SYSTEMS OF ORDER - СИСТЕМЫ ПОРЯДКА
novosibirsk (part I)
The project looks at the drag community in Novosibirsk and examines the hidden relationship between fear and joy - something that is deeply embedded within the Russian condition.
In this joy, there is a darker reality and often the truth must be hidden in this world and “joy” can only be expressed through beauty - one has to place him/herself within the system. That, in a lot of cases, is based on oppression and boundaries.
The theme of oppression vs exhibition is constantly present in those systems of order. Joy itself becomes a form of repression, there are moments of freedom in the constructed safe space, but they can only be obtained and permitted behind the masks of beauty and entertainment.
Beauty within a Russian context allows for certain freedoms from the norm.
You must fit in the central mass of these systems unless you have power, money or beauty. In this way, beauty can become your safety net. You can perform in the full drag for hundreds of people at the concert, but you can’t hold hand with your partner in public.
I saw a community happy with the ability to perform their art, but trapped by the reality that this form is the only place where they can touch on their true self. In the country, unsure of its own reality and fearful to discover the boundaries, many struggle to be themselves.
Russia 🇷🇺 ( part 2 )
After the Soviet Union collapsed Russia was left without a new system of values, but an assortment of different, often opposing ideas and identities.
This project attempts to look at those identities, systems of order and operation within society now and the way they have been manipulated and morphed by власть “power”/government in modern Russia.
This project acts as a road map or a dictionary for my understanding of the human condition and remains ongoing, probably forever.
There is an invisible relationship between fear and joy, that is deeply embedded within the Russian system. This in many cases is based on oppression and boundaries, forming certain accepted order.
The theme of oppression vs exhibition is constantly present within those systems. There are moments of freedom in the constructed safe space, but they can only be obtained and permitted behind the mask.
You must fit into the central mass of these systems unless you have power, money or beauty.
I myself was very well fitted within this structure – as a girl, at a very young age, I was pushed into the competitive world of rhythmic gymnastics, where beauty and perfection were the sole goals, and could only be obtained through continuous pain and dedication. A stepping stone of social mobility for many girls. I then found myself plucked out of Siberian obscurity and thrown into the world of high fashion, where the value is placed on appearance and I, in turn, valued myself because the western world seemingly accepted me, even for this superficial reason.
Fear and repression are presented in the work - overbearing structures, bright lights, altered landscapes. This unconsciously seeps through, perhaps a memory informed by my upbringing within an oppressive and often dangerous world of 90’s Russia. This imagery becomes intertwined with the subtle symbolism of perceived ideals and structures created by society.
YOU CAN NOW WATCH “HARMONY” HERE
“With one of Russia's most industrially brutal and polluted cities as a backdrop, 'Harmony' explores the self understanding
and gender roles of Russian youth through the country's two proudest sports: Ice hockey and rhythmic gymnastics.
Frederick Paxton has a photographer's eye for the vulnerability of the young bodies and faces, as they eagerly fight to live up to the sports' immense masculine and feminine ideals, and which are often their only hope to get away from Chelyabinsk – a city the size of Copenhagen located in the Ural Mountains, close to Siberia. The winter cold transforms the heavy industrial landscapes into a dark and poetic universe through Paxton's lens, and places the film itself in the field between cinema vérité and photo art. But 'Harmony' is also a snapshot of a Russia that is both in the shadow of the greatness of its past, and where a young generation is heading towards an unknown future.”
“Boldly associative urban symphony reveals the terrible beauty found in the highly polluted Siberian city of Chelyabinsk. Amid this mesmerising mix of images, director Frederick Paxton highlights the often punishing rituals inflicted on young Russian boys and girls. A dense, hypnotic crust of music from opera to East European hip hop underscores this city portrait quite unlike any other”
Sheffield Doc|Fest (2018)
"Harmony is a moving
meditation on identity and expectations in modern Russia. Beautifully shot and thoughtfully
observed, the film captures the raw and delightfully surreal reality of life in
the Siberian heartland. The young heroes, skating and pirouetting across
screen, become metaphors for the country at large, seeking ideals that remain
tantalizingly out of reach."
“ The Economist”, Moscow Correspondent
. . . . . . . .
The Harmony Series is a project deeply rooted in my personal history, started a year ago. The series are named after the school of rhythmic gymnastics-“Harmony”,where i spent most of my childhood. It is in my hometown of Chelyabinsk, a distant place for me now,sprawling from the edges of the mineral rich Ural mountains.
These images for me show the space between body and memory. An image can be an act of looking which both unfold the present and extends escaped memories.
The sport of rhythmic gymnastics with its nationalistic pride, beauty and painful reality is set against one of the most polluted and industrially brutal places in Russia, that to me still holds a powerful beauty. The long lost dreams of soviet scale, the loud, gaudy colors of the leotards,an alcoholic who barely acknowledges the camera with nothing more than an empty glance as he fixes his ancient VOLGA-all this holds tangible humanity and deep memories.
As it is usually seen by the spectator, rhythmic gymnastics is a harmonious blend of art and dance. The sport highly emphasizes femininity in girls, which is also inherent in Russian culture itself. The girl is being taught to sculpt her body, perfect her moves, be graceful in every moment, which can only be achieved with endless tedious repetition. From a very early age she becomes aware of her body and the hypnotizing effect it can have on the viewer.
The city plays crucial role in the series. With limited resources and options Chelyabinsk can offer,this sport becomes almost a necessity, a way of social mobility for the young girls.The inherent grace and pain that belongs to gymnastics is juxtaposed with these harsh industrial landscapes, in an attempt to capture the fragile beauty of the place in present moment,constructed from the stain of memory it left behind.
2019 - Ongoing
3741 (3740.9 to be precise) kilometres is a direct distance between Chelyabinsk, the town where I grew up, and Brussels, the centre of Europe, the unofficial capital of EU.
The project aims to explore the questions of European identity perceived by a foreigner, who very much exists within the European context.
The project started as a website I created, the majority of the work is original photography and video, but it also includes live news feeds and other digital content.
3741.org Website screenshots
Sequential Observations (2019 - Ongoing)
Series of observations on provinicial mentality of everyday
Series of observations on provinicial mentality of everyday
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