> Words: shouted, blabbered, shattered in between the walls

Memoirs of Yan Khtovich

Asya Zhetvina, Russia

Questioning the very basic notion of photography as probably the most indisputable historical source, I tried to build a narrative that intensely takes you back in time and tells a fascinating story about a secret group of ornithologists working in Germany during WW2 to defy the Russian Army using spy pigeons.

Conceived under the form of a personal diary and memoir composed by the leader of the group, Yan Khtovich, the artist’s great-grandfather, the project builds a narrative through a combination of written accounts, images, documents, collages and contemporary photographs printed with old printing techniques.

The result is a realistic account of this experimental operation, and the reader is guided into believing the accuracy of the story with a mindfully tailored path of historical and personal facts about the so-called “author” Yan Khtovich and his work for the Spy Pigeon project. Initiated by the notion of the use of pigeons during wartime (a historical fact), mainly as messengers, the artist, born and raised in a country such as Russia where propaganda has always overcome the actual historical truth, also addresses the über contemporary concept of ‘post-truth’. Named by the Oxford Dictionary as 2016 word of the year, the term has become part of our vocabulary due to the incredible outburst of fake news and manipulated information the world has witnessed lately.


Conceived in the context of contemporary research, the thought-provoking project creates a non-ceasing dialogue between today and the past, between fiction and truth, with an innovative language based -of course- on photographic material, but also on the combination images with other forms of so-called documentation of the past. The result of is a poetical and delicate memoir of a non-existing -yet real- Yan Khtovich and the story of his life.


Born in 1994 in Russia, Moscow. Based in the Netherlands (The Hague) Asya Zhetvina finished her MFA degree in Photography at the Royal Academy of the Arts, The Hague. During her studies, Asya won several awards, including the Sony World Photography Award, the Metroprint Images award and the Slideluck editorial Prize. Asya’s work has been exhibited at Somerset House (London, UK), Base Milano (Milan, Italy), Fotodepartament Gallery (St. Petersburg, Russia).