Ohne Titel (aus der Serie
Ohne Titel (aus der Serie "Everything belongs to us"), 2003/2004, C-Print, 30 x 45 cm, Auflage 10

10.02.06 - 01.04.06
Nadja Kuznetsova | Everything belongs to us


“I stand by the entrance to the “flea market” – the local bazaar. They do not charge for entering. Crowds of people in crumpled, wet clothes because of rain. Everywhere there is merry liveliness, one can hear jokes and laughter. Why should anyone come here? What can be interesting here? Well, ok, I will go in for a minute – I’ll just take a look. I’ll check what new there is and what disappeared. And what is not popular. What is valued and admired. What one should avoid. What, as we sometimes think, can be interesting for others… . Possibly I will find something what I will like very much or an object that would remind me of something. Remind me? About what? Oh God...”.

Józef Zontag
“Volcanoes lover”

It is difficult to avoid ideology while presenting flea markets and it seems almost impossible to assume purely esthetic position. Incidentally, the title of the series “Everything belongs to us” can be the best proof. Carnival of objects, captured by the artist, not only attracts attention with esthetics of each composition, but also points to typical characteristics of life, values and outlook.

In works by Nadiezda Kuzniecowa there is cooperation and commonly shared feelings: each of us, after getting here, experienced the feeling of curiosity mixed with disgust, joy resulting from recognizing objects from childhood and sorrow because of passing epoch. In that photographic series we face a situation, in which the artist, thanks to her optics picking fragments of harmony out of chaos of things, takes us into the world of strange people and their belongings and surprisingly, in that huge mass we can find ourselves, comparing market trade to national industry and amateur artistic activity.

A frame of snow which in a symbolic way doubles the death of exposed objects can be considered a discovery of the artist. Sunlight fills laid out things with memory, history and meaning. Nadiezda Kuzniecowa managed to preserve festive atmosphere of Sunday fair: in carefully collected - according to color, shape or use - objects there is no desire to grow rich, from which one cannot escape in everyday flood of advertisements, shop windows attracting with blinking lights, or boutiques with their sophisticated decors.

Just like a holiday which needs preparation: changing clothes, adornments, buying presents and creating a special mood, also a marketplace becomes a spot for conversations, jokes and naïve forms of deception. In big cities we rarely observe direct and archaic relationships, we rather come across worked out and impersonal mechanisms of capitalistic competition, supported by legal and economic acts, which tell us to feel as a person of mass psychology with whom anonymous forces of firms and corporations play a game. Here, in the market we can experience personal charm of people and objects inseparably connected with them, buy something not because of rational calculation, but because of inexplicable mystic connection, attraction felt towards the other world and finally try out our abilities to trade.

On newspapers, color linings or on cellophane – objects facing each other, call each other and continue their independent lives, preserving the character of an epoch. Sometimes I can see a portrait of a salesman, who brought a thing very dear to him, something he could not throw away. People bring their things not because of overabundance, but hoping that someone will need them, thus everybody sincerely praise their goods. Sale itself is not their goal, it is rather a gift. Different laws prevail here, different relations between a salesman and a buyer, between the salesman and the object, that is why those of us who got used to indifference of professional salesmen, can easily offend the owner of an object with contemptuous or indulgent opinion about it.

Deliberate removing people from photographs possibly tells even more about themselves, their internal lives, than direct portraying, precisely depicts their likes and their sense of esthetics. Of course, sometimes certain compositions are full of irony or joy resulting from the fact of finding such absurd (when objects from various epochs get mixed or handcraft is juxtaposed with mass production) or symbolic combination, then we are also surprised when we notice portraits of leaders of revolution next to a toy gun (revolver) and opera libretto.

An important role in the series plays color: it is the dimension of light which carries the basic load in transmitting texture and materiality of composition. The role of space is reduced to minimum, things are arranged in rows and almost squeezed. When in rows, things keep on “standing out” (that is probably why we so quickly get tired in the bazaar). While creating the project, the artist conceptually and effectively used digital technique, allowing for creating the effect of immobilization. Precise intuition of the artist consists in the fact that color discovers symbolic space of individual memory of an object. Digital technology which nowadays has begun to search for its own position within artistic photography, in that series create an image: sharp digital light, clearly marked geometrical shapes of objects and sharp even the smallest details which preserve vanishing world, in a merciless way squeezed out by the new epoch.

Excellent reduction of an event only to color, frozen composition allows to assume that Nadiezda Kuzniecowa in that series again exceeds limits, not of painting (or graphic arts), but broadens the notion of photography. She manages to avoid the pressure of the moment. However, it is photography going beyond the limits of composition and calling to create a common text. Combination of genres results in shock which revives that gap in meaning that is present in the market, when strategies of attracting attention and individual memory of an object, ideology of composition and “thing-in-itself” crash. Self-sufficiency of painting composition competes with the event of memory, the object for sale conceals a sign of memory.

Photographs from that series restore our belief of uniqueness of objects. Randomness and sudden appearing of things in front of our eyes distinguishes bazaar from classification of products in supermarket. Jean Baudrillard writes about symbolic emptiness of modern object. Today the main element is not a peculiar importance of each thing, but attitude towards the wholeness, comprehensiveness of functional and comfortable, concentrated on a human being environment: “a human being does not need things, he only uses them as an experienced specialist”. The value of “abstract integration”, conciseness of things as a “cultural system of signs consisting combinatory logics” changes traditional personal attitude towards objects and only an artist feels the limits of objects. “In traditional being a thing became outdated… All things, apart from their practical functions, have another original alleged function of “a goblet”. This corresponds to their ability of absorption the spiritual experiencing of a human being.”

The meaning of photography changes within time and together with the change of context. In this way irony, unintentionally overcoming an observer of the series, quite soon will be corrected by nostalgia for handmade and solid objects, objects of “long lasting use”, sculptures of poets and politicians, because all that, under pressure of our disposable civilization, artificial materials and everyday change of idols falls into oblivion.

Enlarging the ability of a painter to see – “the ability to remain beyond his ‘self’, taking part in articulation of existence from outside” (M. Merlo-Ponti) with the use of technique of photography, Nadiezda Kuzniecowa managed to create a series of works which can be characterized as conceptual and lyrical at the same time.

Gulnara Chajdarowa

Nadiezda Kuzniecowa

Experimental fine art photography, graphic art

Graduated from Muchina Artistic-Industrial College in Sankt-Petersburg, where she lectured in graphic arts for over 10 years. She got into photography in the late 1990s. She worked on experimental techniques of printing in black-and-white photography, since 2003 has worked also with digital media. Member of Artists Association. Lives in Sankt-Petersburg.

Her works are in collection of Russian National Museum (Sankt-Petersburg); in private collection of Roger Sonnewald (Berlin, Germany); foundation Photo IMAGE (Sankt-Petersburg); Marina Gisicz gallery (Sankt-Petersburg).

This paper familiarizes readers of the magazine with phenomenon of Petersburg school of photography. It became clear that in Russia there are two strong photographic Diasporas, functioning independent of each other (and at times having no knowledge about neighbors), - one in Moscow and the other in Sankt-Petersburg. The difference in cultural tradition between European artifact of Sankt-Petersburg and broad, Asiatic, “merchant” (like citizens of Moscow like to call themselves) Moscow, implements in discrepancy between schools of photography in those two cities. Even theory of photography, school of writing texts about photography is different: in Moscow – essayistic impressionistic writing and in Petersburg – philosophical university school, constantly bearing new names of those who observes photography and searches for its language specificity.

Nadiezda Kuzniecowa – represents Petersburg photography from the late 1990s, she is characterized by using technology and secretiveness, distancing from an image and ability to create text by arranging in rows separate images. The artist was strongly influenced by artists-photographers, masters of ‘fine art print’ such as: Aleksander Kitajew, Borys Smielow, and equally strong conceptual photography from Sankt-Petersburg (let us mention Andriej Czezyn). The series “Everything belongs to us” places Kuzniecowa next to Petersburg photographer, Dymitr Szubin, one of the first (in the late 1990s) who began to work with digital media treating them as an artistic tool emphasizing the idea of preservation[2].

Gulnara Chajdarowa – represents Petersburg school of philosophy “mastering photography”. Her text is a characteristic example of commentary combining tradition of European schools of philosophy of the 20th century, as well as iconographic and symbolic analysis of art historians.

Irina Chmyrieva