Dubossarsky - Vinogradov
Stephen J. Shanabrook
The career of Ala Esipovich began rapidly with an exhibition at the Russian Museum in Saint- Petersburg, and two personnel exhibitions at the last International Moscow Photography Festival. Which attracted the interest of top collectors and of Sotheby’s... All this in just six years. Its true that her professional experience at the centre of a fashion magazine and the habit of photographing celebrities were indispensable in achieving the degree of severity and even hardedge-ness that was proved in her first project “No Comment”
This series, which immediately interested the Russian Museum, was shocking because it put on stage elderly people in situations of auto-presentation, auto-exhibitionism. These elderly denuded bodies, just like the previous series of dwarfs, seem to recall the particular poesy of the ‘Beauty in the Beast’ (Fleur de mal) seen in the work of Joel-Peter Witkin and Diana Arbus. In reality there was nothing, just like for her part there was no auto satisfaction due to the radicalism of the documentation. In reality there was a very human quality, I try to define it as ‘the body represents the theatre make up of life’. Dostoïevsky popularised the notion of Russian boys.
I think that Ala Esipovich has achieved the idea of the visualisation of elderly Russians. The soviet period was marked by extremism, (‘We crop the horse of history’ V. Maïakovsky ) deprived from the natural biblical majesty of its flowing. Logically, the call of time, the refusal to accept the constraints of life is also as extreme, provocative, despairing.
Ala Esipovich talks of herself thanks to this exhibition. « No comment ».
Often artists stumble after a first success but Ala Esipovich has immediately confirmed her position. She has proved that she has her roots not only in the aesthetic domain but also in the daily context. The series “Happiness» brings together couples in which the man is much older than the woman. This banal situation calls up the ingenious visual situation, of voyeurism, when as like Andy Grunberg, photographic critic with the New York Time “from spectators we are transformed into voyeurists” Ala Esipovich dos not reply to this call for her she represents “happy couples”
The moving force of her visual narratives lies in their psychological relationship (shown equally in bodily manifestations and even the tactile ones) between the models states of atraction and of repulsion. The metaphor of the mirror reveals itself in the way that the models coexist, how they are orientated, and one in rapport from the other, in the space. They reflect, reciprocate, not so much in a miming way but more rather physically and emotionally.
Another series consecrated to women, to actress. Here there is no play: theses are real actress, being part of listings of cinema studios, who add to there monthly income by working on the film shoots. Already of an advanced age; from which they can no longer make their career, probably not very happy in there privet life, ‘they are often on the edge of a nervous crises’ In one way they are still ‘acting’, they are reclaiming something trying on theatre costumes.
In the Videos that accompany the photos, this game becomes a psychotic obsession. These are not auditions for a role, but for life. Trying to live differently to change the monotone decoration, to feel the difference something ...helas the efforts have come to dead ends. Ala Esipovich shows with an extreme lucidity that which can be masked by draperies, the varicose veins on the legs, the given-up hope ness, the signs of ageing... and also this little aspects that explain the professional failure of women, the ridicule of the effected pose, and a certain clumsiness.
Despite all Ala Esipovich has realised a very warming series. This warmth translates in the patience from which the artist creates vis-à-vis her heroines, in the time that they consecrate to her and not on their stage production. This time is necessary so that the actress can open up and share their hopes and wishes. In contemporary photography, humanity not only makes sense but also form. Also Peter Glassi speaks from now of the ‘roads to the heart’ and of the invisible presence of the camera. It would seem to me that Ala Esipovitch has walked amongst the first the pertinence of this new form of contact, photography and confidence.
Director of Contemporary Art, Russian National Museum of Saint Petersburg
Untitled 8, 2004. Black and White photography, 67 x 67 cm, edition of 10