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Sniper (2008)

Exhibitions: Sergey Shutov. Sniper, The Globe Gallery, St. Petersburg, 2008; Unavoidable and Unnecessary, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, 2008-2009

Professional snipers are a special breed of soldiers, an elite division, like cosmonauts. A sniper is someone who is sent to the enemy's territory or to a neutral zone, where he might encounter an enemy sniper face-to-face. They are loners. They may sit still for several days waiting to fire a single shot. And once they've made it they must change their location, because they are surrounded by a crowd of enemy snipers whose exact number – whether one or one hundred – is unknown. In their camouflage they look like heaps of garbage. They have suits that distort human proportions, the barrels of their guns are wrapped in cloth and nets, and in this shapeless lump they sit for hours, waiting to fire a single shot.

A young sniper once confessed: “nobody likes us.” In civilian terms, they have a lot of rights. But as the men in the trench see it, they abuse their ration. At first I liked to imagine myself in their situation.

From the other side, we are all snipers. Contemporary urban man is in his own way a sniper, darting away from shots that come from all directions. War! Avoiding excessive contact, watching everyone from the corner of your eye, slipping away from a beggar who has set his sights on you, or the herd of teenagers who might at any moment stab you with a knife – that's urban paranoia. The urban dweller is like a sniper maneuvering to avoid threats – advertisements, cars, police, dark corners, and so on. The war on terrorism and emergency operations are the obligatory background in the contemporary urban life. Someone's professional gaze is constantly scanning the territory.

S. Sh .