Olga Chagaoutdinova

March 22, 2008 - April 19, 2008


Projects “Russian Pictures,” and “Cuban Pictures”


My practice for the last few years has focused primarily on two ongoing photographic projects. The first from 2004 to 2006 traces the process of globalization and cultural transformation after the fall of communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Through observing domestic scenes I have attempted to depict the transition and adjustments to the new values emerging in Russia. In conjunction with the “Russian Pictures“ series in January 2007, with the help of Roloff Beny Scholarship, I traveled to Cuba to examine the same ideas, on the basis that Russia and Cuba have shared a relatively long, 35 year history of politics, economics, and culture. The Soviet Union not only exported the ideology, natural resources, and financial grounding for the Cuban economy, but also exported a social restructuring, educational models, domestic products, and rules for living. In response, I have studied domesticity as a microcosm of society, as an unique source of visual information where the individual belongings of the past juxtapose the influx of the present. Contemporary Cuba is like an island floating in time, with the past and the present passing. The intimate domestic scenes in my photos document the tides of change from the people’s point of view, and provide information for a cultural and iconographic analysis in both Cuba and Russia. In the photographic series Russian Pictures and Cuban Pictures I am looking at domesticity as a miniature model of society, as a unique sour of visual information that can reveal past and present of socio-economic, political and cultural history of society, I am fascinated by syncretism, how one culture comes in and grafts over the symbols and values of another culture. How do we translate the notion of common elements and differences between cultures for the purpose of finding a way for cultural identity.


Both series have one thing in common – my own intentional oscillation between artistic distance and the intense intimacy of discovery. It is the way of how and from where I am, as an artist, observer and researcher, looking from the outside into the things that had been familiar to me in the past, visually registering them and sharing them with others.  Whether it be Russian apartments, that contain layers of cultural references which have been dramatically transformed during the past decade, or the reality of Cuban life with knots of contradictions and historical controversy, I am examining my personal proximity from the perspective of an outsider, who knows that history from the inside.

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