I discovered Sergej Vutuc at Christer Ek’s blog. He comes from punk/skateboarding and carries across the DIY philosophy and aesthetic of those scenes to publishing photobooks. He brings out a lot of zines. His work is punk, but also soft-edged and blurry, a grey psychedelia. His zines could be samizdats from deep underground, degraded and damaged from being hidden in deep pockets and passed in secret hand to hand.
Čista Zona looks like a zine, but feels weightier. The pages thick and heavy-loaded with ink. It comes inside a glow-in-the-dark, silkscreened, rough-textured slipcover. The book itself is risographed full bleed in black and white, all double page spreads.
Vutuc’s rough approach to printing transforms everyday scenes of the edgelands, shot out of train windows, in abandoned industrial areas, on haunted streets. We come across a few looming figures, some domestic interiors. Ruins, a deserted playground. Where no one else goes skaters take over and make use of the wasteland in their own way.
But the unique quality of Vutuc’s work comes less from his subject matter than what he makes happen on the surface of his prints. Čista Zona’s images come layered with intruding artefacts of film and light, inexplicable white-out shapes, sooty smudges like charcoal drawings left out in the rain. And he’s scrawled over them in writing indecipherable in several languages. Captions, instructions, diary entries? This whole world seems buried underwater, as though seen via reflections in smeared and scratched aquarium glass.
Not to say these effects are just layers added on top. It’s all intrinsic to Vutuc’s invocation of the zone of Tarkovsky’s Stalker and of Chernobyl, a dystopian hallucination, all disintegration and decay.