The Russian Federation, as the Soviet Union, a former ally, then a closed empire and “Enemy of the West”, had a major effect upon the consciousness of at least three generations of Americans, the last of which was my own. The power, talents, and perceived threat of Russia existed everywhere as I grew up and came of age. In the news, politics, in the realms of technology and science, in our school geography lessons, in fiction, in entertainment and movies, in sports, in our everyday constructions of paranoia, the shadow and reach of what we thought of as “Russian” was constant and overwhelming at times to Americans-even after 1991. This was, to some degree, both over and underplayed by both the American and Russian government and media. It is of great interest and concern to me that this continues today, albeit with a somewhat different agenda and tone. How does Russia’s own relationship with its complicated past intersect with now and its hopes for the future? I am interested in what happens when the past is not publicly confronted as directly as possible. Through research and my own personal observation and experience in the country I have found that Russia as a society and modern nation still has difficulties in acknowledging a great deal of the historical truths of its 20th century. Perhaps this has to do with the more pressing and complicated economic and social challenges Russia faces at this time. Yet ironically, physical evidence of the past is everywhere. There is also a persistent nostalgia for the Soviet era.
The intention of the work is to explore the privatization and commoditization of public space within contemporary Eastern Russia. There are very different eras of history with vastly different belief systems contained within the visible realm of Russia’s public social space, whether urban, suburban, industrial or rural, embedding contrasting elements of different agendas and regimes of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. I continue to make photographs that contain a visual description of these spaces and the society which functions within, and to portray them alongside the adjustments to capitalism in the 21st century and how this is playing out socially, technologically and environmentally within these areas.
Vladivostok, Russian Federation, 2011-2012
By Victoria Crayhon