In Migration ll, a bird tears itself out of a Russian world map from where my family fled. This little bird, marked with the place and language of its origins, flies across the world and finally lands on the area in America where my family settled as political refugees. The bird merges into the surroundings map but its markings remain unchanged. Tracing my family’s journey, I question the meaning of being a foreigner and to what degree one is capable of assimilating into a new culture.
The cut-out or rather “tear-out” process is critical in this work because it fortifies the concept of work. Cutting or tearing out allows for the removed area to maintain the original pattern, texture and in my case, history, culture, language and meaning. At the same time, it functions as a separate entity that can change and go elsewhere. Cutting out also leaves a void in the original map—much like the emotional and physical void left when people move away. In this way, the cut-out process is analogous to migration and lends itself perfectly and poetically for Migration ll.
My work explores how culture, tradition, language and sense of home shape and define our identity and how immigration, emigration and travel can either alter or illuminate that identity. Being raised within two cultures, Russian and American, informs my investigation of otherness and self from the standpoint of a foreigner and of a traveler.
My art is an intersection of video, performance, sculpture and installation. I shoot video both on location (in different parts of the world) and on sets that I build in the studio. I composite this video footage and integrated it into other objects to create video sculptures and installations. My performances become looped videos that are built into or projected onto objects that I construct. These videos interact with and reference the objects themselves.
Also in my pallet of processes are photography, drawing and painting. I construct models and props that I photograph against real scenery to create images that depict a nostalgic and constructed reality. In my drawings and paintings, I merge architecture from around the world into composite landscapes.
These methods of layering materials and processes reinforce my concepts by combining culturally specific sites and situations into unexpected combinations, which aims to explore and diminish the gap between different cultural realities. My work challenges viewers to question their own cultural identity and sense of place and to investigate how and to what degree they are a product of their emotional, physical and cultural “baggage”.