The exhibition by Pavel Matveyev at Cigarrvägen 13, Stockholm, is titled “With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world #3.” A complex and though-provoking title presents a very simple installation of one large scale photographic image to be viewed from an armchair, with headphones of a soundscape, an audio documentation from the same site.
The image he chose was of an abandoned manor house on the outskirts of Moscow. The house was originally an aristocratic palace, but like many buildings of its kind, was converted into a public institution during Soviet times. After the revolution, properties that weren’t converted into sanatoriums or hospitals fell into disrepair. And in turn, those institutions have long since been abandoned.
With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world #3
The specific history of this house, although uncertain, calls into a questioning of what history and cultural identity means in the post-soviet era. Without a ‘golden age’ to fall back upon, how can these fading, decrepit romantic visions be anything more than documents of catastrophe? What image of ‘culture’ can be salvaged from history to remain relevant to today and moving forward? The manor house is viewed through an entanglement of overgrown branches. Dead wood obscuring the view a once splendid, great culture? Or a new, neural network emerging out of the ruins? Maybe both.
The most interesting part of the exhibition is not the image by itself, or image as art, but the decision by the artist to merely wallpaper the gallery with the image and guide the viewer to be seated in a comfortable old-fashioned armchair, to view the work whilst listening to an audio sample taken from the site. The work becomes temporal and highly evocative as you are emerged in the soundscape and the blown up patterns. You can hear and feel that this is a documentary of an abandoned space as you are surrounded by the rustling of leaves and the feint sound of dogs barking in the distance. It is a catastrophe that has happened. It is too late. You wait for a narrative or voice to appear, some semblance of human presence, but it never does. The audio is on a 3-minute loop, offering no answers and no conclusions. You almost start to hallucinate traces of human life. Can you hear voices or music in the background or is that sound from outside the gallery, the here and now seeping in through the corners? For a few minutes you are thrown into a powerful drama in this space. But it is emotion observed, not filtered, emotion filled with gentle acceptance.
Elena Fanailova describes Matveyev’s work as a contemplation of the “post-Soviet, post-cultural, post-historic space devoid of emotive meaning.” But the work itself is far from lacking in emotion: you are caught somewhere between a photograph, a still image and a film you once saw. It’s like watching a Tarkovsky film for the first time, but even that analogy is far too obvious. When so much of our consumption of images, still and moving, happens in the digital realm, this is a space in between, a ‘Russian’ sensibility in exile. You are a foreigner to the experience but complicit in it. Fanailova writes: “There is no pity, no nostalgia, only the purity of observation: photography and sound. This is post-history, post-culture, post-game.”
Whether this is a questioning of a image-making, a nostalgic longing for a meaningful contemporary cultural identity, or a personal coming-to-terms-with-history, Matveyev captures your heart through your senses with a sensitive and elegant intervention. He swiftly avoids the work becoming bombastic or clichéd by merely pointing us to experience an image in a new way again. It’s optimistic: your imagination is not atrophied; it just needs to be awakened gently. Matveyev’s exhibition is a commentary on all the consumption of all ‘culture’, bringing into question the relentless flow of images we experience on a daily basis in bite-sized packages of ‘history.’ Imagination is not dead or atrophied. But we must understand that images contain a tremendous power to influence on the way we think. They direct our awareness, and by doing so, shape our world view and our collective memory -no matter who we are or where we are from.
About the artist
Pavel graduated from Moscow State University’s faculty of journalism in 2002, and in 2006-2007 studied photography at the University of Brighton, UK. In 2012 he received his Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Konstfack in Sweden, where he is now a permanent resident.
In his work Pavel Matveyev explores connections between the private and the public, reflecting on nostalgia, melancholy and the luxury of boredom, often investigating notions of the gaze and the poetic image. In this process he employs simple tools in the form of photographic and audio recordings. His works are held in private collections in Sweden, UK, France, Norway and Russia and he has exhibited at Konstfack, Gävle konstcentrum and Arkitekturmuseet, Stockholm.
About the space
Cigarrvägen 13 is a 30-square-metre art space run by Stockholm-based artists Ami Kohara, Frida Krohn, Ylva Trapp, Johan Wahlgren, Helena Piippo Larsson, Maryam Fanni and Lisa Renvall. Together they form an artists collective who aim to make it easier for all types of local artists to exhibit their work. Cigarrvägen 13 has been opened with support of Stockholms stad.
Story of Water is film about love, language and loss. The films form a portrait of two people we never see; the filmmaker, a woman who has come back to Stockholm to search for her missing lover. She meets people who knew him, interviewing them about their connection with him and why he disappeared. These interviews form the backbone of the narrative.
Non-actors were interviewed without a script, and asked not to mention the names of the (real) people they speak about. Speaking only in the ‘you’ and ‘he/she’ form, their words build up a portrait of the two lovers, through real life stories that express in everyone’s second language, their own life ‘philosophy’ – how they came to live in Stockholm, and how one person’s identity is never fixed, but contains facets of all the places we have lived in, all the people we meet, and those we have loved and lost.
In the story, the girl puts up stickers in Stockholm to try and find her lover. As part of the making of the film, real stickers were put up in cities across the world. People who saw those stickers wrote back and spread more stickers in their cities. In the film, we start to see that the girl has been searching for him all over the world. Photographs of the stickers and anonymous e-mail responses are included in the film, as texts and in the sound track.
Story of Water is shot on Super 8, 16mm and digital video, forming an overlapping narrative that crosses memory, dream and real-life footage in a city that is both separated and connected by water.
It’s a film that has to remain fluid and ambition-less, but the ground work has been done. All we need now is some time to write & weave in footage collected over years – to work further on the soundtrack and audio. This sketch was cut a few years back now. Music by Aki Onda.
If you are interesting in supporting this project in some small way, just drop Tanya & Peter a line on email@example.com
Some friends have mixed feelings about Instagram. And our particular fascination with the instant and shareable digital image. ’Why do people need to document everything they do?’ asks one friend. ”I just don’t get it- why all this ’sharing’?” “I don’t have time for this.”
We’re not one to evangelise. Some call Internet the ‘Innovation of loneliness’. It is fake. It can’t replace real relationships. It invades our privacy, jeopardises our integrity. (That’s another discussion we won’t go into here…) But people also said the same about the photographic image when it was invented. The magical process of capturing a fleeting moment was esoteric and subversive. It was seen as ’low art’ – vulgar, invasive. It captured souls and degraded aristocrats and royalty to the same objectified level as the rest of the population – who, meantime, were being documented and categorised in the great encyclopaedic view of the world that was being established by cameras. Before this time- we simply did not have a view of the ‘world’. We had tribes and provinces. We had stories and hearsay. And in that way, Instragram is just as human as the millions of users who make it what it is. A living neural network of images all used I different ways- and those ways are evolving by the millisecond. We have stories, and hearsay. We have comforting clichés. We have pictures worth a thousand words.
I watched floods in a live stream of photographic images on Instagram. I watched demonstrations, revolutions. I corroborate what I see on the news – on Instagram. I turn to images before words. What we choose to represent, say, smile at, ponder, perceive, or in short, share- doesn’t define who I am, but how I connect with relationships, or rather my relationship with my world view. I am, therefore I share. Because my friends and family are everywhere, and you know who you are.
So those people who are still stuck on the 20th century broken (vinyl) record that Internet is shaping our identity- I’d prefer to say, its identity that is using Internet, just as ‘IRL’ we’d use a light bulb to illuminate a room so we can see each other. We are still sharing content and nurturing the same 150 relationships we did in our pre-Internet lives. The only difference is, this public-intimacy can enable new connections, new possibilities, new community.
Photography couldn’t replace the painted image, and Internet is no substitute for the real thing. Well, guess what- it was never supposed to be. Instagram, like any new technology, until ubiquitous, is a ‘cult’ that is hard to explain to non-believers. The users themselves are changing its meaning as its use evolves over time. And its only usage that alllows technology to find its meaning in our lives. Images don’t take my time- they offer us back time spent in milliseconds. Moments stretched and remembered. Life is long if you know how to live it.
Instagram began as a simple aestheticisation of the banal. Giving us a little everyday poetry in otherwise banal moments. Then we used it to post statements- bus-stop philosophy if you like. Words of wisdom = I’m a teenager, I’m bored, I’ve been hurt…I don’t give a damn…
But recently. Another subtle shift: Instagram has grown into its name- it is truly an Instant telegram, a message as an image, deeply coded towards each viewers relationship with the sender, layers of individual, personal, social, or communal meaning.
A image worth 300 twitter / SMS characters.
The view from an airplane = I’ll be with you soon!
My view, part of me included in the frame = I am so grateful for this, now…
A picture of myself = Let my gaze meet yours, for a moment, whoever you are. A flower in bloom = The world brings sadness, but it’s also strong and beautiful. Can’t you see it? #personaluniverse @foryoumyfriend, @elegantconfusion
Far apart, so close. Lovers of language. Lovers who don’t exist.
Photographer Matt Stuart is exhibiting a decade worth of accidental moments captured in London.Stuart has perfected the art of snapping the fleeting moments of everyday big city life. The sidewalks, the tube parks, shops – nowhere is safe from Stuart’s lurking lens. The result is an honest – and often amusing – take on the absurdity in which we live.
The Matt Stuart exhibition is on at KK Outlet 4th to 26th of February. 42 Hoxton Square, London N1 6P
Economist Magazine videos: Stephanie Sinclair, a photographer, spent time from 2003 onwards with child brides in Afghanistan. Girls as young as 8 are married off to settle debts and disputes or sold to raise money.
60 percent of women are still married as children…