“Territories of Desire”
17.9. – 3.11.2011
Tampere Art Museum
Tel. +358 (0)3 5656 6577
Tue – Sun 10 am – 6 pm
Curators: Nadya Sheremetova and Ulrich Haas-Pursiainen
Nadya Sheremetova: Territories of Desire
If one wonders, where is it from the new photography in Russia arises, it turns out that it exists and appears only because of desire. The desire of photographers to go till the very end of the understanding of themselves and the surrounding reality, excluding with the willful effort the mundane indifference of spectators, market and professionals to the art as well as documentary photography in Russia. At the same time the desire to posses, maybe an alleged one, personal freedom, outside of the social obligations and needs, conjuncture of themes, given by the mass media, mass consumption and etc. Because when a desire grows into the need, the dedication, the pure love, then the author becomes truly free. Due to the desire of a few organizations, among which FotoDepartament Foundation can be named, to associate their work with the search, support and exhibition of young photography without the programs of governmental support of contemporary artists and photographers especially, Russian emerging authors are now being seen at the international exhibitions, festivals and among finalists and winners of notable competitions worldwide. At the same time, Russia is a big territory, in which contemporary photography that senses reality and explodes it from inside, lives like a Cinderella, at the backyard of the world of amateur and entertaining photography, but with a huge hope of being seen. I’m sure that the exhibition of 20 young authors Territories of Desire at the Tampere Art Museum will become one of the important steps for the Russian photography to the spectator, which is ready to see the gaze of Russia upon itself.
To understand one’s desire is no easier than to cope with it. It is even more complex to understand what for in this process do you require the photography – to transmit oneself, one’s pain, mysteries, fears, love, to remember them or to eliminate them, to photograph and forget? In any case, here photography serves the purpose of getting as close as possible to oneself. Through the mediator – camera – it is possible to confess to oneself or to show it to others. Although, what can be more false than photography? It’s truthfulness in different ways is being questioned by many authors among which is Sergey Lutsenko with his project “The New Type”. There are also the desires of the Other to oneself. On the pictures of Saint-Petersburg photographer Evgeniy Mokhorev there is a feeling of the viewer becoming the object of desire, which is engaged into the convoluted game, from which there is no exit. And there is also the general territory, the territory of the Others. Relationships, dreams, personal and public areas, the past and the future, capabilities, environment, collective memory, the changing living space, rhythm of life and many more. Everything that falls into the line of sight of young photographers, is being tried on, drawn out for conversation.
For some authors photography is a trap for memories and they are it is eternal prisoners, passionate and tearing apart. Always remembering that what will never happen again, Margo Ovcharenko and Irina Yulieva fix in photographs their superimposing mistakes and the eternal recurrence. Other heroes become a reminder of oneself, a sense of touch, a concentration. To come to the end of one’s tether, only to feel it again, to repeat and become saturated. But is one or the other possible? The desire to remember oneself, without whiteouts, does not go away with an exhibition nor with a book, as a thirst. It gives birth to the insatiable desire of proceeding and proceeding to photograph. The never-ending aspiration to feel who are you for real.
Many search for that feeling of a true self in memory – own and the country’s, both as a territory and as a governmental system, and the nation, as a relationship to specific cultural field. The space of the childhood is being studied by Anna Block, Julia Prokhorova and Ivan Mikhailov. Through monochrome, old-film look as if emerging from childhood, pictures of Anna Block, the viewer becomes a child again playing the spinner or rolling down the hill, and looks with pitifully-like at the self from aside, already in the know of the adult world. Ivan Mikhailov starts from his own childhood dream of becoming an astronaut and finds himself a part of unbroken chain of the citizen of the country and Motherland through the soviet children’s playgrounds in a typical Russian city Cheboksary, which are constructed with an outlook of space rockets.
The memory of our country seems to be still contained in a reservoir of soviet and probably even in the past before revolution. The biggest part of territory with it is industrial and small cities, villages and that what is left of collective agriculture, lives within the routine of the past centuries, forcing a Russian man into the search for his cultural identity between the tightly packed soviet mundane and the ancient, traditional lifestyle. A factory, as if frozen in time, opened at the time of communist era sunrise, in the project of Konstantin Salomatin, transmits to it’s beholders it’s confidence that it is indeed is our, Russian reality today. Looking at the power of machinery and the straight gaze of people, one understands that the Spirit of Russia – is a force, inexhaustible energy inside the people and the territory, but not always used for the good of those people. Another depiction of environment imposed by the soviet past is the series “Common place” by Sergey Kozmin, shot in Saint-Petersburg, through which the viewer can enter the space, which size implies for one family, but divided between four to five owners, families. Communal apartments – the soviet past of former imperial capital, lacking the radical effort of transformation from the city, swallows greedily everything “private” in every person living in those circumstances.
National, primordial and even ancient is shown at the exhibition in a few projects. Culture, to which we relate by blood, responds somewhere within if a photographer has a sense for subtle and is ready to go on a search for the probably last traces that define the cultural identity of Russian nationality. One of the first projects of documentary photographer Tatyana Plotnikova consists of a story on traditional Russian black sauna – Banya. It is the intrusion into intimate space of a person as if being reborn after Banya, as a ritual itself, mystic and partly magical. True Russian village with wide fields, haymaking, festivities, rapid self-sufficiency of children, all along the struggle of keeping the traditions and dilapidating culture, is shown in the series of Oksana Yushko about the village Kenozero. Even more authentic way of life is kept in the photographs by Andrey Shapran, who shows us the traditional whale hunt and funeral in one of the most remote areas of the country – Chukotka.
The territory of the Other, someone, whose world is unknown to us, because we don’t belong to it or still don’t know about it, are being in the focus of Jana Romanova and Tatyana Ilyina. In the project “Waiting” we bump into the surfacing of the invisible in photography – before us unveils in many tones through the relationship of the to-be parents, the world of a new human being, a child whom the family awaits. The staged portraits give a chance of looking into the eyes of heroes, perhaps, that is why Tatyana Ilyina chose this method of photographing to enter the world of people living with the Down’s syndrome, the eternally kind children.
Nature is the space which belongs to no one, the no man’s land, the only space available for the solitude and maybe self understanding. Something magical and passionate emerges in the landscapes of Stas Markov and it is unknown which time do they belong to, neither is it known whether there was anything real before the camera or we are stepping instantly into the world of Russian fairy tales and it seemed that their magic is indescribable. Sophisticated and minimal landscape of Alexander Gronsky in the series “Borders”, serves the purpose of human experience of space and reflects on the division of spaces – that of the privacy and of the contemporary city.
In most of the projects in the exhibition we find ourselves in the world of fantasy, rooted in the things that happened to us, surfacing through our cultural relation, connected to the self identity, the attempt to construct the relationship with oneself. Trying to construct himself is Pavel Platonov, creating bodies-sculptures – people, transformed into architectural objects of the future. And Alena Zhandarova, accepting and fighting in her fantasy constructed self-portraits against the feminine role with the defined fate and liabilities. Photography has a powerful potential for opening the passage for the imagined, hidden, because the nature of photography is deeply tied with the reality, we fall for it. Thus through someone else’s photography we encounter our own experiences, fears, feelings, desires. Maybe, we see the real ourselves. And it is worth it for the spectators to step into that Russian territory of dreams.