Polina Kanis Qetevan Gvinepadze
The Why Not Gallery is glad to present ”The shift” show comprised of video The Shift by Polina Kanis and a photographic print from the series Private Landscape by Qetevan Gvinepadze.
Polina Kanis’s video The Shift takes place inside a grand Stalinist building that resembles some sort of a Soviet administrative, or vacational edifice. Anonymous institution, whose function remains unclear throughout the video, turns out to be a former museum as stated by the artist in the text. The space acts as Foucauldian heterotopia and invites the viewer into the world of multilayered meanings and intangible tensions.
Slow camera movement reveals men in saggy, faceless uniforms, mopping the floors and cleaning the administrative part of the institution. They are at times accompanied with poker-faced women, in their half-dressed, enticing outfits who wait around behind their writing tables. Outdated journals, furniture and other props create a sense of timelessness- time has indeed stopped in this establishment. It is only the staff, lethargic and emotionless, with meticulously calculated movements and zero interaction between each other, which bring life to the space and it seems, give purpose to its very existence. However, their actions too seem purposeless and futile; the video can be read as comment on the nature of such institutions in the Post-Soviet world that seem to be stuck in a limbo of existence.
Submissive men dare not look at the beautiful women, who are clearly in charge of the situation. Their nudity and frailty do not make them vulnerable, quite the contrary; their sexual appeal seems to be one of their strongest weapons. The idea is further intensified in the finale of the video, when one of the men stares at the woman who swings her legs, while lying down on the stage. Revealing herself, she seems to be performing the dance for this man. Even though, in a seemingly vulnerable pose, she still seems to be in a winning position over the man, who is completely unable to act upon his desire and in his impotence all he can do is stare at the woman. This too can be read as a comment on the modern Post-Soviet societies, where women turned out to be more capable to adjusting to the new order of things and are integrating way better than men, who turned out to be less versatile to reinvent themselves.
However, the artist further complicates the narrative of the video and explains the sexual tension as an allusion to a brothel. In that scenario both men and women are in the situation of service; however, the purpose of their labor is unclear and the client stays behind the scene. The brutality of their working conditions is juxtaposed with an exceptionally stylized method of filming; each shot is meticulously constructed in color, composition and lighting to create a mellow and beautiful atmosphere.
Ketevan Gvinepadze’s photographic print from the series Private Landscape is superimposed with Kanis’s video, forming a visual link with the video. In both works flesh attains political, metaphorical and playful dimensions. Gvinepadze’s project includes series of self-portraits, created as a visual game of hiding and revealing, opening to public what’s usually concealed from stranger’s eye, but at the same time questioning an aesthetical part and using figure as a surface for building a different form, where body is not a flesh anymore, but a concept.
Polina Kanis (b. 1985) is a Russian artist, currently based and working in Amsterdam. Between 2008 and 2011 she attended the Rodchenko Moscow Art School of Photography and Multimedia. Her oeuvre is mainly preoccupied with video art and muses on the concepts of gender, conditions of labor, notions of power and ideology. Her art has been extensively exhibited around Europe and Russia including IkonoTV, Berlin; Haus Der Kunst, Munich; Carreau du Center, Paris; Manifesta 10, St.Peterburg; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf; Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna.
Qetevan Gvinepadze (b.1989) is a visual artist and conceptual photographer from Tbilisi, currently based in Barcelona. Her main artistic practice is based on research about gender and politics, building a visual language for a concept, which is generally characterized by an autobiographical narrative alongside with recent post-soviet history