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Zenta Dzividzinska, Servitude. 2002–2007.

Part of the series Servitude (14 photographs, 80x120 cm, inkjet prints) are exhibited in the exhibition of contemporary photography from Latvia PRIVATE (February 20 – March 15, 2008, contemporary art center WINZAVOD, Moscow) that takes place within the framework of the festival Season of Latvian Culture in Russia and The Seventh International Photography Month in Moscow Photobiennale 2008.

The Little Prince on the Planet of Property Owners
(Fragment from the introductory text for the exhibition PRIVATE)

– Oh, where I live, – said the little prince, – it is not very interesting.
– It is all so small. I have three volcanoes. Two volcanoes are active and the other is extinct. But one never knows.
– One never knows, – said the geographer.
– I have also a flower.
– We do not record flowers, – said the geographer.
– Why is that? The flower is the most beautiful thing on my planet!
– We do not record them, – said the geographer, – because they are ephemeral.

(Antoine de Saint–Exupéry. The Little Prince)

The word ephemeral can be used to describe everything we build, collect and construct to last. Taking the Little Prince’s point of view, the illusory sustainability and inviolability of private property can turn out to be as ephemeral as the life of a single rose. What would the Little Prince see if he landed on the planet of property owners in the beginning of the 21st century? Slightly astonished, he would contemplate the lively hustle. His astonishment would refer to the human situation here and now – appraising each individual’s fragility and smallness, wherein everybody has a wish to confirm and secure his own presence on the planet through things that seem to last eternally. As a remedy against the undefinable weltschmerz, he would behold houses built and decorated by the inhabitants of the planet, lawns they regularly mow and water, their art collections and libraries, gigabytes of photographic notes they keep in their personal computers, each and every tiny piece of evidence that proves their existence. The Little Prince would be astonished by the beauty that unexpectedly reveals itself in places that busy people living on the planet haven’t even noticed, and by the passion and zeal with which they establish, populate and adorn all corners of the planet with signs marked “Private”. The Little Prince would curiously look into their homes and talk with the owners – just to fit in and understand. Although our artists are living on the same planet of property owners, theirs is the astonished look of the Little Prince – the artists want to fit in and understand as well.
(..) In another corner of the same planet, the Little Prince would find an ambiguous answer to his question about the importance of private property – it can mean pure happiness and the promise of stability and peace, and an annoyance and cause of misunderstanding at the same time. However, nothing in the material world speaks of it – a garden groomed and cherished by its owner flourishes and blooms, a construction that the owner has built with his own hands proudly overlooks a bed of spring onion and dill, and the seasons follow each other in their perpetual rhythm. But this idyll can be spoiled by a mere nothing such as a narrow pathway – an easement which brings suffering like an open wound in the otherwise healthy and whole (albeit microscopic) body of this estate. Considering this context, the small and crooked shed portrayed repeatedly in the series The Servitude by Zenta Dzividzinska acquires certain traits of a tragicomic, symbolic hero. Contrary to the tradition founded by Bernd and Hilla Becher that depicts grain elevators, water towers and other functional buildings as alienated and great examples of design, the shed in Dzividzinska’s photographs becomes a strong metaphor for everything humane – everything raw, unpolished and natural that touchingly stands up against everything powerful, arranged and perfect – just like the protagonists of novels by American writer Richard Brautigan.

Alise Tīfentāle – art critic, writer, curator.