When the Swiss psychoanalyst C.G. Jung published Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky in 1958 he pointed to the coincidental arrival of UFO sightings and the Cold War, diagnosing the phenomenon as anti-Soviet anxiety projected skyward. Yet the Soviets had anxieties of their own and so in 1978, amongst an ongoing climate of mutual paranoia and suspicion, a top-secret investigation was established by the Ministry of Defense in Moskau and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to investigate the many sightings of “unidentified flying objects”.
Similar to the government research programmes in the USA with “Project Blue Book” or “The Flying Saucer Working Party” in the UK, the aim of “Institute 22” was to explore the UFO phenomenon in an analytical, scientific way, and so it remained open to the unexplained occurrences, ruling out any speculation that the mysterious objects in the sky might be sophisticated enemy aircrafts or hostile military rockets. During the years that followed and until the end of the Soviet era, “Institute 22” would compile countless records - an extraordinary collection of testaments to personal experiences, many of which fueled by the popular belief in extraterrestrial existence, recorded on camera, on film or on paper.
The around 100 photographs, dated on the back from the 1950s to the early 2000s, suggest that the collection was carefully assembled for an extended period of time. From almost perfectly staged photography to pictures of extraterrestrial sightings taken from publications or television, the collection is as historically fascinating as it is visually intriguing.
A recurring theme in the arts, UFO culture has been an inspirational force for contemporary artists such as Susan Hiller, Tony Oursler and Raymond Pettibon and has been celebrated in songs by David Bowie, Lee Scratch Perry or the Pixies, to mention but a few. Revealing the uncanny experiences, hopes, fears and fantasies expressed by the observers of paranormal activities ENEMIES AND FRIENDS offers a unique glimpse into a secret social history of the twentieth century that is as extraordinary as it is human – it is the universal embodiment of hope that there may be more than meets the eye, the promise in something left unexplained, the magic of the unknown.