Acta Est is the first book by the French photographer-artist Lise Sarfati. Composed of images made during extended visits to Russia in the 1990s, Acta Est is neither travelogue nor photo-journalistic essay. Rather, Sarfati weaves daring detailed descriptions of the Russian environments that fascinate her to create a visual drama of dysfunction and deterioration, change and beauty. The title – from the Latin phrase Acta Est Fabula, meaning ‘the play is over’ – signals her insistence that the work not be read as journalism but as a work of theatrical imagination.
Sarfati builds a disturbing world of decaying buildings and neglected factories, which she brings to an eerie life with lost characters: young transsexuals and teenage runaways interned in ‘re-education’ camps. What results is a body of beautiful, engaging and disturbing photographs that are both a powerful historical record of Russia at the end of an era and examples of the unique poetry of a powerful new visual artist conjuring her own world. The forty-six featured photographs sequenced by Sarfati are accompanied by a thought-provoking introduction by the Russian-born art historian Olga Medvedkova.