December 2, 2022
IN CONVERSATION WITH MONIKA K. ADLER
Photography and words by Monika K. Adler
Interview by Melanie Meggs
Award winning photographer and avant-garde filmmaker Monika K. Adler is known for her challenging and provocative photography and experimental films.
Now based in London, United Kingdom since 2012, Monika was born in Poland, and graduated from The European Academy of Photography in Warsaw and the Wojciech Gerson’s National School of Fine Arts. After that she moved to Paris, where she photographed the life of the city and its artistic Bohemia, and had her first solo show. Living a vagabond lifestyle and travelling approximately 180 places in Europe and New York, Monika created a photography project called 'Travel no End', a poetic documentary journal of contemplating daily life in its deepest form, comprising of 200 prints. She first gained attention with her transgressive photography series and art-film called 'Chernobyl of Love' (2012), filmed in Ukraine, near the ruins of the 1986 nuclear accident.
Monika mainly focuses on black and white conceptual and fine art photography, addressing the cultural constructions of memory, history and trauma, identity, consumerism, and sexuality.
Monika shares with us her photography project NOSTALGIA and in her own words she tells a poetic and emotional story of an immigrant's remembrance of a life disrupted by war.
Cold earth and blackened gunmetal. Taking with you only the most precious and essential. Cast alone amongst thousands; forced, overnight, to leave their home, their family, their animals, and the places they love; fractious, precarious, putting their lives in the hands of strangers. You still feel it, every moment. It’s hard to forget who you used to be, and what was once yours. The new identity is painful, one described by your nationality, an absence, and the place where your heart still lies.
Through memories, you belong to a different place, landscape, climate, and environment. In your homeland the seasons had another smell and colour; the rain felt different, the sun was warmer on your face; the fruit sweeter; the trees rustled unlike anywhere else. These surroundings shaped you, and made you remember who you are, and where you came from.
You are a stranger in a new place. People don’t trust you. Under apparent kindness, eventually hostility will emerge. They don’t know if you are a victim or aggressor, but you are indifferent to their judgement. You are tied to your nostalgia, which kills you every day.
Overburdened by memory, you dream about a return to the land where you left your soul.
But is it possible? Will there be anything to come back to? Can your motherland still your home? Does a past life that was razed to the ground have any chance of being reborn? If so, in what form? How to recognise people you don’t know anymore? Will they recognise you? Will your memory survive in them, or will you be forever a stranger? How to forget those who suffered: killed, raped, displaced, and robbed of everything that is human? For how long should one remember the barbarity of the enemy, and how can we ensure their crimes will not fade from the pages of history books? How will they not become rationalised to people of good will? Will the world forgive and forget too soon?
These invaders never respect occupied lands and the human beings who created their own worlds there. Filled with contempt and hatred, they wipe out every shred of past existence. They are ready to uproot every tree, annihilate every home, burn libraries, museums, galleries, bomb opera houses and theatres to install a new order, culture, and new language.
Despite the immensity of their cruelty, no punishment has ever befallen them, or will.
For history, the death of the masses means nothing. The games of clowns and psychopaths at war one day end. Weaponised human bodies are finite and cannot fight forever. The idea of peace sounds enthusiastic, but rebuilding takes time and wounds never heal. They will live on in the next generations, as trauma, and collective memory.
Afterwards, is it possible to return, and to what end? What of those who had to flee somewhere to a foreign land, to start again amongst seemingly friendly people?
Emigrant limbo: the state between two different pasts. Arriving in a new land is also history.
In the end, it appears NOSTALGIA is a state between reality and sleep; a haven, a place of exile and eternal seclusion, where you can immerse yourself in a childhood landscape outside the contemporary narrative.
A kaleidoscope. You shift the images in your head, one on top of another, and turn them upside down: colours, smells, sounds, feelings and events mix, one in the other. For a moment, you’re where you belong — no longer a stranger.
In nostalgia, every time you close your eyes, you reach home. You didn’t die, and you will survive.