Huis Marseille, Museum of Photography presents photographer Eddo Hartmann's latest multimedia project, about a region wedged between superpowers Russia and China, subject to international political strife and bearing the burdens of a sour past.
Kazakhstan (literally translated: the land of the free), Central Asia's largest and most sparsely populated country, is struggling with a toxic legacy. For years, the former Soviet state was a training ground and open-air laboratory for nuclear research. Nowhere else in the world have so many underground and above-ground nuclear tests been conducted within 100 kilometres of inhabited areas. The consequences have been disastrous. The cruelty to nature and the population and the sudden departure of the Soviet authorities in 1991 are felt to this day.
Eddo Hartmann, known for his photo series about his childhood home (The Rediscovery of the World, 2013) and life in North Korean Pyongyang (Setting the Stage: Pyongyang, North Korea, 2015; Part 2, 2017), has travelled to Kazakhstan five times since 2018. With Geiger counter and medium format camera, he visited region after region, chasing the inhumane operations of the Soviet regime. He photographed life there: people amid radioactive grazing areas and in deserted cities. He documented how they mine precious metals from disused test stands, bunkers, radar installations and other polluting, irradiated scrap left behind by the Russians, and how they cope with the physical and mental consequences of fallout and isolation. Desolation and decay mark the landscape on the Kazakh steppe. There are strange craters everywhere, formed by nuclear explosions and littered with the remains of giant concrete structures. The Sacrifice Zone is a project about ecocide, the devastating legacy of the USSR, hopelessness in existence and the ingenuity and resilience of an afflicted population.
Eddo Hartmann (The Hague, 1973) started working as a photographer for various design and advertising agencies after completing his training in Photographic Design at the Royal Academy of Art in the mid-1990s. Over the years, his practice slowly shifted from short editorial assignments to long-term documentary projects.
Hartmann's first major personal project, 2012's Here Lives My House, led through a variety of productions to his most recent project, Setting the Stage. North Korea from 2017. Work from both projects has been acquired by the Kunstmuseum Den Haag and Huis Marseille, among others. With the latter project, he was the first Dutch photographer to exhibit in North Korea, at the Chollima House of Culture in Pyongyang. Hartmann's work has also been shown elsewhere abroad, in various museums and during photo festivals such as Foto Istanbul, CAFA Beijing, Paraty em Foco (Brazil) and Photo Israel. For The Sacrifice Zone, he received a grant from Stichting Oog op de Natuur and Stichting Stokroos. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)