SKIP INTRO | Contemporary Photography from Eastern Europe 3 - 28 October 2018
The form of a photograph, analog or digital, contains traces of its existence from the moment of its creation. For this first exhibition dedicated especially to contemporary trends in Eastern European photography, I focused the curation on the diversity of possible technical and philosophical approaches to the medium of photography as a continuation of the self. Through the following five works, SKIP INTRO explores various ways in which the multidimensionality of personal experience can be transported by the form of an image, its texture, style, colors, quality of reproduction and visible physical or digital artefacts. Apart from what a photograph actually depicts, what more does it reveal about the circumstances in which it was taken? What part of the artists’ context becomes tangible through the patterns of their decision making? In order to further explore the identity of the author, the observer can also draw back from viewing what is represented to look at the photograph itself.
SKIP INTRO explores the concept of images as being traces formed by the real contact with people, things or events. And while these five projects, each with their unique visual language and underlying theme, are all thematically centered around a certain exploration of the self and demonstrate the flexibility of the medium as a form of expression, they also stand to the ability of an image to contain its history in its form. Along the span of its life, it accumulates traces of time and space. It creates meaning by preserving information on multiple levels, thus further expanding on the context in which we perceive it. By exploring the ways photographs are made, reproduced and preserved, we might be able to reveal the circumstances of those who make them, about their lives and the role of photography as an art form in a broader, more social context.
YATFTIL [You are the Fear that I Lost] Solo exhibition by Svitlana Levchenko 18 January - 3 February 2019
Even today, when thinking of Eastern Europe there are inevitably the broader characteristics of the Soviet Union that might come to mind. The bigger picture, big brother, big politics. Anyway, something big that is not there anymore, but doesn’t cease to exist latently in all of us, even in those who were born outside of its time and space.
History lives in us whether we’re aware of it or not. The feeling of a complete chaos lives in me, although I must have been around two years old when ‘the big changes’ took place.
What we maybe learn from history is that big ideas are like the stars - they’re there only to give us direction, but cannot be taken too literally. It’s been said that smart people talk about ideas, but ideas are often generalizations; it’s the individual, who bears the DNA of future and past, without even knowing it. And it is the single human being who is in the heart of history, and for that matter of photography - its maker and its viewer.
Svitlana Levchenko is one such individual. She was born in a small neighborhood of Odessa back in 1983. After graduating from school, she studied at the Institute of Refrigeration to become an ecologist. In her artistic work today, she explores the nature of human behavior through the photographic medium: “I have always admired the human body. The way a person uses it, not in a purely physical sense, but as a way to communicate with the world. This is the common theme of my work.” In her most recent series ‘YATFTIL’ (2018), Levchenko reflects on a very personal journey, while pointing our attention to a reality which is universal to women, something existing as a taboo and biggest ideal all at once - female beauty. ‘As a child, I often heard "you are not beautiful, you are pretty." And I grew up with this knowledge.’
Coincidentally, while I’m writing this I hear a song on the radio, it’s Winona Ryder’s voice: ‘I remember one time in particular. I was mid-sentence when the casting director said, “Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don’t have it.”
In YATFTIL the individual appears sometimes as a whole, but often fragmented, dissected in different pieces and poses, ordered in scattered categories of personal experience. We see the female body moulded into a square, modelled after its container. The photographic series itself is a painful process of self-reflection on the elusiveness of identity as something shaped by outside judgement, of a painful rebirth and the need of becoming one with oneself.
The imposition of societal rules on the female body is nothing new and yet the clarity with which Levchenko formulates her focus creates a powerful response in the viewer. What about existence outside of the expectations of others? Through the aestheticization of psychological and physical pain, the idea that there could be an ideal of female beauty is disputed, demolished and recreated again. The narrative doesn’t follow a linear development, but pulsates like a spiral, forming an organic structure, thus further underlining the cyclic nature of fetishization and objectification of the female body.
Curator's Note, Maya Hristova, Berlin, 16 January 2019
City of Gardens | Viacheslav Poliakov & Elena Subach | 1 - 17 March 2019
‘Something should by all means be hidden, at least one undisclosed secret among the exhibited works, something meaningful to you, something only you would know about.’
Urban legend becomes the starting point for Ukrainian photographers Subach and Poliakov’s current exploration of the real and hypothetical spaces of the Polish city of Katowice. Subach says that the process of post-industrialization has in her opinion, brought about the return of life led by superstition in the modern microcosm of the city. While Poliakov is interested in the accidental nature of urban transformation and the echoes of global influences onto the local Silesian culture, which has been developing for centuries between imperial borders and narratives.
Elena and Viacheslav are based in Lviv, not far from the border with Poland, and the focus of their work lies in the cultural space of the region with its unpredictable urban environment, local myths and contemporary utopias.
‘In our series we don’t explain anything, but rather ask questions addressing the problems of identity and memory of the region, we discover its uniqueness and strange relations with time.’
Somewheres & Anywheres | Fyodor Telkov RU | Pavel Borshchenko UA | Sasha Chaika RU | Yana Kononova UA | 20 March - 7 April 2019
One’s way of storytelling is often a reflection on the values of the environment in which they live. Eventually, the deconstruction of the concept of ‘somewheres and anywheres’ allows for the parallel coexistence of ideas, which were previously rooted in their opposition to each other. It is through placing the accent on our species’ susceptibility to believe in stories, that we’re able to clearly discern the fluidity of all human projected narratives, their power to polarize or liberate.
From a viewer's perspective, the experience of putting together the pieces of this exhibition emulates the actual experience of listening to a story. There is always a surprise. The photographic medium has the unique ability to make us sensitive about the possibility of multidimensional narratives. All this is essential, because stories bear with them the essence of human’s ability to overcome.
In Belief Is Power | Solo Exhibition & Book Presentation by Hristina Tasheva
Being a Bulgarian immigrant in Western Europe, I know how important the welcoming and friendly attitude of the local people is for the newcomers. How great my indignation was when Bulgaria, my home country, the place of origin for two million emigrants, tolerated nationalist groups to hunt down Muslim refugees who were illegally crossing E.U.’s external border with Turkey.
What provokes one’s fear of foreigners; what is the life and history of the local population who live near the border, where different political interests intersect; how does the border region reflect what is happening across Europe; what connects us as people
Marie Tomanova New York Calling: A Mini Retrospective
John Berger wrote, “To emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments.” Like many others, emigrating to the United States has been the most significant decision in Marie Tomanova’s work. Displacement, place, community, self, and memory became the key themes in her photography work, first in her self-portraiture series and eventually in the Young American portraits that allowed her to connect with others, to see herself in the context of a new environment and society, to find her place in the American landscape.
Having graduated with an MFA in painting in the Czech Republic she moved to the United States in 2011 and began to work through her feelings of displacement living there. By 2014, she rearticulated this idea of displacement into a self-portrait series in which she attempted to see herself in the landscape. Having grown up on a farm in a small village in south Moravia, she felt that she fit somehow with nature, that it was an essential part of who she is, and that as an immigrant living in the United States, she had grown distant from that physically and emotionally. She literally could not go back home. And it is only through this self-portrait work that she started to gain a sense of self-worth as an artist and as a person and began to be able to see herself in the United States and during this time she was also taking the Young American portraits. And in a way, the self-portrait work in nature and the Young American portraits are really very close to the same thing. The self-portrait work is about seeing herself fit in the American landscape and the Young American portraits are also about fitting into the American landscape, but in a social aspect.
Young American celebrates an idea of an “America” still rife with dreams and possibilities, hope and freedom. The portraits taken between 2015 and 2018 in New York City visualize an America in which individuality is valued as uniqueness and not judged as a lack of sameness. Young American resonates with directness, presence, and the ability to see deeply an individual with whom we can somehow identify. It is about optimism, youth, and the connection between people—the humanness that is essential to us all. To look deeply at Tomanova’s portraits and to see them looking deeply back at you is the heart of this work. Young American is about this connection and the idea that nothing really separates us as people other than a shared transparent air.
Young American points not only to youth empowerment and the potent voice and presence that has emerged with it, but also to the welcome disintegration of any sort of set idea about identity. One could contextualize Tomanova’s Young American in the increasingly important and powerful voice of youth culture that is in the process of vitally reshaping gender, society, culture, and igniting a much-needed ideological revolution.
As photographer Ryan McGinley writes in his introduction to Tomanova’s debut monograph Young American, “This is a future free of gender binaries and stale old definitions of beauty. In Marie’s world people can just simply be. I wish all of America’s youth culture looked like Marie’s photos of Downtown, diverse and inclusive.”
New York Calling brings together for the first time a wide range of Tomanova’s work including: self-portraiture in nature (2016-ongoing), Young American (2015-ongoing), and Live For the Weather (2005-2010/2017), a series of early images taken while growing up in Mikulov, Czech Republic.
Curated by Maya Hristova and Thomas Beachdel