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Book of the Week : A Pick by Christopher J Johnson


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J Johnson Christopher J Johnson selects Fruit Garden presented by Sputnik Photo as Book of the Week.
Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, 
Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, 
Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. Sputnik Photos, 2017.
Christopher J Johnson selects Fruit Garden presented by Sputnik Photos. Designed by Ania Nałęcka-Milach/ TapirBookDesign

"Fruit Garden is the third installment in the Lost Territories Archive from the Sputnik Photo Collective. The first installment was the book Wordbook, which was reviewed in an earlier Book of the Week selection this year; the second installation was a gallery exhibition entitled SEDIMENT, which ran in Warsaw from October 2016-February 2017; the forthcoming fourth installment was also an exhibition which came down in April and had the title The New End.

The Lost Territories Archive body of work in its various forms attempts to look back at the former Soviet Union and the continued effects of it to this day in contemporary Russia and the former Soviet States; the focus of Fruit Garden is the Soviet era and science for which, as its starting point, it takes as pivotal a statement from a horticulturist named Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, 'We cannot wait for favors from nature. To take them from it — that is our task.'

Michurin sought to tamper with nature by hybridizing several plant species, however the global science community disproved his scientific doctrine even within his lifetime, despite this – the Soviet Union made the horticulturist’s ideas official Soviet belief.

This is a perfect metaphor for what Fruit Garden contains: the remnants of failed Soviet sciences, experiments and horrific military tinkering. Something strange however, and different from Wordbook, is that the photographs presented in the collection are not directly attributed to their photographers, instead the photographers (Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss) appear in a consolidated list at the back of the volume; whether intentional or not, I found this last fact disturbing when thought of in terms of the subject matter of the book itself — the work in Fruit Garden shows how a large empire, when it tries to apply a rule for all, does terrible and even absurd (the acceptance of disproved sciences, for example) things and the ones who suffer are the very citizens whom they sought to help; in a book peppered with (literal) graveyards, I was sad to see the photographers’ names removed from their works — the proletariat fails in the face of the individual and when a book is about exactly that, why should the photographers themselves have to suffer the same dehumanizing fate? Or maybe that’s the point." — Christopher J Johnson

Purchase Book

Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. 
Sputnik Photos, 2017.

Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. 
Sputnik Photos, 2017


Christopher J Johnson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a resident writer for the Meow Wolf art collective. His first book of poetry, &luckier, has been released by the University of Colorado. He is Manager of photo-eye’s Book Division.

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