TOOTHLESS RESISTANCE. THE FRIENDSHIP TREE
2021. Video, 2K, stereo sound.
The Friendship Tree was an ideological project of Soviet bio- engineering. Back in 1934, when Fyodor Zorin, a Soviet scientist, was seeking to develop new, hardy citrus fruits, he planted a wild lemon tree in the botanical garden in Sochi. Then he grafted other fruits onto its crown: Japanese mandarins, Spanish oranges, Chinese kumquats, Italian lemons, grapefruits and more, up to a total of 45 different citrus varieties. A tradition grew up: new grafts added to the tree by prominent figures politicians, artists, scientists, astronauts, athletes. Today there are more than 630 of these additional shoots, representing 167 different countries. The grafting ritual is mirrored by the gifts sent from all over the world.
The Friendship Tree’s growth is not only physical. Since it was planted, it has also become a monument to our shared, global Earth. This video explores
a utopian vision of political and ecological symbiosis – something which remains unattainable to this day.
DON’T TURN AROUND
2021. Installation. Video, 2K, stereo sound. Audio piece, six-channel. Lightbox. Objects.
The project ‘Don’t Turn Around’ investigates the logic of institutional spaces and the power they subtly exert over their inhabitants. It was presented in
a former bank in the center of Amsterdam, which will be repurposed for new apartments and office spaces. It currently hosts the Impact Institute which aims to transform the established economic system.
The installation consists of several interconnected parts. Upon entry, the viewers face a lightbox exhibiting a landscape image. No natural light is present apart from one beam escaping a broken blind on the right corner. This corner marks the beginning of a thick line on the floor; a meridian that guides the viewer to the video work. The meridian evokes a sundial, an ancient time indicator for labourers.
The video work in ‘Don’t Turn Around’ resulted from research into the conservation of a closed power plant (GES-2) which was turned into
a contemporary art museum. The video is filmed in a single shot walking through an imaginary industrial space, created by the artist to capture infinitely repeatable patterns mirroring the logic of a universal institutional organism; be it an industrial enterprise or a museum. The natural landscapes captured in the video are mirrored in the exhibition space.
The wallpaper with greenery covering one wall is obviously artificial, yet these natural references are the only parts of the outside world within
the space. Including the lightbox, these synthetic representations of the natural world tie the exhibition together.
At the other end of the meridian the viewer is brought to a soundscape consisting of on-site recordings of the building. From dripping water to street noise, the recordings tie together the former bank and the references to nature in the exhibition. Nature and the outside world is creeping in on
the economic system.
TOOTHLESS RESISTANCE. THE ROOM
2020. Installation. Video, 3K, stereo sound. Audio play, stereo.
The “Toothless Resistance” project consists of video and sound that seem to be completely unrelated to each other. The mechanical eye of the camera randomly browses through the interior capturing the room. It is a reconstruction of a room where Russian geographer and philosopher Pyotr Kropotkin lived from 1886 to 1917. The interior was reconstructed for a museum on the Smolensky Boulevard in Moscow but dismantled in the late 1930s so it hasn’t survived to the present day. In this very room, Kropotkin wrote his monograph “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution” in which he claimed that cooperation and not competition is the key factor of evolution. A special emphasis is put on the realization that humans are not exceptional creatures on our planet. The off-camera voice describes a certain landscape, listing the details like a scientist reciting pain science facts, which brings a fleeting sense of reality into the installation.
Having created an immersive, disturbing and turbulent system that combines video and sound, the project calls into question the mere dichotomy of action and inaction in the absence of an event. Thus, resistance becomes the subject and the object at the same time and provokes changes by posing the question: “To act or to remain passive?” Is the artistic act equal to resistance? Our “new reality” shows us that we do not exist in isolation but constantly interact with the matter that dwells outside the “yes/no” binary system.
2018. Installation. Video, HD, sound. Metal construction, objects
This project comes as an artist’s feeling on the overview of the present state of things in political and economic slow-motion apocalypse which could be defined as the anxiety state. Adaptive degradation is a procedure, also could be described as a tool which helps improve viewport performance when you transform geometry, change the view, or play back an animation. It does so by decreasing the visual fidelity of certain objects temporarily; for example, by drawing larger objects or those closer to the camera as bounding boxes instead of wireframes. In fact, here artist use this term in order to describe, according to the Italian autonomist Marxist thinker Franco Berardi, zones of human resistance. These zones are the places or multitudes in which people are free from their anxiety and depression, caused by the economic crisis. The way they get rid of it is the revisionism of the present capitalistic values and welfare and accepting new forms of common good and shared economy. This “healing” is close to the principles of psychotherapy as written by Deleuze and Guattari, and so Berardi claim new politics to be transformed into the “unending process of a therapy”. The main metaphor of this project can be seen in the logo on the sweatshirt of a call-center operator on the video. The animal drawn like in a medieval bestiary is going through the process of autocastration, of painful losing it’s usefulness for the human as written in myths where people were killing animals because of musk produced with animal testicles, and in general becomes a symbol of a heroic escape from the present stressful and depressive capitalistic society by becoming useless for this society, by not giving it the energy produced by the body even through the painful procedure. The operator on the video is a coach who trains people to step into this zone of resistance, to quit the anxiety state and to be weak enough for the society to lose you from it’s radars. This work is an attempt to document the process of understanding the necessity of this autocastration and of the beginning of entering the calm chamber with leaving all behind.
DON’T TURN AROUND
2019. Video. HD, loop, 31’33”
The video is a result of the research of the conservation period of the power plant building “ГЭС-2” made after its closure and before its reconfiguration to the museum of contemporary art. A single-shot shooting without break through a nominal and imaginary industrial space which was created by the artist captures universal and infinitely repeatable modules that reproduce the logic of an institutional organism, applicable to both an industrial enterprise and a museum.
2017. Three-channel installation. HD, 24’39”
In The Procedure Kanis takes a fictional museum building lying in ruins after an unknown disaster as the starting point for her meditations on collectivity and division. As the sequences unfold the viewer becomes privy to a hermetically sealed system, with the building and the surrounding forest now forming an exclusion zone. Access to the outside world is permitted only after completing the routine procedure of questioning and body search in the border zone. Any attempts to ascertain what has happened to the building elicit the same response from the people interviewed: “I saw nothing.” As we begin to unravel the logic of this universe, we realize that the unknown event which has led the characters to this point has become secondary to the procedure that has developed in its wake.
2016. Video. HD, 27’55”
The action in this video centers on the staff of an anonymous institution, housed in the building of a former museum. The staff carry out their duties, which require strict adherence to rules. Their actual labor remains off camera, so we are unsure whether they are really doing anything at all, or merely solidifying the system by their presence. Everything runs smoothly and alienated. A hint that some change in the course of things might be possible is glimpsed only in the last scene.
2015. Video. HD, 09’41”
The video The Pool exposes reality in all its dreamy ambiguity. People enter a relatively shallow pool and inexplicably disappear. The Pool displays the condition of a sealed vacuum thrust and plunged into reality by the suspicion of our essential experiences. The video reflects a borderline state where the exhaustiveness of the border is enhanced by the closed space of a sealed bunker hosting an impossible event that is half-hidden by the surface of the water. There is another border, which separates what we see from what is happening. The framing of the video directs the attention so that it follows the logic of a dream that is indistinguishable from reality. It is the video of airtight sense, airtight space and the airtight subject, estranged from itself and the socium of subjects who are just the same as it. The integral, visual nature of a nightmare shimmers onto us. Nothing happens there, other than the invisible catastrophe.
2014. Video, loop. HD, 13’27”
This work reflects the feast as the moment when the repression that is implanted into everyday life, is being crystallized during the ritual of celebration. It shows us men in uniform dancing with each other indifferently. We do not understand who they are, why they are together and what will happen next. In spite of the fact that the characters are united in action, there is a strong feeling that each of them remains in the personal space completely alienated from the others. It takes time to realize that the absurdity of the scene is a challenge to the vision itself. It is not just a demand for empathy that, nevertheless, allows keeping the distance, but a diagnosis to the audience. However the distance disappears when the suspicion turns the made-up image of the
world into the nightmare of social reality. In this conventional celebration the sparkling trash is not jolly, and the signs of attraction do not entice. So, absurdity remains the inherent meaning of these ritual exchanges; it is a worm-eaten fruit of tradition.
2014. Video, HD, 8’31”
The idea of the project is to reexamine the culture of parades and mass processions as one of the most powerful ideological instruments. The eternity of expectations become the key motif – we hear the roar of the engine as a symbol of a readiness to action. The pole has been prepared, the figures obediently come together to form a flag – this endless repetition is fated to remain in eternity, without ever becoming a moment in history. The ritual of the raising of the flag seems to be called upon to demonstrate a victorious strength in a dramatized, directed eternity, but it merely reveals the impotency of the action in place. The flag is raised in an enclosed, publicly unseen territory. Its ceremonial raising becomes a metaphor for a victory that will never come.
2012. Video installation. Video, loop. HD, 6'26'' / Photograph, C-Print, 80 cm x 80 cm
The installation consists of a video and photo where the horsewoman with a flag in her hand in a traditional paradigmatic winner posture sits astride
the horse. The video demonstrates the process of making the photo: the dressed-up and young horsewoman tries to straddle the horse with the help of the assistants, but she repeatedly falls off and starts again. In this work the artist examines the relationship between the representation of any ideological form and the mechanism of its creation: the characters of the video are frankly indifferent to what is happening and only perform their specific functions, which contrasts with the result pictured in the photo.
2012. Video installation. Video, HD, 22'51'' / Photograph, C-Print, 100 cm x 100 cm / 12 prints, C-Print, 29,7 cm x 21 cm.
In the work the artist performs a kind of social experiment. The project alludes to Joseph Beuys’s notion of “social sculpture”: art here serves
an intermediary in generating a situation designed to cultivate new social practices that realize the idea of direct democracy. Photography thus functions here both as a pretext for and a means of communication. The author proposed making a “perfect” group photograph – a portrait that would satisfy everyone depicted in it and in which everyone would like how everyone else looks – with her new subjects, ninth graders at Moscow’s Gymnasium. Her charges, who were initially enthusiastic about the task, rejected numerous test shots over the course of three hours: their enthusiasm considerably dampened, they finally agreed to deem one of the photos “perfect.” The installation presents the approved version of the group portrait, along with test shots and video documentation of the photo shoot.
2011. Video, HD, 11’40’’
The work is a video performance, in which the author examines fitness and aerobics exercises in today’s parks around Moscow as a strange hybrid of totalitarian sports aesthetics, pop cultural new age readings, and the democratic soviet ideal of harmonic physical development. The older people in the background of the recently restored rotunda in Neskuchny Garden (Moscow) warm up under the guidance of a young, full of strength fitness instructor. They warm up to the instructor's approving remarks, - "Breathe! You can do it! ". Trying to perform all the exercises correctly they get ready for the main exercise - the march, with a well-known "left, left, one, two, left!"
2011. Video, HD,17’16’’
The work, conceived as a video performance, is a critical view of the current political education in Russia. The lesson we see seems an absurdist play where the pupils, mindful of the rules of the game set by the director, studiously perform a series of elementary tasks: answer questions relative to
the pictures they've shown by their teacher or come up with associations to those, such as adjectives, subjects, adverbs or proper nouns.
As the lesson goes on, one realizes that the class have absorbed only too well the cultural codes and symbols of the national idea. The game to which the author invites the pupils makes obvious the way patriotic codes are instilled in children's subconscious and strips them of false pathos.
2010. Video, HD, 17’16’’
The work is a video documentation of a performance showing the artist on a rooftop, trying to catch into her skirt the eggs that fly from all directions. She catches some, but not all. The artist runs from left to right – just like the Soviet electronic game where the wolf from the popular child’s cartoon
“Nu, Pogodi!” catches eggs in a basket on the screen. ‘Eggs’ makes a statement on the gender status of the individual, as part of the social structure of prescribed relations between the sexes. It is the video documentation of a performance in which the artist reviews the theme of voluntary female victimization and the nature of aggression that exists in socially legitimate forms.
2010. Video, loop. HD, 20’00’’
The work is a video documentation of the performance, where the author reconstructs the ritual of foot washing. The image of
a human, who washes somebody else’s feet, is deeply rooted into different cultural and religious traditions and contains a lot of meanings and associations. With the actual personal reproduction of the ritual, the author tries to rethink and cleanse that image. Getting rid of the obvious clichés, she puts the ritual into a sterile, schematic context of direct action: no scenery, the characters of generally the same age are dressed into the same neutral outfit. A discreet edit of the video and sound enhances the minimalistic sense of emptiness. As a result, the canonical image is completely deconstructed.
2010. Video, loop. HD, 20’00’’
The work is a video documentation of the performance, where the author reconstructs the ritual of foot washing. The image of a human, who washes somebody else’s feet, is deeply rooted into different cultural and religious traditions and contains a lot of meanings and associations. With the actual personal reproduction of the ritual, the author tries to rethink and cleanse that image. Getting rid of the obvious clichés, she puts the ritual into a sterile, schematic context of direct action: no scenery, the characters of generally the same age are dressed into the same neutral outfit. A discreet edit of the video and sound enhances the minimalistic sense of emptiness. As a result, the canonical image is completely deconstructed.
2009. Video, HD, 09’49’’
This work is a way to embody the author’s subconscious image, that turns up in the process of thinking about art. It is a real dialogue, recorded during
a session of phone sex. The author wanted to be taken to the space of the museum imagined by the phone sex worker. This would allow her to distance herself from her own perception of the space of a museum of contemporary art and to see it without the boundaries of taboos and ethical dogmas.
The resulting dialogue was combined with footages recorded in a Museum of Natural History in order to strengthen the dissonance between author’s perceptions and the place, where she had been taken by the fantasy of a stranger
© 2020. Polina Kanis.