The television programme, Ross Kemp’s Extreme World, and the reports from vice.com’s Simon Ostrovsky, Russian Roulette - Dispatches from Ukraine, captured fascinating visual details through the on-the-ground reportage of the 2014 conflict in that country. These stories revealed the mood of the strife via images such as distant heavy industry smokestacks under leaden skies, volunteer brigades in mismatched quasi-military gear manning makeshift barricades made from industrial detritus like discarded car tyres. Equally memorable were the strange political affiliations of the nationalist militias formed from the soccer hooligan fraternity and right wing Christians, both of whom shared a tendency towards violence and xenophobia.
This reimagining employs that iconography and adds personal details such as the thickening waistline of the combatant in overalls which is suggestive of a poor diet, the steroid pumped central figure in his bulging denim jacket, the smoker taking a drag on his cigarette and all wearing that universal symbol of violent men beyond the reach of a functional state, the ski mask. These men face the possibility of a violent end and the skeleton eying them is a nod to Hans Holbein’s series of woodcuts, The Dance of Death, which show the moment when the reaper arrives to claim members of various 16th century professions.