video-installation (2019 – 2022)
At the height of the space race, artist’s grandmother Margarita Naraeva, who was the head of the space television department at Glavkosmos, developed optical equipment for spacecrafts. All existing photographs of the Venus’ surface were made thanks to her inventions. This film tells the story of the lander from the 9th mission to the planet (1975), which for the first time reached its surface, took and returned images. Due to enormous heat and atmospheric pressure, the apparatus (encased in a spherical shell) has presumably melted down and stopped sending signals in 53 minutes. The tragic story of this non-human agent is narrated through a dialogue that was co-written with my grandmother and played out between the creator and a rebellious machine. Citing famous films from the history of cinema, it sheds light on the broader context of the Cold War and the political and ideological instrumentalization of science, technology and colonization of space.
THE WORLD TENDS TO BECOME HOMOGENEOUS
photo series (2019-2021)
The quote behind this series is attributed to the physicist Sadi Carnot, who formulated the first law of thermodynamics. Applied to this work, it describes the artist’s mimetic impulse - the desire to identify with biological matter. His body dissolves in natural environment; human tissues and textures of plants replace or transform into each other. The series also deals with ecosexuality — quasi-erotic attachment to other forms of life or entire biocenoses. The images are played out as a voyeuristic performance, where only the inhabitants of the forest are the real spectators, while the inanimate objects themselves are endowed with human attributes. Another motive behind the work is an attempt to fit in and complement the existing compositional niches: human motor skills correlate with slow processes of growth and decay.
MOSCOW — BEIJING
photo series (2019 – 2021)
The series of self-portraits made near Moscow, on the construction site for a road that will presumably connect the Russian capital to Beijing, explores the “apocalyptic” aspect of the construction project, which leads to deforestation, destruction of meadows, and the diversion of the irrigation system into pipes. The construction of the highway began in spring 2019, just a few meters away from the house where Shental grew up and still lives today. The ambitious project for “the new Silk Road” was conceived in the Soviet era and will connect the capitals of “the raw material (oil) and plastic empires,” two of the biggest Eurasian cities, neither of which has direct access to the sea and both of which arose historically as tax and administrative centers established by nomadic invaders to collect tribute from settled people.
DESCENT INTO THE FUNGAL
two-channel video, installation, objects (2016-2017)
The work consists of constantly alternating plot lines. In the first video, generally known scientific facts and the latest discoveries in the field of mycology are laid out in a popular manner. In the second, this subject is interleaved with the utterances of the fungal bodies themselves, which declaim something akin to their own particular manifesto. This combination results in the revelation that the relationships fostered by the fungi with their surroundings (through mycorrhizae, parasitism, saprotrophy and endophytia) refer unambiguously to contemporary political programmes for a coming world order, proposing a unification of forces in the fight against capital. The film also plays with the homology between mushrooms and the Internet – another popular subject of mycology. The natural becomes the digital, and vice versa. As a constant reminder of fungi’s presence in the world, the video monitor stands beside a sculptural element representing the living fungal organism, starting and completing its life cycle again and again.
Camera: Alexey Orlov and Andrey Shental, animation: Olga Pokatilova
FERVENT REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN
digitized 16mm film (in progress)
This film is dedicated to the women who participated in revolutionary struggle, political terrorism and feminist movements in Russia and the Ukraine. Based on reprinted archival photography and shot against a picturesque landscapes, it explores the obsolescence of images and erasing of historical memory as if through the process of organic deterioration. It features figures such as the first terrorist and writer Vera Zasulich, “the grandmother of the Russian Revolution” Catherine Breshkovsky, socialist revolutionary Maria Spiridonova, who spent most of her life in prisons, feminist and the first female ambassador in the world Alexandra Kollontai, “rock-hard” Bolshevik Rozalia Zemlyachka, who allegedly participated in the red terror, Ukrainian anarchist and guerrilla Maria Nikiforova. Despite their different political views, ethical positions and sometimes controversial deeds, their fascinating commitment to emancipation in a patriarchal country such as the Russian empire may be inspiring during the present times of neoconservative backlash.
ON KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION
powerpoint-presentation, voiceover, installation (2013)
This work analyses the overproduction of knowledge and resulting contemporary forms of neurosis created by the constant consumption of information. The central part of the project consists of actual tickets left behind as a material testimony to such “immaterial” events such as exhibitions, symposia, films and panel discussions that I have attended around the world. The price indication shown on the ephemera indicates the commercialization and commodification of education after the Bologna Process that was resisted by art institutions, but maybe in fact enhanced by the phenomenon of a “pedagogical turn.” In the installation, one viewed both the actual, ever-growing collection of tickets, as well as a pseudo-theoretical lecture describing a personal obsession with knowledge-production, presented as a Powerpoint presentation
16 mm digitised, 6 minutes (2012)
In the early 2010s, the time of the proliferation of smartphones, the Russian media was full of alarming news about children bullying and beating each other up. Most of the crimes were made just in order to record and disseminate the resulting videos through social networks. The film analyses the dissemination of those images and documentation of violence in the web and our relationships with the new digital media. While the title refers to Goya's famous series, the footage combines classical paintings using with poor-quality found footage tamed and aestheticised through celluloid. This work questions the innocence of different mediums and technologies of representation in the post-digital age. Do we commit a crime even by watching a person beaten or killed and simultaneously shot by the aggressor? Is new technologies of documentation and proliferation are synonymous to collective act of violence or just epitomises our growing alienation from "analogue" reality?
"Pinturas Negras", 16 mm digitised, 6 minutes, 2012
In the early 2010s Russian media was full of alarming news about children bulling and beating each other (sometimes with the lethal consequences). Most of the crimes committed in Asbest, Perm, Ufa, Dnepropetrovsk and other cities were made in order to record and disseminate the resulting videos through social networks. In this film, made in the framework of no.w.here Summer Film School in London, I reshot some of those and other videos representing violence on Bolex camera from the computer screen showing myself watching them. While the title refers to the Goya's famous group of paintings, it represents classical paintings with poor quality found footage that is aestheticised through the celluloid mediation.
documentary video, 26 min, (2010-2011)
We have met Anastasia Georgievna in 2007 and were fascinated by her storytelling talent that reminded us of famous Benjamin's lamentation of this talent. The film represents her flow of consciousness, where different personal memories interlace with literary narrative, villages stories and biblical parables. The main protagonist, who at that time used to live in a decaying flat in one of the most luxurious houses in Moscow. Having a successful career as a house painter in Soviet times when she decorated flats for major ministers of the USSR. After Perestroika she was left alone in her flat that she hoarded with different memorable or curious paraphernalia. In our film the surrounding objects also become self-sufficient narrators. The hectic plot-lines told by Anastasia Georgievna are somehow reflected in the things around her. For instance, the stars are transformed into hotplates and lamps and vice versa. The juxtaposition of her exalted speech with the actual living conditions reveals what could be called “the human” dimension that survives despite all the vicissitudes of personal life.
Film made together with Katerina Beloglazova