Friday, 6 November 2015
Deleted Scene: An Ethnic Landscape?
It's Sound, Word and Landscape at the Southbank Centre in Bristol this Saturday, an event that is about how we think about, make and show pictures, about how you can use word, sound, music, biography and geology to deepen the viewer's connection to the world around us.
You can buy tickets here.
So, in that vein, there's a series of reviews of books dealing with the landscape on the blog this week. Next up is Yury Toroptsov's Deleted Scene, a book where biography, ethnic background and how we live either on the land or with the land all play a role.
Yury will be doing book signings at Paris Photo next week on Friday 13th at 4pm.
Yury Toroptsov wasn't even 2 years old when his father died. 'I have no personal memories of him,' he says in his new book, Deleted Scene.
'He was almost forgotten. No one spoke of him. His grave was abandoned. The extent of my knowledge about my father was gleaned from a couple of stories that folks who once knew him told me.'
One of these stories involved the family (father, mother and Yury) coming across the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa shooting his film Dersu Uzala 'in the vicinity of our village (in Eastern Siberia) in 1974. Those were among the last remembered moments when we were still a happy family.'
So there's autobiography of a recreated type; half-formed memories that have been adapted over time to form a new narrative, one that is adjusted again as Toroptsov juggles the elements of this family legend; there's the memory of Dersu Uzala (who was a nomadic 'Goldi' native who lived and worked in the forests of Siberia), there is Kurosawa and the 'meeting' with Toroptsov family, and there are local archive pictures of Kurosawa making the movie - including scenes which his family witnessed being shot.
And then there's present day Siberia. One where the urban, the ideological and the natural merge together. We see the town where Toroptsov spent his early years, the tracks into the forest, and the spaces in between.
Flat vistas and stretching roads give the scale of the place, and the ramshackle wooden houses provide the familiar feeling of isolation, that you are far from at least one centre of things.
But there is always more than one centre. So there are little curiosities - the painted posts on smallholdings that hint at another world. These have an aboriginal feel to them, a lightness almost, that is connected to the land in a more spiritual way.
The goalposts made of tree trunks that still have bark on have a similar effect, as does the picture of an offering by a blue painted fence. This is a landscape that has multiple meanings and resonances that go beyond surface history.
The archive pictures show Kurosawa filming, and we see the real Dersu Uzala, resplendent in his furs, a man whose relationship to the land was very different to that of non-native Siberians. And that you feel is at the heart of this book. There are pictures of Toroptsov's father in there, and his features are East Asian (Korean) rather than Russian, so there is a personal element to the book that comes across far more strongly than the relatively eliptical statements would have us believe.
More hints of a different ideology come across in pictures of a local monument, featuring curlesque carvings of elk and big-eyed faces that are more Inuit in nature. There's a tension between two ideas of the land or the territory. And we see it right at the end. There's a tiger (this is another connection to Dersu Uzala - I have to see the film now), followed by a woman whose chest is bared, a massive scar down the front where something seems to have been ripped out. The book ends with a picture of the forest followed by one of an old Communist Party building, and then a statue (of Dersu Uzala himself).
It's a book with a strong political statement. Political landscape. Or an ethnic landscape because how we live the land is so much connected with who we are. We can live with it or we can live against it. In Deleted Scene, Yoroptsov is quietly making that choice. Let's go with that. Why not?
Buy Deleted Scenes here