Oslo Kunstforening, 2019
(Praksis residency: ‘Carrying Histories’)
In July 2019 I went on a journey across Russia and Kazakhstan to the places from my great grandmother’s life. My great grandmother and I didn’t connect emotionally; I didn’t know much about her nor questioned why she lived in the Kazakh steppe for twenty years. When she passed away, I learned that my great grandfather was German and the family fell victims to the Great Purge.
Wanting to find out more, I have questioned my grandmother who has dementia. Based on her unstable memories I have traced a path: from the Volga river’s delta in Rybinsk down to the South Urals and ending in the Kazakh steppe.
As I was travelling through those disparate locations I have discovered that their ecosystems were damaged by industrialisation and totalitarianism no less than lives of the humans who inhabited them. The quest for energy and land development has displaced population and transformed ecologies and climates.
The project explores points of intersections of political ambitions, natural forces and a life of one woman, from 1930s to the present time.
The Waters of the Volga
The Waters of the Volga (Installation view), Oslo Kunstforening, 2019
One Thousand Men Created a Bird Sanctuary (series), 2019, North Sea water, Akerselva river water, graphite and watercolour on paper
The Waters of The Volga poem reading with Syowia Kyambi
Oslo Kunstforening, 2019
Debris on a Luminous Plain
The ‘plain’ in the exhibition’s title refers to both geographical terrain- a sweeping landmass of the Kazakh Steppe, and flat surface of paintings populated by marks and traces.
The steppe is both beautiful and hostile to humans. During the Stalinist Terror it served as a location of many of the Gulag camps, unmapped and built in secret by the prisoners themselves. Over the years the unprecedented inflow of forced migrants, combined with overdevelopment of land brought on by the unrealistic targets of the Communist party had caused permanent damage to the steppe’s ecosystem, not unlike the one the regime inflicted on the people it oppressed.
The image of an illuminated land implies both sunlight and explosion and suggests photographic processes used in making the paintings in the exhibition. Light is the key element in cameraless photography, and particularly photograms, which are produced by exposing objects to light in the darkroom. The dried plants and weeds from the steppe were used alongside objects and residues found in the studio to make the photograms: the resulting images were then used as positives for producing printed marks on linen.
Debris on a Luminous Plain (performance), 2019
XVII. The Age of Nymphs
Curated by Daria Khan
Mimosa House, 2018
XVII. The Age of Nymphs explores human and insect affects and the archaeology of trauma. The exhibition looks to cycles of history and the possibility of reanimating time through repetition and doubling. Confronting the stagnation of the current times, the artists test posthuman gestures and insect behaviours as a challenge to human politics.
The Ice Rink, 2017
DARIA KHAN to OLGA: The two protagonists of ‘The Ice Rink’ remind me both of Chekhov’s ‘Three sisters’ and Bergman’s ‘Persona’. Isolated, stuck and lost thus living in a blissful oblivion, they reflect one another in what they say and do. Their closeness suggests sexual tension (reinforced by phallic figures of the big chocolate key and the potentially injuring icicle).
I am interested in the physical and the transcendental elements of the work. The ritual involving the chocolate key and the protagonists’s attire of catholic nuns references a history of the bodily vs. the spiritual. What does this mean for you in the context of this exhibition?
OLGA: The characters in The Ice Rink are positioned inside the space of the digital video: a disembodied, timeless and transcendent form of representation. Their unnatural and overtly feminine screen makeup echoes old cinematic conventions, an era when film possessed materiality. To make cuts in the celluloid is a different montage process compared to the contemporary video editing, which allows constant rearranging and duplication. In the film one of the characters mentions the surface carved by the blades echoing both the surface of ice and the physical film, which is missing.
The conflict between the physical and the transcendent has long occupied the Christian tradition and has been dealt with through rituals, which use language as means to escape corporal reality. Fasting and celibacy are the means for the expelling of the bodily excess. The body however returns as the body of Christ in the Eucharist. In the film it is acted out with a chocolate key. As Kristeva puts it: “By the very gesture...that corporealizes or incarnates speech, all corporeality is elevated, spiritualized, and sublimated.”
The First Reading of The Book
Performance in collaboration with Luli Perez
Mimosa House, 2018
Performance, discussion and video in which 4 performers or readers enact Le Livre, Stéphane Mallarmé’s unpublished magnum opus over three operations.
The event is split between the two rooms, which are located one on top of the other. The board game takes place in the room upstairs where the viewers are invited to record the players with a camera that produces a live feed on the screen in the room below. The audience can thus observe the Reading either on the screen or in person, but can never access both at the same time.
Curated by Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze
Osnova Gallery, 2017
Soon there will be doubles of all the decades. In forty-five years, as the human lifespan keeps increasing, one will think of the 60s as of the 2060’s and the 1960s. Thus occurs a doubling of history, déjà vu and ultimately a return to a non-existent point in the past. In 1917 there was a Russian revolution. Thus Russians still refer to it as ‘The revolution of the year seventeen’, but as of next year it will mean both 1917 and 2017. The suspended, circular, state of contemporary gives rise to political myths and an idea of reanimation of time. My work tends to merge political facts and personal experiences, reality and fiction, rehearsal and performance. The viewer is often disoriented when trying to determine fiction ends and reality starts.