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Yanka Smetanina 

 artist  |  researcher  | curator 

I understand myself as an interdisciplinary and transnational nomad, an anti-fascist, a pacifist, radical anarcho-feminist with migrations experience, and I speak and act from the position of an oppressed minority. A decisive and pivotal moment in my artistic practice was the screening of the project "Residents of the 5th psychiatric hospital in Khotkovo,"(1) which publicly exposed the oppression of women faced with repressive psychiatry and my own. Anarchism with a public confession of being a feminist was superimposed on my multicultural roots, leading me to be excluded from the majority community. In defending my position I felt the need to speak openly and unabashedly, without apology for leaving the place where they were trying to put me. As I gradually found my voice, I spoke up for those who had not yet found that strength. By exploring my own weakness and powerlessness (2), (3), (17),  

and trying to fill the missing gaps, I came to understand how the private affects the public.

Working with family archives and confronting the mechanisms of repression and manipulation of collective memory, led me to the process of reconstructing my own history. As an artist and performer I was interested in the moment of absence, the erasure by the repressive machine of personality (4), (5) and history (6), (7), I connected the personal and the collective archive of memory in my projects reflecting the Soviet past (8), (9).

Being in a country with an increasingly patriarchal conservative background, I could not get past the process of women's oppression by sexism and objectification. Which provided an impetus for exploring the body and queerness, in the context of memory and trauma. (10), (11).

Finding it necessary to support the position of the socially weak disabled and the elderly I did projects tied to a specific place about acute social themes. (12).

Being a mother myself, I was interested in such a vulnerable group as children (13), (14), (15).

Events in Ukraine strengthened my anti-war (16), (17), and (18) anti-state position, I decided to leave Russia as well.

I was born in Bashkiria, an autonomous Soviet republic, in a small Bashkir town where most residents spoke Bashkir and Tatar, and still, remember a few phrases in Tatar. My multinational background prevented me from being recognized as "my own" to many, but rather exposed me to even more significant exclusion. "Being different" made me part of a community of others. 

In corrupt Russia, the mechanism of memory falsification for political purposes is well established. Soviet rule, interspersed with the dictatorships of Stalin and Putin, has created a tool for censoring and suppressing information and historical memory by canning archives and correcting school textbooks. In a country without democracy, with violence against women and rampant discrimination, the feminist movement has been the most progressive, both in its struggle for the rights of oppressed minorities and in its decolonial preservation of memory. This is how I came to collect the archives of my multi-ethnic family, in which almost the entire older generation was subjected to repression. The forced exile of members of my family left a mark on my perception of life. In the absence of the possibility (in fact, until the beginning of the 21st century) to move freely in Russia, this fact strongly influenced my fate. In the project "Lost Branches" (7) dedicated to my German grandmother, it was important for me to show not only the difficult war period for Russian Germans, but also the moment of their non-recognition in their new homeland. Now identity as a construct and the preservation of cultural memory are the main focus of my research interests.



2024 The school of the future. Daumenlutscher. Berlin.

2023 Clarification 2.0. Salon Sofie Charlotte, Berlin. (D) | Master exhibition of the Institute of Art in Context, CCA Berlin. (D) Vorschau  | Peace. Pride art, Berlin. (D) | Endangered languages, Berlin–Brandenburg Academy of Sciences  and Humanities Berlin. (D) You are out. 48 Stunde NeueKöln. Artlibera. (D)

2022 XPRMNTL anti–festival. London. (UK) | K–Music and Arts Film Festival (KMAFF). Seoul, (KR) | Mannheim Arts and Film Festival. (D) | Lift–Off Filmmaker Sessions @ PinewoodStudios. Buckinghamshire. (UK) | The Thilsri, International Film Festival. (IN) | Women at war. KW Institute for Contemporary Art Vorschau (D) | Room 252. UdK Berlin | KunstKaufen – The exhibition for explorers, Udk Berlin. (D) | This is not a love song, Project room Galery M, Berlin | Intersectional, Pride art, Berlin. (D)

2021 Fünfte Welle. 2. Triennial of contemporary art. Museum Contemporary Art  Garage. Moscow.

2020 Body, ORI Art Forum, Berlin. (D) 

2019 Unreal desires. Somos, Berlin. (D) | Berlin transit. Omsk. (R) | Interwinnen Bodies, Somos, Berlin. (D)

2018 Haare, Moscow Museum Modern Art, Moscow. (R) | Present continuous, Zverev Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow. (R) | Art and technology: for and against, Usbekistan Biennale, Central exhibition hall. Taschcent. (UZ) | There and now!, Manege. Moscow. (R) | Apology of delusions, Moscow Museum Modern Art. Moscow. (R) | The new signs of existence, Quedlinburg. (D) | Survive, bar Babette, Berlin Art Week, Berlin. (D)


2024 A moment of silence, eternal remorse. Happening. Daumenlutscher. Berlin.

2022 Dress of freedom. Participative performance. Panda–Kulturplatform. Berlin. (D)

2021 Internal intervention, The project rooms of Kolonie Wedding, bla–bla project, Berlin. (D)

2020 Exercises. Vinogradov Gallery, Berlin. (D) | The lost branches. 'Gallery of Unity' of the Commission '30 Years of Peaceful Revolution and German Unity' at the Unity EXPO on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of German unity in Potsdam. | We're sorry, Rosa Luxemburg, Lauschengriff, Berlin. (D)

2019 Refrain, The project space of Kolonie Wedding, bla–bla project, Berlin. (D)

2017 Hand swing, Fine Art Galery, Moscow. (R)

2015 Texts,Russian–Austrian Cultural Forum, Moscow. (R)


2022 XPRMNTL anti–festival.  White flag. Official Selections. London. (UK)  | K–Music and Arts Film Festival (KMAFF). White flag. Official Selections. Seoul. (KR)  | Mannheim Arts and Film Festival. White flag. Best Human Rights Film. (D)  |  Lift–Off Filmmaker Sessions @ PinewoodStudios.  White flag. Official Selections. Buckinghamshire. (UK) | The Thilsri, International Film Festival. White flag. Best music video. Alampattu. (IN)

2020 Prize from Jury der Kommission „30 Jahre Friedliche Revolution und Deutsche Einheit“, Berlin. (D)

2017/2018 Art Russia, Top 100 artists. InArt Analytics. (R)

2015 Scholarship. Institute of Contemporary Arts, Baza, Moscow. (R)

2014 Just Award 2014, prize winner, Moscow. (R)

2013 Kandinsky Prize 2013, Nominees, Category Project of year, Moscow. (R)

2011 Scotch 2010, special prize winner, Moscow. (R)


2024 The NYI Global Institute of Critical Cultural Studies, scholarship for the winter course.

2022 This is not a love song – spaces for activation. Winning funding from the UdK Commission for artistic and academic projects; further support comes from the housing company degewo.

2019/2020 Where does the Homeland begin? Project on cultural identity and diversity with ethnic German resettlers. Funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Integration and Social Affairs.

2018 Survive.  Award for artistic project spaces a

nd initiatives. Bar Babette, Berlin Art Week.

2015/2017 Scholarship. Baza, Institute for Contemporary Art, as well as Pyrfir Performance University, Moscow.

2014/2016 The Kitchen | Art Workshops for Women. Funded by the R.Luxemburg Foundation. Moscow. Preview

2016 Graphic novel. Workshops. Supported by the R.Luxemburg Foundation. Kazan.



2024              The NYI Global Institute of Critical Cultural Studies,  winter course.

2021/2023   Institute for Art in Context, Berlin University of the Arts; M.A., specialisation: Artistic work in/with cultural institutions; final thesis: Identity Crisis. The representation of fluid identity. The curatorial research exhibition project.

2015/2017    Baza, Institute for Contemporary Art, Moscow. Scholarship. Artistic work in the context of media and scientific image production, philosophy of art.

2004/2005 Institute for Problems of Contemporary Arts, Moscow. Specialisation: strategies of contemporary art, project management.

1999/2004   State University of Print Media, Moscow. University diploma. Specialisation: free graphics, media design; minor: painting, printing techniques.

Yanka Smetanina is a Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist, independent curator and researcher. She studied animation and film at the College of Cinematic Arts, graphics arts and painting at Ivan Fedorov University of Printing Arts, philosophy and art at the Institute of Contemporary Art and performance at the Pyrfir artschool in Moscow. She holds a Master's degree in Institut Art in Context, UdK Berlin. Artistic work with cultural institutions. Her artistic research focuses on decolonial methodologies, feminist and gender theories, politics of identity and privilege, memory studies and the representation of trauma, politics of resistance and self-organization, education systems. She works in the fields painting and graphic, video, performance. In 2013 she was nominated for the Kandinsky Prize (equivalent to the British Turner Prize) in the category Project of the Year, and in 2014 she won the Simply Prize in Moscow. In 2020, her video installation was awarded a prize by BMI Germany on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of German unity and was shown at the Galerie der Einheit in Potsdam. Her visual works and films have been presented at exhibitions, festivals, biennales and triennales in Moscow, Tashkent, Berlin, Mannheim, Vienna, Oslo, Seoul, London and others. The works are in private and public collections, in the RAAN network of Russian art archives of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.

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