My mother died when I was sixteen.
Now I’m 31, and she is — fifteen since the death.
We were not on good terms.
I have almost nothing left from her. A couple of letters. Several pics. A red notepad. Two rings, one of them from the wedding.
Eyeshape, body type, grin veins.
Memories, mostly false.
Flashback № 7. In the train you give me your notepad and teach me how to draw a pentagram in a right manner, with one sweep. Fifteenth years since your death I’m going home by train, with this notepad in my bag — to Petersburg, the city you’ve always wanted to visit. You also wanted to read “The Master and Margarita”, but never did that. I live in a house, where the screen version of it was taken. The naughty apartment. Things outlive us. Things remember nothing. I remember my film — not you.
Flashback № 8. She — you — is standing near the window, tangled in a curtain lace, thinking it’s the door, trying to exit. Several months till the end. The illness distunes the mind, like noise waves do.
Flashback № 11. I put make-up on you laying in a coffin. Too vivid.
Flashback № 12. Girlish day for two, facial masks, I do your manicure. You open a wardrobe and say shyly that it’s not what ladies wear. And you want to look like a lady.
Husband, daughter, alien city. Breast cancer, died at home.
I’m trying to discern you in a fog and finally to have a talk.
To my mom Natasha.
- The project exists in book form
- It participated in the group exhibition Photofaculty-54 among the best works (2013)
- Published in F-Magazine with author’s commentary (2014)
- Two of the project’s works were selected for the Diaries exhibition of the Loosenart project in Rome (2020)
Commentary on the project
It was a strange and generally mystical experience a year long.
It was a road movie in time, a journey through states.
It’s a way of connecting, both with her and with myself. It’s a way of stitching together all the fragments, all the shards. It’s a way of acknowledging the fragments for what they are.
And it’s therapy, of course.
This book was a way for me to understand a lot of things. To understand-feel. With it I understood which way of working is mine, I understood how the state breaks down into two streams — the pythian state, in which you go blindly and follow the pain, and the priest, who then interprets everything done — and there is always something to interpret, if the pain is really followed.
At the end of the year, while working on the layout, I suddenly witnessed how each of the pieces takes its place, becomes the only possible piece of the puzzle. About each shot I could tell what it was about — and when I shot it, I couldn’t at all, and I chose only by the power flowing from them — and by the charge of that power.
It was important for me to go down that road on my own, without consulting or checking. And I am absolutely grateful to my mentor Anna Fedotova for believing in me and supporting me.
I was shooting for almost a year, from September to May; I was totally intuitive. The film was me; I had to recharge myself, tune myself up, expose myself to certain solutions, put myself in conditions where and when a spark could strike. I immersed myself in memories, thinking about her and myself, touching things. Drove to the town of my childhood and her death. Felt a connection.
It wasn’t easy and smooth — it was like everything was in leaps and bounds, and before each one I had to pull myself together because the leaps were in pain. At one point I wanted to stop, I even thought of another topic for my diploma. But that same night I took off a new layer, a new twist, and things started to unravel even more.
I did not include old, archival photographs in the project. The specifics are unimportant — the touch is impossible — I have no connection to it. And at the same time it is there, that connection is in my very body, in my very cells, in my very thoughts, in false memories. It is only because of working on this book that I have learned completely new facts about myself and her past. Family legends, what was, what you remember. It’s all different. Facts are unimportant, it’s not about them. Staging is no less documentary than reporting. Reportage is no less fictional than staged. That’s not the point at all.
I feel a connection. The magic is there. There is no death. Time is non-linear. Yes, I want to erase that sentence now, because I feel uncomfortable with the pathos, but it’s all just the truth, and I can bear it.
The book isn’t over yet, I can see further bumps and bumps to jump through, and hopefully I’ll get where they lead.
It was extremely agonising for me to write this commentary on the work, but I guess that’s why it was worth it.