Polina Kanis

Formal Portrait

Curated by 

Formal Portrait

Manifesta 10, First Cadet Corps, St Petersburg

28 June – 31 October 2014

The theme of Polina Kanis’ new project, presented atthe exhibition, is a reconception of the culture of parades and massprocessions as one of the most powerful ideological instruments, andspecifically a deconstruction of the traditional practice of performingacrobatic maneuvers on moving equipment. The key motif becomes the eternity ofexpectation – we hear the roar of the engine as a symbol of a readiness foraction, the pole has been prepared, the figures obediently come together toform a flag – this endless repetition is fated to remain in eternity, withoutever becoming a moment in history. The ritual of the raising of the flag,called upon to demonstrate a victorious strength in a dramatised, directedeternity, merely lays bare the impotency of the action carried out: the flag israised in an enclosed, publicly unseen territory, its ceremonial raisingbecomes a metaphor for a victory that will never come.

The works of the young video artist Polina Kanis arealways, in a certain way, a mise-en-scène from silent cinema, where thecharacters are hypertrophied, and the quantity of possible solutions stretcheson into infinity. The artist remains true to the strategy that she originallymarked out for the construction of her works: from video to video, we see theauthor directing the imagined situations, the cameraman filming, the charactersperformed by invited or hired persons, and the author herself always takes oneof the key roles in the action. Just as consistent is the avoidance of anylogo-centricity and the deeply muted nature of the images – the visualcomponent is dominant in Kanis’ works, and the role of speech is kept to aminimum. The detachment of the characters, their emotional alienation from whatis happening, in combination with the motifs of the eternal and of repetition,and periodic references to the subjects of traditional art, immerse thesemomentary scenes in eternity. The picture of meanings built up in each videocan form in different ways, depending on the focusing of the accents ofobservation, and the artist’s videos offer an openness to interpretation. Thethemes of examination of a society of discipline and bodily practices insubordination are combined with a perception of the gender oppositions of maleand female and the social roles that relate to them, often at the same timestanding alongside the issue of the interaction of ideology and the subject.

Text by Daria Atlas

Viewing Room


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