‘Territorial’ group show

I am currently part of a group show titled ‘Territorial’ at The Banks Space gallery in Adalgate East, London E1, the gorgeous gallery that belongs to The Cass/ London Metropolitan University

This is an exhibition that I have curated, selecting and presenting my work and that of 5 other contemporary photographer as part of London Photomonth.

Territorial

The idea behind this show is to present work of contemporary photographic practicalness whose work is concerned with concepts human geography, identity and territory.

The show opened on 20th October with a well attended private view, and it will continue till 12th November. It’s open Wednesdays to Saturdays (shut sun-mon-tue).

There will also be 2 artist talks on 27th of October and 3rd November at 6pm, open to the public.

Working on this show whilst also preparing my solo show at The Stone Space gallery has been tough, especially due to the lack of funding – unfortunately funding for the arts in the UK seem to have miserably shrunk! To go around this issue, I printed everyone work with a white border and used it to pin the images to the wall, avoiding frames.

On the private view night the show was well received and I received positive feedback about both my work and my curation, of which I am very pleased.

I presented a selection of images of my series ‘Borderlands’ including some new images that I had never shown before, such as an image showing the Danube overflown (border Croatia-Serbia) and a portrait of an orthodox priest (photographed in Psarades, border Greece with Albania and Macedonia, last summer).

My work on show at The Bank Space

My work on show at The Bank Space

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Other artists included Ania Dabrowska, who showed a combination of 3 different series which includes both portraits as well archival images, collage and landscape as well as “passport books”. Her work deals with issues of identity, migration, belonging and homeland.

Ania Dabrowska ' work on show at the private view

Ania Dabrowska ‘ work on show at the private view

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Other artists include Yiannis Katsaris, presenting images of prayer boxes “EKissakia” on the roadside of Greece together with a new video piece composed of found family footage from the 80s, and Paul Greenleaf who is showing his work ‘Correspondence’. In this series Greeleaf has worked with found-postcards, rephotographing the location as it is today. The images are showcased with the original postcards, and the writings at the back of the postcards compose the titles. I approached Paul Greenleaf to take part in this exhibition as I found interesting his visual correlation between past and present, as well as how carefully he had curated the shots, matching the focal length used in the original postcards to that used in the new landscapes. He also exhibited 3 pieces of ambient music.

I also included 2 large scale images from the series ‘Sandlings’ by Alastair Bartlett, an ex student of mine at University of Suffolk.  His work is shot in 5×4 and beautifully presents landscapes of the Suffolk countryside which the photographer has selected based upon his childhood memory and personal attachment to that territory.

Alastair Bartlett series 'Sandlings'

Alastair Bartlett series ‘Sandlings’

Also part of the show is Christos Koukelis, an award winning photographer who has shown one of his first works titled ‘The Hill’. Photographed over a period of many months in 2000, this series focuses on a man made hill, constructed on top of a dried lake. It shows not only the passing of different seasons, but the human impact on the territory, as the vegetation has been burnt out and the lake dried up to make space for farmland and this hill. We don’t know the reason why it’s being built, but it’s awkwardly perfect symmetry stands out against the roughness of the natural landscape damaged by humans.

Christos Koukelis work 'The Hill'

Christos Koukelis work ‘The Hill’

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Print

 

 

‘Borderlands’ Exhibition at The Stone Space gallery

I am currently having an exhibition at The Stone Space, a lovely gallery in Leyton, London E11, as part of London Photomonth.

The exhibition opened on 6th October with a well attended private view, followed by my artist talk on 8/10. It will be open till 30th October, opening days Thursdays to Sundays (shut mon-wed).

The gallery is a non-profit space run by artists and volunteers, and it’s a small but excellent space, with a large window on the road.

I have exhibited a selection of 9 images in different sizes, plus 2 large maps. I showed a selection of images from the corpus buffer zone/serbia-croatia/serbia-romania border.

It’s the first time I combine my photographs with maps: these maps are scans of the maps that I use when I walk along borders, which I often use to write down notes. The maps become integral part of my practice and I collect them as precious reminders of the borders visited. I scanned a selection of them and printed them of Sticky-Tex, a vinyl paper that sticks to the wall but can be removed and re-used, and combined different scans to print  a long 60x250cm print.

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check out The Stone Space post about my exhibition here!

Very pleased with the results, and very happy to have been part of London Photomonth

borders summer 2016

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Border Serbia-Croatia, a couple of years ago

In summer 20016 I am planning to photograph along the borders of the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) with neighboring Belarus and Russia. These areas interest me because of their social composition and socio-political issues relevant to the composition of European Identity. The Baltic countries have large numbers of EU citizens that identity as ethnic Russians, composing up to 30% of the population. Even higher numbers consider their first langue Russian. Furthermore there are other minorities such as Ukrainian, Belarusians and Seto. I am interested in how people configure their own identity and how the attachment to a territory affects self-perception.

this summermy plan for summer!

I will start my travel by reaching Vilnius, Lithuania, which is the closest airport to the border and I will use Vilnius as base to visit 3 locations. Lithuania is the Baltic country with the lowest percentage of population that identifies as Russian or Byelorussian, merely 7%, however it presents some very interesting locations: the villages of Šalčininkai, as well as Dieveniškės, Norviliškės were split in half at the fall of the Soviet Union, when a border fence was put in place, splitting communities and making it difficult for relatives to visit each others. Read here http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/22/news/adfg-border22

I will follow the Lithuanian border to enter Latvia, where the city of Daugavpils, near the border with Belarus, counts a majority of inhabitants of Russian ethnicity. I will use this town as base to visit small villages near the borders, such as Silene, Kraslava and Patarnieki. The cities of Rezekne and Ludza will be my base to start the exploration of the Latvia-Russian border, heading to Zilupe and the Terehova village on the border crossing, as well as Karsava. The villages of Rekova, Vilaka, Balvi and Abrene are of particular interest as part of the Abrene District that has been swapped between the two countries, nowadays mainly in Russia . Read here on the Abrene District from a Latvian point of view (slightly nationalistic…i am sure the other side of the border would present a different story!) https://latvianhistory.com/2014/05/29/the-lost-latvian-land-abrene/

Russian speakers in Baltic counties http://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/opinion/the-new-generation-of-baltic-russian-speakers/ Estonia and Latvia have particularly large ethnic Russian minorities, with about 24% and 27% of the general population respectively, while Lithuania’s Russian population falls just under 6%. Percentages of Russian speakers, rather than ethnic Russians, are even higher since other Baltic minorities such as the Polish, Ukrainians, Belarusians, or people of mixed ethnic origin, have often adopted Russian as their primary language. Latvia’s Russian speakers made up nearly 34% of the population, Lithuania’s Russian speakers toted nearly 8%, and Estonia’s about 30%. In all three Baltic states, Russian-speakers are concentrated in capital cities and in territories close to the Russian border. However, the vague and ambiguous term of Russian compatriots, or even Russian speakers, has been little explored, in the Baltic or European context.

“The biggest problem in my opinion is Latvia’s view of Russian speaking people as “others”. It makes Russian-speaking people feel alienated and unwanted. Another problem is that Latvia might give citizenship to Russian-speaking people, but they can never be called Latvians because Latvia strictly differentiates between citizenship and nationality. My citizenship is Latvian, but [my] nationality can be only Russian or Polish. It shows that the [Latvian] country formed from and for one nation – Latvians, making other ethnic group as “citizens” and not Latvians.”

I will continue to the north Into Estonia I will focus on the Setuma region, which has ethnicities of Seto speaking a finnish-ungarian language and have a mixed Russian-Estonian culture, this minority has become cut of from its cultural capital of Pechory, nowadays in Russia. In this area I will visit the towns of Obinitsa, Piusa, Koidula. Read here https://deepbaltic.com/2015/12/12/split-by-a-border-and-fading-fast-estonias-unique-seto-people/

I will finish my travel in the Narva region, where the town of Narva is split from its counterpart Ivangord by a border crossing; in this area the majority of inhabitants are Russian ethnics or Russian speakers.

new borders

today I was reading this article on an Italian newspaper in which it defines portaerei Cavour, an Italian military vessel, as the “last border of Europe”. this boat rescue migrants in the mediterranean sea

read the article here in Italian only, sorry!

aside from the debate on migration, this interests me as I am collaborating with the European University Institute, whose research in anthropology focuses on the borders of Europe. In particular my work is part of the “EU Border Care” an anthropological project that studies migration in relation to maternity. The project is funded by an ERC Starting Grant.

link here

At the end of June 2016 as part of this project I will exhibit some of my work at the Closet Gallery in Villa Fiesole

history, borders and future projects!

Today 24th April 2016 is the recurrence of the 101 years Armenian Genocide. I have lived in Armenia and it is a country that is part of my artistic development since 2011.

In 2011 I walked along the borders of Armenia (east and west) as well as Nagorno-Karabagh , as part of my project Neverland, a series concerned with the concept of homeland. I have returned to Armenia, and I am currently developing 2 photographic series there. I am also hoping to return in 2017 to progress my projects.

image from my series "Neverland"

image from my series “Neverland”, produced thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Armenian Centre Of Social Studies ACOSS and European Cultural Foundation.

Armenia is a small country tucked in the mountains of the Caucasus, rich in art and culture. It’s culture, lifestyle and approach to art is very similar to that of southern Europe (I felt very much at home!). It’s history is tainted by the genocide of 1915, when almost 2million Armenian living in the Ottoman Empire were killed. It’s an history of survival and it is interesting how the armenian sense of identity is strongly transmitted through language and oral history. Although most European countries, as well as Russia, Canada and most South-American countries  recognise and condemn the genocide, Turkey remains in denial of the historical facts. Read an interesting article on the Huffington Post on how the US have so far not officially used the word “genocide” in fear of offending their allied Erdogan. The denial of history is bizarre – can you imagine Germany denying the holocaust? Of course not, coming to term with the horrible mistakes of your own past is fundamental for the development of  a modern nation. Today is remembrance day and the genocide is remembered all over the world: most notable the Pope, George Clooney and the Armenian band System Of A Down are taking part, just like the previous year.

This event is interesting for various issues connected to art and cultural representation: recently I was talking to fellow artists whilst discussing my work, and they all expressed their concern on how politics forcefully prevails on culture, for example how the musical project Aghet that comprises musicians from Germany, Armenia and Turkey has seen the support of the EU being withdrawn on orders of Erdogan.  I find this news particularly disturbing as this project is sponsored by the European Cultural Foundation, which has also supported my work (please note: the European Cultural Foundation is above politics and still fully supports the project!!). How can the EU dismiss cultural projects privileging political demands?!?

The borders of Armenia which I have photographed, are protected on the East side with the helpf of Russia, which fhas formed a buffer zone to prevent a turkish attack. Traveling along the borders of Armenia the locals’ the general opinion  was that they wanted to be in good terms with Turkey, but to achieve this it was necessary to have recognition of the historical events. To the west, I walked along the borders and stopped for sometimes in Chambarak, a small town in which the majority of the population was born far away and was subject of a forced population exchange: the majority of the inhabitants were expelled from Azerbaijan at the fall of the Soviet Union, a period in which Azerbaijan systematically begun to attack it’s own citizen of Armenian ethnics. Forced population exchanges were carried out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in that period. I then travelled to Nagorno-Karabagh, a self declared Republic with a peculiar history: as a self-confessed border geek I am passionate about Nagorno-Karabagh, also knows as Artshak!

image © paola leonardi photography

image from my series “Neverland”, produced thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Armenian Centre Of Social Studies ACOSS and European Cultural Foundation.

Nagorno-Karabagh is a little gem, with breathtaking mountains and a bizarre history:

Nagorno-Karabagh has always been a territory inhabited by a vast majority of Armenian ethnics, with minorities of Russian, Kurdish and Azerbaijani. However Stalin – with his crazy ideas – incorporated it into Azerbaijan, so Karabagh became an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. At the fall of the Soviet Union, Karabagh demanded to be Armenian and Azerbaijan refused, and a war broke out. Despite being outnumbered, the civilian resistance and the Armenian army managed to win and become independent. There has been a fragile truce for over 20 years till few weeks ago Azerbaijan violated the treaty and launched an unprovoked. It was horrible to hear that friends were bombed, civilians targeted and children and elderly people were among the victims. It is also very sad to see how little is knows about this conflict in Europe, and the few articles I found in newspapers were often misrepresenting the situation.

The will of the people of Karabagh to affirm their identity  is based on the right of nations to self-determination, and their resistance, often a civilian resistance, resonates the stories of the italian resistance that my grandmother used to tell me.

At this stage of my artistic development I have completed various projects connected to concepts of human geography and self-determination of identity and how borders affect our concepts of home and belonging. As much as I try to stay away from politics, this proves sometimes impossible  as the line on the map is hardly ever established by the common people; often borders are established with disregard of those who inhabit them.