Andrey Gordasevich

Game of Time
Jeu avec le Temps

1812, Backstage

With sketches of the witness, horse grenadier Noirot
Avec les croquis d'un temoin, le grenadier à cheval Noirot


ANDREY GORDASEVICH

Game of Time
Jeu avec le Temps


1812, Backstage

With sketches of the witness, horse grenadier Noirot
Avec les croquis d'un temoin, le grenadier à cheval Noirot
Prologue
Avant-Propos

Time has gone by which I could not detain, the arm I then lifted is no longer the same as the arm I now refrain from lifting, nor is the air in which I lifted it the same that now surrounds me.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Cuirassiers on a picnic
© Horse grenadier Noirot
— Hey, photographer, we'll have manoeuvers now, you can shoot us in full regimentals, if you wish, — said one of the cuirassiers.

— He makes an art project, what he needs is just backstage, — explained him his senior.

From a talk in the French camp
"Game of Time" is a story about an attempt to hide the time in re-enactment of napoleonic wars. The battle of Borodino happened in 1812, and the first photographs were taken in 1826. I was thinking of the historic impossibility to depict Borodino by means of photography and I imagined the story of re-enactment in a form of theatre play about crossing of time layers.
Photoshooting of the set-up in the Russian camp
It's easy to play hide-and-seek with time at the re-enacted battlefield, but to do it in the backstage is challenging: in some frames the time is "purified", and in the other it's "contaminated" with contemporary objects. The photographer tries to find in modern reality the scenes from the sketches by the witness of the 1812 battles - horse grenadier Noirot.
Retreat of the French cuirassiers from Russia
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Noirot died during retreat from Russia, as he was giving all his field ration to his horse. The horse was brought to his mother in Normandy, where it lived till old age and has never worked. Noirot's mother loved it so much. With the horse she received all Noirot's belongings: the Order of the Legion of Honour, paper and sketches, ink, lead pencil and a handful of acorns.
Self-portrait of Noirot with his horse during retreat from Russia
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 1
Decamping of the 1-st regiment of chevaux-légers lanciers

Scène 1
Le 1-er régiment des chevaux-légers lanciers sortent du camp
Fixing of the lance to the shaft
Lanciers are fixing the saddles with the help of camp followers
The ancients have left us model heroic poems in which the heroes furnish the whole interest of the story, and we are still unable to accustom ourselves to the fact that for our epoch histories of that kind are meaningless.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Fixing the saddle before decamping
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 2
Rangers of the 9th and 15th light regiment of the Great Army participate in manoeuvres

Scène 2
Les chasseurs du 9-ème et 15-ème régiment léger de la Grande Armée participent aux manoeuvres
A ranger gets 10 cartriges a day for manoevres
French grapewine snails were brought to Borodino by the French army and still live in this area
A ranger recalls the recipe for escargot
© Horse grenadier Noirot
These puffs of smoke and (strange to say) the sound of the firing produced the chief beauty of the spectacle.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Set-up of the French rangers near Doronino village
Scene 3
Ladies' picnic in the 5th cuirassiers camp of the Great Army

Scène 3
Les dames préparent le déjeuner sur l'herbe dans le camps du 5-ème régiment des cuirassiers
Ladies demonstrate the grace while drinking tea
Camp follower at washing
© Horse grenadier Noirot
French lady washes her feet in Kolocza river
All life appeared to him like magic-lantern pictures at which he had long been gazing by artificial light through a glass. Now he suddenly saw those badly daubed pictures in clear daylight and without a glass.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Camp follower poses with a cuirassier
Scene 4
Nicolas from the 10th hussar squadron of Pavlograd walks alone late in the evening

Scène 4
Nicolas du 10-ème escadron des hussards de Pavlograd se promène seul à la nuit tombante
First gaze of Nicolas
"To die... to be killed tomorrow... That I should not exist... That all this should still be, but no me...." And the birches with their light and shade, the curly clouds, the smoke of the campfires, and all that was around him changed and seemed terrible and menacing. A cold shiver ran down his spine. He rose quickly, went out of the shed, and began to walk about.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Another gaze of Nicolas
Scene 5
General Dorsenne relaxes ashore of the river Kolocza before setting off

Scène 5
Le Général Dorsenne se repose au bord de la rivière Kolocza avant de se mettre en route
General Dorsenne
General Dorsenne says good-bye to the ladies
Field inspection takes a soldier and a camp follower at gathering belongings of the killed
© Horse grenadier Noirot
To the question of what causes historic events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high—depends on the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon's influence on the course of these events is purely external and fictitious.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Urgent order of the emperor
Scene 6
French rangers late evening on the eve of the battle

Scène 6
Les chasseurs français passent une soirée avant la bataille
Portrait of a French grenadier
Camp follower in a tent
Grenadier in a peasant house
Trophys
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Ranger flirts with a camp follower
An attempt to fire up after rain for cooking the evening soup
The night was dark and damp, a scarcely perceptible moisture was descending from above. Near by, the campfires were dimly burning among the French Guards, and in the distance those of the Russian line shone through the smoke.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Grenadier in the backyard watches the stars
Scene 7
Uhlans invite a lady and play dominoes late at night at Kissa's

Scène 7
Les uhlans accueillent une dame et se distraient dans la nuit en jouant au domino chez Kissa
In the tent of Kissa, sous-lietenant of polish uhlans, playing dominoes in candle light
Cuirassiers celebrate the Order of the Legion of Honour
© Horse grenadier Noirot
But if you want to ride round the position, come along with us. We are just going to the left flank. Then when we get back, do spend the night with me and we'll arrange a game of cards.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Waiting for his turn and hoping to win a lady's kiss
Scene 8
Isium hussar regiment trains to shoot

Scène 8
Le régiment des hussards d'Isium s'entraîne au tir, pendant une halte
Shooting from flintlock pistol to check the quality of spark
Hussar with a "nose-warming" pipe tries trophy-tobacco
All the kings, except the Chinese, wear military uniforms, and he who kills most people receives the highest rewards.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Combat
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 9
The wind tears a tent in the French camp

Scène 9
Le vent rompt une tente dans le camp français
Grenadier and camp follower in the situation of unexpected closeness
Repairing the fire tent under heavy rain
Clouds gathered and drops of rain began to fall on the dead and wounded, on the frightened, exhausted, and hesitating men, as if to say: "Enough, men! Enough! Cease... bethink yourselves! What are you doing?"
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Hussar watching the enemy camp
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 10
French camp on the eve of the battle

Scène 10
Dans le camp français à la veille de la bataille
Field wash-stand of the grenadiers
Unknown beauty with hounds on a bridge over Kolocza river
Foragers returning to camp
© Horse grenadier Noirot
In every action we examine we see a certain measure of freedom and a certain measure of inevitability. And always the more freedom we see in any action the less inevitability do we perceive, and the more inevitability the less freedom.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Petty-officer of the horse artillery watches the set-up of the banner
The set-up of the banner in the camp
One of his suite beckoned to the soldiers carrying the standards to advance and surround the commander in chief with them.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Alabaster field bust of Napoleon at the tent of horse grenadier Noirot
Cooking on fire
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Kiss of the captain of horse rangers with a husky
Tent of the commander of carabiniers in a camp at Kolocza river
Absolute continuity of motion is not comprehensible to the human mind. Laws of motion of any kind become comprehensible to man only when he examines arbitrarily selected elements of that motion; but at the same time, a large proportion of human error comes from the arbitrary division of continuous motion into discontinuous elements.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Young soldier washes his body in Kolocza river
Horse grenadiers and a captive Russian field-drummer cook doughnuts with cheese and sesame
Russian cuirassiers feed a captive French cuirassier
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 11
Russian camp on the eve of the battle

Scène 11
Dans le camp russe à la veille de la bataille
Remembrance of home
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Soldiers craft a table for food
Evening training of the new recruits
The peasants say that a cold wind blows in late spring because the oaks are budding, and really every spring cold winds do blow when the oak is budding. But though I do not know what causes the cold winds to blow when the oak buds unfold, I cannot agree with the peasants that the unfolding of the oak buds is the cause of the cold wind, for the force of the wind is beyond the influence of the buds.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Putting on a fresh shirt before the battle
Camp barber shaving a soldier before inspection
Gipsy girl jumping from a cistern
Soldier "saves" a sheep
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Young hussar after rain
However much we approximate the time of judgment to the time of the deed, we never get a conception of freedom in time. For if I examine an action committed a second ago I must still recognize it as not being free, for it is irrevocably linked to the moment at which it was committed.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Friendly hug
Unknown lady with candles
For future victories
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 12
Napoleon reviews his troops

Scène 12
Napoléon inspecte les troupes
Napoleon poses with his fellows in arms
Napoleon was experiencing a feeling of depression like that of an ever-lucky gambler who, after recklessly flinging money about and always winning, suddenly just when he has calculated all the chances of the game, finds that the more he considers his play the more surely he loses.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Strike
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Emperor looks at his watch, expecting unlucky chances
In former battles he had only considered the possibilities of success, but now innumerable unlucky chances presented themselves, and he expected them all.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Napoleon goes to his headquarters
Napoleon at his headquarters
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 13
Battlefield

Scène 13
Champs de bataille
Square of the Russian infantry sets up for protection against cavalry
French cuirassiers atack Russian infantry
© Horse grenadier Noirot
An attempt of French cuirassiers to attack Russian infantry
"The cavalry ride to battle and meet the wounded and do not for a moment think of what awaits them, but pass by, winking at the wounded. Yet from among these men twenty thousand are doomed to die, and they wonder at my hat! Strange!" thought Pierre, continuing his way to Tatárinova.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Galloping hussar
© Horse grenadier Noirot
8th maneuver brigade of the Great Army awaiting the order to attack
French artilleryman and camp follower of the hussar regiment discuss a Russian general
Hounding a bear
© Horse grenadier Noirot
With each fresh blow less and less chance of life remained for those not yet killed.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
French gendarmes and the horse rangers who lost their horses awaiting the order to attack
Scene 14
Killed and wounded at the battlefield

Scène 14
Les tués et les blessés au champs de bataille
Eternal rest of the French gendarme
Horsemen and horses
© Horse grenadier Noirot
There were many dead whom he did not know, but some he recognized. The young officer still sat in the same way, bent double, in a pool of blood at the edge of the earth wall. The red-faced man was still twitching, but they did not carry him away.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Wounded Russian soldier at a wooden fortification
Defeated
© Horse grenadier Noirot
French soldier after an explosion laying like a star
The terrible spectacle of the battlefield covered with dead and wounded, together with the heaviness of his head and the news that some twenty generals he knew personally had been killed or wounded, and the consciousness of the impotence of his once mighty arm, produced an unexpected impression on Napoleon who usually liked to look at the killed and wounded, thereby, he considered, testing his strength of mind. This day the horrible appearance of the battlefield overcame that strength of mind which he thought constituted his merit and his greatness.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Soldier at a bed of the wounded comrade
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 15
Spectators watch the battle of Borodino

Scène 15
Les spectateurs assistent a la bataille de la Moskowa
Panorama of the battle, view over Raevsky squadron
Lady and her squire in a cart
View from Raevsky squadron
Napoleon stopped his horse and again fell into the reverie from which Berthier had aroused him. He could not stop what was going on before him and around him and was supposed to be directed by him and to depend on him, and from its lack of success this affair, for the first time, seemed to him unnecessary and horrible.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Sunbathing on a camel
Astrakhan camel captured by the French troops
© Horse grenadier Noirot
But though toward the end of the battle the men felt all the horror of what they were doing, though they would have been glad to leave off, some incomprehensible, mysterious power continued to control them, and they still brought up the charges, loaded, aimed, and applied the match, though only one artilleryman survived out of every three, and though they stumbled and panted with fatigue, perspiring and stained with blood and powder. The cannon balls flew just as swiftly and cruelly from both sides, crushing human bodies, and that terrible work which was not done by the will of a man but at the will of Him who governs men and worlds continued.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Sleeping under cannonade
Discussing the state of the troops
By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Noirot with his comrade, self-portrait
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Assault force in the French camp
The oldest re-enactor
To study the laws of history we must completely change the subject of our observation, must leave aside kings, ministers, and generals, and study the common, infinitesimally small elements by which the masses are moved.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Dragoon in a combat with a Сossak
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Scene 16
The French in Moscow

Scène 16
Les Français à Moscou
The Great Army at the monument of Yuriy Dolgorukiy
The Russians retreated eighty miles—to beyond Moscow—and the French reached Moscow and there came to a standstill. For five weeks after that there was not a single battle. The French did not move. As a bleeding, mortally wounded animal licks its wounds, they remained inert in Moscow for five weeks, and then suddenly, with no fresh reason, fled back.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Remaining inert
Captive Russian ranger carrying water
© Horse grenadier Noirot
Moscovites trying to preserve memories of the French soldiers
As with astronomy the difficulty of recognizing the motion of the earth lay in abandoning the immediate sensation of the earth's fixity and of the motion of the planets, so in history the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of personality to the laws of space, time, and cause lies in renouncing the direct feeling of the independence of one's own personality.

In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
The End

Fin

Epilogue

supported by:
Alexey Temnikov - horse grenadier Noirot:
the author is grateful to him for the sketches
All Rights Reserved © Andrey Gordasevich, 2014-2017
gordasevich@gmail.com


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