerle, who was also serving in the Labour Army. They were later moved to the Vizhai special settlement, where they had two daughters – Lilya and Vera. In 1968, Alexander Davidovich went to live in the village of Nizhniye Sergi, in Sverdlovsk Oblast. He was director of the local forestry enterprise until his retirement. After the death of his wife, his adult daughters left for other cities and he was left alone, and so my mother, having by that time lost my father, became his support. They changed their flats for a single “two-roomer” and moved in together, my mother looking after him when he suffered a stroke. He died at home, in the Urals, and is buried beside my parents. His life story is my story too. And I want to talk about him, but not just about him. The lot of the Russian Germans has been unfairly tragic. Invited to Russia in the second half of the 18th century by Catherine the Great, they settled along the Volga, in the Southern Ukraine and Crimea. In September 1941, right at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, all of them without exception were evicted from their native Volga to Siberia and Kazakhstan. About a million people were expelled from their homes. Of these, around 300 thousand were then drafted into the Labour Army and sent to the most remote areas of the USSR, where they worked and lived in special settlements and camps. Only in 1955 were they allowed to return to the original places of deportation – to Kazakhstan and Siberia, though the Germans were forbidden from returning to the Volga region where they had lived up until 1941. The Russian Germans never resettled in their homeland – in the 1990s the new Russian leadership did everything to prevent the restoration of the Volga German Republic. Many Germans then left Russia, emigrating to Germany. Russian Germans are a wandering people, they put down roots in Russia and it became their real motherland, but the Soviet government cruelly tore up a whole people from their native land. The Russian Germans have been driven around the world, just like the wind chases the dried out balls of the tumbleweeds that my stepfather saw so much of in the steppelands, where he was taken and left to survive in as best he could, back in the autumn of 1941.
The author would like to thank the wolgadeutsche.net website and express his personal gratitude to Alexander Spaсk for providing copies of photographs from the family albums of the Volga Germans.
Leonid Tishkov (Russia)
Installation, mixed media
The concept of “displacement”, introduced into psychoanalysis by Freud, is a tendency of the human mind to forget traumatic experiences which, however, is not entirely possible to achieve. Displacement tends to return in a changed form such as recurring nightmares and horrors. Therefore, in order to outlive the grief a person has to make a certain effort and its first phase is “processing” which implies acceptance of your memory and recognition of the fact that a certain traumatic event has really taken place. Lately the theory of psychoanalysis has been enriched with a new discovery. As it turns out, the traumas, especially the ones that have not been overcome, can be inherited by your descendants who may start experiencing them as their own. Marianne Hirsch calls this phenomenon post-memory. Many of Leonid Tishkov’s works, in which he addresses his family history and his parents’ tragic biography, corroborate this idea. In the early days of the war, in August 1941, the artist’s father Alexander Ivanovich Tishkov found himself in the Uman encirclement, where the Sixth, the Twelfth, and the Twenty-sixth armies of the South and the South-West Fronts were surrounded by the Germans. As a prisoner-of-war he spent a long time in the camp at Uman and later was moved to Stalag 326 in the district of Stukenbrock where he was liberated by the American army. In December 1945, he returned to his home in the Urals having spent time in the NKVD camp Borisenko at Frankfurt-on-Oder where he had undergone “filtration”. He never talked about his war experiences, probably because he had signed a secrecy paper, or maybe because he had simply “displaced” those events from his memory. His son became obsessed with the task of reconstructing those events through “processing”. Leonid Tishkov managed to find in the internet the report of his father’s interrogation by the NKVD. The report shed much light on the circumstances of his imprisonment. Leonid also collected scanty but scaring evidence left by the survivors of the Uman encirclement. Finally he came across a German photograph with the following inscription: “Negative № 1.13/22. Uman. Ukraine. Russia. Date: 14 August 1941. 50,000 Russian military have been collected in Uman.” Tishkov studied the picture closely trying to find his father among the prisoners, but he failed and printed out an enlarged photograph on paper. His archive also contains a photograph of his father in military uniform made shortly before the war, and a black button from that uniform which he discovered in his mother’s lifetime collection of buttons. That button became a fetish for Tishkov and finally he made a bronze monument out of it. Having identified himself with his father he saw in his life the fate of millions of similar lives reflecting the fate of his generation. His father’s generation had been immortalized in Mikhail Sholokhov’s The Fate of Man, one of the best works of war prose. That was how it occurred to Tishkov that the name “Uman” suggests associations with the word “human” and all that is associated with humans and humanity in most European languages.
From brochure TIME AND SENSES. Trauma, memory, oblivion, knowledge. Project THE HUMAN CONDITION SESSION III
Exhibition “The Haunted House” December, 1, 2017 – January, 28, 201 in
Leonid Tishkov UNMARKED, 2017
Installation: Tyumen carpet, found clothes, wood.
The artist learned about the tragic fate of his grandfather, Tishkov Ivan Grigorievich, only a few years ago. He did not have a single photo of his grandfather, not a single document. There was only a little information avaliable from the Memory Book of the Tyumen region that Ivan Grigorievich was from the village of Korkino in the Sverdlovsk region, was exiled to the Yagodny village of the Kondinsky district, and then was arrested and shot in Tyumen on December 10, 1937. 80 years have passed since his grandfather’s death, but Leonid continues to look for the place of his last refuge; the artist’s soul is restless until he finds the unmarked grave. "The local carpet is black like Tyumen land itself, on which flowers unplanted by me grow; this is the image of my memory of my grandfather and that I must find his grave while I have time," says the artist.
Leonid Tishkov The KNITLING (VYAZANIK), 2002, installation as part of the "Work never stops" exhibition. Tyumen carpet and textiles contemporary artists. Until 21 January 2018 in Tyumen Arts Center. 4th Urals Industrial Biennale of Arts