Invisible Narratives

Nika Dundua

Keywords: Memory, Narratives, Trauma

I was born into a family that could be called typically post-Soviet. My mother, hailing from Kyiv, Ukraine, and my father, a Georgian from Tbilisi, met in Moscow shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was there that I was born. Looking back, I see that war was constantly in the background during my coming of age, as Russia was engaged in several military conflicts while I was growing up, including against the two countries which my parents come from. However, those wars were hardly ever visible in my day-to-day experience. I also knew that my grandmother, Zoya, had lived through the German occupation of Ukraine during World War II, but we rarely spoke about it.

I believe that my perception of the war my grandmother witnessed (and war in general) was mediated by a certain version of history, which permeated my urban, educational and cultural environment. It was neatly packaged into a homogenous image—a narrative of heroes and victories with interference and noise, like in an old Soviet film, which would always remain somewhere far in the past. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized this narrative had very little to do with the realities of both that distant war and the more recent ones.

This project, to some extent, turns me into an archaeologist exploring the layers and twists of my family’s history. I delve into my grandmother’s childhood memories and into my own, to reflect on production of knowledge, history, and trauma. By gathering fragments of untold stories and forgotten memories, I attempt to juxtapose this personal narrative with the one which is propagated in today’s Russia.

I work at the intersection of film and 3D scanning to explore the construction of narratives and the distortions they create, both physical and digital. Through embodiment of memory, I strive to navigate the complex landscape of wars I have never witnessed, questioning the very language in which their history is being—or could be—told.