The clear and precise structure of Zita – Щapa is matched by the multilayeredness of its impact. What appears unambiguous at first glance reveals an ambivalence and multiplicity of meanings. The familiar and domestic become uncanny. The double title of this unwritten piece is loaded with an abundance of references, albeit ones not directly formulated in the installation. Rather, they function as cues for a game of symmetries and disruptions, correspondences and contradictions, allusions and references.
This name, Zita, became a symbol for me of what I was imagining, Austria,
the First World War, the situation today.
Zita did not work for me at all. That’s why I chose Щapa. I like that fact
that most people think it’s the Russian translation of Zita. This false
The historic figure Zita of Bourbon-Parma (1892–1989) briefly occupied the stage of world affairs together with Emperor Charles I as the last Austro-Hungarian imperial couple during the latter years of the First World War. With the lost war and the demise of the dual monarchy in autumn 1918, Zita and her husband were forced into exile. Zita’s life encompassed multiple epochs of fundamental upheavals in the balance of power within Europe and especially in Eastern Europe: from the First World War, the collapse of the monarchy and the Austrian multinational state, and the Second World War, up to the eve of Communist Europe’s collapse. Never ceasing to maintain her family’s claim to the throne, Zita was kept from returning to Austria until late in her life. In the spring of 1989 she was buried in Vienna with a quasi-imperial funeral. Yet Zita is also an Italian saint from the thirteenth century regarded as a patron saint of maids and domestic servants.
Serving as the counterpart in the title, the river Щара (in English Shchara) is situated in western Belarus as one of some 20,000 Belarusian rivers, which also include much more well-known rivers such as the Dnieper or the Pripyat. The Shchara was a theatre of war in the First and Second World War and evokes the eventful and changing history of present-day Belarus, particularly its western region. In both wars, the area was the site of entrenched battles between German and Russian troops. The meandering course of the Shchara and its banks lined with impenetrable woods and swamplands made it a line of defence and, especially in the Second World War, a refuge for partisans. Alexej Koschkarow has a connection to the river through his family history: his great-grandfather was wounded there during the First World War. The personal association is anchored as a footnote in the great flow of history, whose course has been cyclically inscribed with wars and changing balances of power.
Zita – Щapa invites viewers to immerse themselves in an atmospheric visual environment replete with cultural and historical references to themes such as fear, displacement, homelands, exile, oppression, power, violence, and death; themes that are as timely today as ever. The artful staging set in motion by Chamber Piece remains open to far more than just one conclusion.