Is it okay to re-use found photographs of strangers? To glue dead insects onto passport photographs of probably long deceased soldiers? Is this not a lack of respect? Irina Ruppert did it. And interestingly, the beholder of these images is quickly encouraged to ask other questions: What might the soldiers’ eyes have seen? What was their story before their photos ended up in the attics and on flea markets of the world with a dead spider or moth being the only companion sharing their anonymous tomb? The soldiers from Irina Ruppert’s comprehensive international collection of passport photos are relicts of the past, but they don’t reveal anything about their personal stories. Their uniforms reference origin and military rank – but they do not show what these young men went through. Did they defend their country or were they deserters, perpetrators or victims? For us, they will remain nameless; numbers like they were once before, at war. Symbolically embodied by the dead insects, these photos are surrounded by the shadow of death. These flies and spiders evoke thoughts of oblivion and passing, of killing and being killed. Like a warning, they refer to the evanescence of earthly life. Irina Ruppert intuitively arranges insects on the passport photos: a midge lays its wing over a soldier’s eyes. A beetle crowns the head of another soldier like a turban. These arrangements are at times touching and poetic, daring or grotesque; they are coherent without any allusion or drama. These soldiers’ portraits are not intended to accuse, but rather to inspire. They confront the beholder with questions: about their personal family history and war experience; about the right to be remembered; about the truth that can be found in archives. By being unbiased, they allow individual associations. They keep memory in motion and refer to the constant interplay of war and peace. Sophia Greiff

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