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DOMINATION OF NATURE

 

VHS-video (2022 – present)​

“Domination of nature”, the phrase often used by Theodor Adorno, is indeed ambiguous. One usually assumes that it simply means “over” (humans exert mastery over the natural world), but in fact “of” suggests, conversely, that nature dominates us. This series of slow motion performances enacted in the natural environment depict different BDSM mise en scènes using paraphernalia from Chinese marketplaces: vacuum bed, pantyhose mummification, toilet mask plug, etc. The representation reverses the conventional anthropocentric hierarchies: the natural objects and processes start taking mastery over the human body that is rendered submissive and vulnerable.

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VENERA-13

 

video-installation (2019 – 2024)​

At the height of the space race, the artist’s grandmother Margarita Naraeva served as the head of the space television department at Glavkosmos. She invented the pre-digital camera called the "telephotometer," which was responsible for capturing all existing photographs of the Venus’ surface. This film recounts the story of the lander (a spacecraft that descends towards an astronomical body) from the 13th mission to the planet in 1982. It was during this mission that colourful images of the surface were obtained for the first time. The apparatus ceased functioning and stopped transmitting signals due to extreme heat and atmospheric pressure. The tragic tale of this non-human agent is narrated through a Bergmanesque dialogue (co-written with the artist’s grandmother) between the creator and a rebellious machine. As the conversation unfolds, this "suicide camera" undergoes various stages of self-cognition, becomes aware of its role and purpose and realises that it was instrumentalised in the colonisation of outer space during the Cold War.

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UNTITLED

photo series (2019-2023)

  

This body of artworks lies at the intersection of photography, performance,  land art and selfie culture. Through his observations of the interplay between natural environments and the destructive forces of construction, Shental stages and self-documents his actions, resulting in captivating imagery. In these performances, he blurs the line between human and environment,  integrating his own body into the scenery and imbuing wildlife with a sense of human-like agency. Simultaneously, cheap BDSM props from AliExpress becomes coextensive with natural objects. As a result, his figure is rendered permeable to natural forces, rather than captured in a towering position over them. His works thus resonate with Theodor Adorno's famous maxim that it is not humanity that dominates nature, but rather nature that increasingly dominates humanity.

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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.

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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

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FERVENT REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN

digitised 16mm film (in progress)

 

This film is dedicated to the women who participated in revolutionary struggle, political terrorism and feminist movements before and after the October revolution. Based on reprinted archival photography and shot against 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 theorist Vera Zasulich, 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. The film analyses five different configurations of femininity and how they undermined the dominant patriarchal order.

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

PINTURAS NEGRAS

 

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.

ANASTASIA'S STORIES

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

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