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The #hardtobewithmotherland collection is the first attempt of FotoDepartament gallery to present a selection of author and limited edition prints, which is a gallery micro-exhibition and a product of reflections on current trends by contemporary Russian artists at the same time.

The collection is built around the question: why is it difficult for people from post-Soviet countries to buy and live alongside images of familiar places and contexts? The selection includes works by 30 contemporary artists who work with photography and live outside, but at the same time alongside, the post-Soviet space.

By suggesting various perspectives of co-existense with familiar, from beauty to the need to “renovate”, i.e. to rethink complex issues of history, photography helps people from post-Soviet space find the courage to live in contact with the cultural code and space to which they belong.

And displaying courage is what question-posing art offers.

Aartists of the collection:

Ekaterina Balaban, Julia Borissova, Yana Bulgakova, Sergey Gonchar, Yury Gudkov, Irina Ivannikova, Maria Kokunova, Pavel Limonov, Natalia Lozinskaya, Alexander Nikolsky, Anya Miroshnichenko, Evgeny Molodtsov, Yury Pavlov, Elena Pavlova, Vasiliy Pindyurin, Anna Prilutckaya, Kristina Sergeeva, Vitaly Severov, Denis Shulepov, Anastasia Soboleva, Anastasia Tailakova, Anastasia Tsayder, Katya Turkina Faso, Daria Vengerskaya, Alexander Veryovkin, Vzakus’, Irina Zadorozhnaia.

#hardtolivewithmotherland #hardtolivewithmotherland

But beautiful

Places where we are not, of course, always seem better, but if we think about the experience of beauty – it can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places, unexpected in their ordinariness. In the mountains as well as at public transport stops, the experience of rapture can catch up with us. First of all, beauty is truth, and it is not always nice and cute.
It is important to be able to coexist with it, because it is everywhere.

But if in your own way

It’s hard to live with a motherland. It is hard to live without it.
To understand this thesis, we are helped by projects that have managed to find their own way to exist in a world where some things are constantly slipping away, things you don’t even have time to name. In a world where everything singular becomes plural, and the right meanings have already been stolen by someone else.
The Russian language has very meaningful sayings as “to kick is not to kiss”, “to break is not build”.  And there is the saying “if you want it to be good, do it yourself”, which is comprehensive even when it concerns the world order or one’s own identity. Between what seems eternal and what can be, there is a small gap that can be recognized and through which one can enter into the different.

But if to do the renovation

Now we feel especially urgent that personal and collective history stand very close, it has become impossible for them to ignore each other’s existence and significance. They were put and locked up in one train compartment and sent to Vladivostok. We’ll see if they get there, in what condition, and if we will be able to separate them later. While they are still sharing the top and bottom shelves, one is throwing socks around and the other is telling stupid life stories in an attempt to lighten the mood
— Do you have anyone left?
— Almost everyone’s gone.
But we’re here for now. The floor creaks routinely and it’s time to replace the boards. Encountering trauma distances us from our experiences and allows us to grasp both our own and others’ experiences more clearly.Encountering trauma distances us from our experiences and allows us to grasp both our own and others’ experiences more clearly. It is easier to see wallpaper peeling off in places and baseboards that have come loose from a distance. Renovation is always difficult and expensive, but what a pleasure it is to choose beautiful curtains and invite dear people over for dinner afterwards.

But it’s so familiar

Dovlatov (a famous Soviet writer) had a wonderful story where the janitor could accurately determine who threw garbage past the trash can by what kind of garbage it was.
We are all contextualized by the space we are in. It shapes our everyday life on which our constitution of life is based. Tell me what surrounds you and I’ll tell you who you are.
Sort through your shelves of images more often, pull out the forgotten, dust off your favorite, maybe something important accidentally got in there?
It helps you not forget what it means to be human.

Healing corner with flowers

History, personal or collective, is always a problem. It has to be handled with care – idealizing it does not give room for the future, devaluing it deprives history of any meaning.
Perhaps this is why the photograph is so important for history – it is always something that has already happened, an image that may be dissolved in time, but is revealed to us in the present. It becomes for us a moment of falling out, of unfolding in ourselves, a moment of redemption.
Art is absolutely useless. You can’t hammer nails with it, and you can’t cook any porridge with it, only if you brew it in some cases – once you get involved in it, you won’t come out the same.
It doesn’t teach you nothing. And it often doesn’t make you feel something right away. But it gives space for thought, for questioning, for passion. The vase itself is a wonderful object, but it is the empty space inside the vase that enables the flowers to grow.

FotoDepartament is both an institution and a gallery, organises solo and group curated exhibitions. The #hardtolivewithmotherland stand presented by the gallery became a participant of PAF – Port Art Fair 2023, one of the main public platforms of St Petersburg’s Sevkabel Port.

Curation & Texts: Nadya Sheremetova, Maria Sharonova, Polina Yablonskaya