Dress of Freedom
DJ musicians were invited to the opening, lights were displayed that both successfully illuminated the works and at the same time flickered, reflecting off the mirrored balls, which together created a cosy relaxed atmosphere of the club, and didn't resemble a cold White Cube. With the black walls it was easy.
When the audience had gathered and started chatting while sipping drinks, I started inviting men who wished to participate in the performance. I didn't reveal the full meaning of what was going on, but I did communicate the rules. We got to know each other, I told them what we were going to talk about, that I would ask questions and offer to do something, and that the participant could refuse to answer at any time or leave the performance, but then they could only find out the full meaning of the performance after the exhibition. A lot of people dropped out at this stage, but those who agreed almost all made it to the end.
When the attention of others was dispersed, I offered to try on the dress first. I would show the dress, tell them why it had such a cut, the choice of fabric, that I am not a fashion designer and the dress was helped to make, and it was my first dress sewn with my participation. We moved on to the fact that the versatility of the size of the dress is adjusted if necessary with a loose drawstring. I wondered how loose and comfortable the dress was, asked to move around and then we had a conversation, walking around the vernissage among the people, looking in the mirrors and the participant would tell me about how they felt, share their memories or thoughts on the dress. I asked if the participant of the performance felt like a woman, if he lost his masculinity by wearing the dress, what changed in his feelings, if the dress could define gender identity, why the wearing of dresses by men is subject to some mutual criticism from both male and female parts of society. A separate question was whether societal pressures and taboos against adults wearing dresses or boys dressing up in dresses were related to negative attitudes towards women and girls in society. Then I asked the participant to come on stage to show their image to everyone, if it would not make them uncomfortable, and on the way to the stage we talked about security, about the differences in attitudes to power norms in different countries. Since at least half of the participants were from Russia, which has a very strict patriarchal society with repressive laws, and even though we were in loyal Berlin, I made sure that the participant would not put his reputation on the line and asked to take a photo in his dress on stage and post it online. At the last point, I opened the cards and explained what the colours of the dress meant and that the performance was aimed at supporting the LGBTIQ+ community, as well as the women's protest in Belarus, which is still in the media, and yet, just now, all its participants are being repressed, and the state, while legitimizing violence in search of enemies among the vulnerable and the weak, has also increased repression of the LGBTIQ+ community. So I suggested to the participant, since we are in a freer environment and we are not in danger, to show solidarity and put the hashtag #zhyvebelarus on the photo. I asked to keep our conversation private until the end of the performance in order to preserve intrigue. I miscalculated a little here, though, because who would have guessed that Kolya would have such a crowd of fans, and he couldn't have been interviewed at least first, because almost immediately after the photo was published, some of the invited guests had already seen it in their phones at the exhibition. The leak happened when only halfway through the performance had passed. However, this did not have much of an impact. At the end of the evening, of course, the slogans "Zhyve Belarus!" were heard right from the stage, and I was worried that they would be heard much earlier, which would disrupt the natural course of the performance. All in all, I talked to nine men during the evening.
Many thanks to all the participants of the performance for this free choice, for the detailed interesting answers and also to the curator Dr.Nikolai Ivanov, that we all agreed on the issue of solidarity and that dress is not about gender, it's not about power (although by setting standards in dress, power aims at manipulation), dress is just beautiful!
So freedom to dress, freedom to all, #longlivebelarus
A strict taboo on dresses for European men started about the first third of the 19th century, and although from the middle of the 20th century it was periodically broken, and in the 21st century fashion shows of male models presenting dresses which were considered feminine began to take place and an illusion of an era of gender-neutral clothing was created, still it was and is a privilege to appear in dresses of "star" men, artists and musicians. In everyday life, this type of clothing for men is for the most part socially reprehensible and unacceptable. Despite the wider latitude of freedom in Western Europe it is difficult to imagine a non-transgender man, a non-cross-dresser, a homo- or even more simply a hetero-male in a dress, for example in the workplace. The loyalty of women to men in dress is also mutually condemned. The division into masculine and feminine touches also relations of power. The rhetoric of conservative groups sees the wearing of women's clothes as a loss of masculinity, a chabbing or at least a perversion.
I have always been interested in this image of a man in a dress, just as I have always been interested in the combination of unconventional, rare forms, and naturally I have always wondered "well, why?". How, by and large, can a mere piece of fabric be so gender-normative? Where do the reasons for this taboo come from in today's realities? What is the reason for travesty artists to choose an objectified sexual image and so on and so forth?
The media image of the Belarusian female face of protest was certainly strong, though it was criticized by feminists. This in no way negated the strength of the women protesters, who were misled by the pseudo-feminist manipulative position of power. "Where are the men actually?" - I asked, and was told how they were being whipped by the police, but my imagination was already painting a utopian picture of universal gender unity in dresses at the protests, which naturally ended in victory, but dresses on men, damn it, are taboo in Belarus, because everything that is not the norm is taboo.
I thought about the body. About how we are all different and at the same time the same. About how we all, to one degree or another, think about it, compare, look back, keep in shape. Or do not ...
Therefore, I decided to visualize these thoughts literally and measure and draw all visitors to the exhibition. I put each one to a sheet of paper and made marks of measurements: the outline of the head, height, shoulder width, legs. When people all came and went, my drawing from marks gradually turned into a figure, a sort of collective body.
Moving away from the sheet, after I measured them, people tried to find their size and shape in this common body, but this, of course, was impossible. They smiled.
At the end of the performance, I outlined my figure with a red marker, as a uniting part, belonging to this collective portraits.
2019 Berlin, SomoS, #PAS 65, Performance Art Studys,
Foto @Monika Deimling
I collected an archive of all my «flaws», all critical comments and wrote them on my body. Documented. I highlighted all the scars that I had previously only hidden. Acceptace of my body, my appearance, age changes do not allow me to break under countless criticism. Some parts of the body are named twice exactly the opposite, representing double standards.
I stand on the podium illuminated. Viewers can walk around me and read all the inscriptions.
bags under eyes and wrinkles
yellow colored skin and eyes
unkempt eyebrows, to time and why
fiaughter lines terribly spoil the whole face
loose saggy neck
one lonely hair, my grandmother had the
scar and a little bald spot since childhood
pale hair sponge
scar almost like a tattoo
what is it, unhappy love?
did you want to die
like sandpaper (elbows)
scar from hitting the door
too fat - too skinny
2017, Gallery Soljanka, Moscow, Russia.
Putin served as president for two terms from 2000 to 2008, and in 2008-2012 he was a prime minister.
Currently V.V. Putin has been president since May 07, 2012, his term ends in 2018.
In anticipation of the new presidential elections, we held our breath hopelessly. I want to remind the president of the oath and his inaugural speeches for each presidential term, so that people can remember all these promises. One can trace how Putin’s demeanor is changing from speech to speech.
I stand with my back to the audience and repeat the mimicry and gestures of the president. There is a projection on the wall, where «we» is in the frame: the President and those who supported him. The text runs parallel on the wall next to the video preform.
Duration 30 minutes.
2017, Performance. Gallery Soljanka, Moscow, Russia
Moksha (Skt. «Liberation») in Hinduism and Jainism is the liberation from the cycle of birth and death and all suffering and limitations of material existence.
2017 year was very difficult for me. My matured son moved out and it was very difficult to decide to let him go. And I got my travel documents for leaving the country. I did not want either one of these things. But it was a formed decision and, I believe, a way out of this situation.
I hesitated a lot. I heard condemnation. And I couldn’t say 100% that I assure that I was doing the right thing and I would not regret this. But the decision was made. I went to different places dear to my heart, to a few friends and took photos of them as a souvenir. I took pictures of my son and even took pictures of his childhood pictures.
I will try to break away from what is dear to me. To give freedom and get freedom.
I go out and attach photos to the stand along with rubber bands. Then I try to break away from my attachments.
2017, Performance. Gallery Soljanka, Moscow, Russia
Small day in an asylim
A small day in an asylum. HD Video
Festival Bad Video. 2016.
Probably, this is a performance about hopelessness in general. A hopelessness that arises when the dominant vertical of power is not willing to give its power to horizontal forces and change towards equality. This is a performance about violence caused by people unwilling to give their power away. And about the understanding of gender as a form of dominant and submissive behavior.
Ascencion resembles the labor of Sisyphus, and as we try to ascend, we confirm to this model of hierarchy. But is it worth it to spend so much effort? Or is it worth changing the «leadership» relationship model to a «partnership»?
The performance took place at the Artplay platform in 2015 within the framework of Mediaudar (Media Impact) on 6-th Moscow biennale.
Before the start of the performance, I said: «When we were little, we were told: you were born equal, you live in the fairest country and you have equal rights with everyone. Nevertheless, we had to be taller, smarter, stronger ... And without thinking about this contradiction, we entered this life to become taller, smarter, bolder, stronger.»
So I and my assistant, we began to climb the stairs together. When we reached the middle, the assistant suddenly turned around and pushed me down the stairs. No matter how hard I tried to go up, I was inevitably pushed down from the stairs.
When the power of the blow was so strong that I had to fall down or lose my breath, I was saying something about the events in the country related to my personal history or just cases from life connected with violence of the authorities or discrimination, ending with the sentence saying we need to be taller, grow and head upward.
Stairs. 2015. Performance. Artplay. Moscow. 6-th Moscow biennale of contemporary art.
Erasing. HD Video. 2014. "Panoptikum", special program of the 6th Moscow biennale of Contemporary Art
One's actions are not only modelled by thoughts of the future, «looks forward», but also under the influence of events from the past. The inability to chase away thoughts and memories away makes one unconsciously repeat seemingly meaningless actions. In rubbing one's face, hands, as if performing a magical meditative ritual, there is some kind of healing, getting rid from obsessive phantoms of the past.
They say they laid down their arms
At the opening of the exhibition, during the buffet with the waitresses, lists of those killed during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict were read for 3 hours. Fallen from both sides. Before reading, I threw the mashine gun on the floor and in the process of reading I began to move and passing by the weapon trampled its sheets with lists flew to the floor until the weapon was also covered with these sheets.
They say they laid down their arms. 2014. Performance. Zverev Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
Common knowledge in psychology: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has identified five stages of grief, loss of a loved one. This principle applies to acceptance of any other unexpected events. Stage 2 - aggression. Stage 5 - acceptance. According to statistics, only 2% of people reach the 5th stage.
Loss... Sometimes we all lose something, someone ...
We try to ignore the fact that leads us to the unpleasant thoughts ...
We throw away unnecessary things, get rid of unwanted habits.
There is no more TV in my life, and I do not know what «biting one's nails» means. The word «nail-biting» is stricken out from my vocabulary! I cross out «affection»... What other undue points are left there? What else is hard to think about? Ah, it’s «respect», «freedom», i cross them out too.
We do not let unwanted people in our lives.
Sometimes, while being closely together we may still be inexistent for each other. If that is not enough, we cross people out of our lives, especially if they do something wrong.
People die... We cross their memories out, so that they would not hurt us, or we cross our love for life out, in memory of the departed.
It’s an illusion of comfort. Emptiness, absence of irritating stimuli. We minimize our pain while possibly causing some to others. A closed circle.
But (there is always a «but»), people do not disappear forever.
2012. From project "2 stage". Personal show. Zverev Center. Work nominated for the Kandinsky Prize.
Moscow- Rizhskaya. Performance. 2012.