A Joyful Archipelago At Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects

A Joyful Archipelago is an exhibition showing works of ten Russian-born female artists, living in London and New York. Each of these artists has already made a name on their own through winning numerous awards and participating in various group and solo shows, however for this exhibition they sought to come together as a collective with a goal to produce their reflection on the events in Russia today. This exhibition comes at a very interesting point in the Russian history and is the first show of new female Russian art of that scale in the UK.

A starting point for the exhibition is a semi-fictional account of a closed town N. Closed administrative- territorial formations or “closed cities” begun forming in USSR from 1940s onwards as bases for military, industrial or scientific facilities. Those cities had no names, were not shown on maps and access to them was not allowed without proper authorisation. The unique feature of N was the fact that from the very beginning a ban of all mass media communications has been implied in the town, building a wall of communicational isolation around it. The isolation made the residents of N focus on their private self- contained life, where other means of communications have been invented for internal use only. The information in the town began taking on a different form as it possessed a very different speed and density.

The exhibition is an investigation of the role of community activities in an individual-centred society. The artists will explore life in places with authoritarian regime, world’s history of formation of opposition and governments’ control of mass media. The artists were asked to produce new individual works for the exhibition: each of these works forms a building block for the whole structure.

There is a programme of performances and special events throughout the duration of the exhibition, including a collective performance on 20th April.

The participating artists are: Yelena Popova, Taus Makhacheva, Maria Gruzdeva, Daria Irincheeva, Natalia Skobeeva, Ariadne Arendt, Elena Gavrisch, Maria Kapajeva, Tatiana Baskakova and Olga Grotova. The exhibition is curated by Olga Grotova.

Ariadne Arendt (b. 1987)
Ariadne Arendt is a founder of theatre BORSCHT, a travelling Russian vegetable puppet theatre. Her theatre is a satirical take on the classical Russian plays and the household traditions. She has participated in festivals and shows in London including the all-female show at the Pushkin House. Ariadne lives and works in London.

Tatiana Baskakova (b. 1988)
Tatiana Baskakova works are mostly video and performances. She graduated with a BA degree in Fine Art and is currently studying on MA in Art and Politics course at Goldsmiths. Tatiana is interested in constructivist legacy of Russia, feminism and activist art. Her performance “Alina- pure art” is a critical homage to the alleged Putin’s secret mistress and the champion gymnast Alina Kabayeva and a general comment on the position of women in the Russian society. Tatiana lives and works in London.

Elena Gavrisch (b. 1982)
Elena Gavrisch is a Royal College of Art graduate, based in London. In Elena’s work historical material is used for scripted action. The present is camouflaged into the past. In her practice she often slips into the time in Russian history when the citizens turned to pseudo-magical forces to try and make sense of their changing environment. In her work that is often dedicated to those “extrasensory healers” she attempt to give shape to the nation’s feeling of confusion left after the collapse of the Soviet system. Elena lives and works in London and Berlin.

Olga Grotova (b. 1986)
Olga Grotova is an artist and curator based in London. She graduated from Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Art and Design. Olga has worked as an artwork designer for Alexander McQueen and as assistant to curator at Baibakov Art Projects and Pinchuk Art Centre. With her artistic practice, largely influenced by the classical Russian literature and archival materials, she explores the possible parallel realities through storytelling, staged interventions and constructed narratives. The rec

Maria Gruzdeva (b. 1988)
Maria Gruzdeva is one of today’s most interesting young Russian photographers. She graduated from Central Saint Martins and London College of Communication. She has since travelled extensively to document life in the Star City and Baikonur, producing a fascinating account into previously little accessed communities. Maria’s photographs shed light into the decaying legacy of Soviet space race and remind us of the nostalgia associated to the USSR’s status of a space superpower. Her book Direction-Space! has been published by Dewi Lewis in 2011 and she has since exhibited in Russia and internationally. She lives and works in London.

Daria Irincheeva (b. 1987)
Daria’s website
Daria Irincheeva is an emerging artist based in New York and Moscow. She studied in Lyon Ecole des Beaux Arts, Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art and School of Visual Arts, New York, where she received a full scholarship. Daria has been shortlisted for the Kandinsky Prize (2010) and participated in the 4th Moscow Biennale as well as in many international shows. Daria’s work is rooted in her experience of growing up in post-perestroika St. Petersburg and reveals her search of identity since leaving Russia to live abroad.

Maria Kapajeva (b. 1976)
Maria Kapajeva is Russian photographer born in Estonia and based in UK. She graduated with a BA in Photography from University for the Creative Arts at Farnham. Maria became the Finalist of Young Photographers Competition and won twice the British Council PMI2 Award to travel and produce a work in India. Her works are internationally exhibited including show Fresh Faced & Wild Eyed at Photographers’ Gallery in London and two solo shows in Estonia. Her multicultural background drives her practice into discovery of a diversity of cultural identity and gender issues within historical perception. Maria is currently doing her MA at University of Westminster in London.

Taus Makhacheva (b. 1983)
Traditional and contemporary at the same time, Taus Makhacheva’s photographs, videos and performances communicate a self-chosen world invested with a sense of nostalgia, longing and isolation. In her urban actions she often transforms urgent political issues in problems of representation, in elementary yet radical symbolic systems. Taus has been shortlisted for Kandinsky Prize (2011) and Innovation Prize (2012) in Moscow and has exhibited her work in international solo and group shows. Taus graduated from Goldsmith and is currently studying MA Photography course at the Royal College of Art.

Yelena Popova (b. 1978)
Yelena Popova has graduated from the prestigious MA Painting course at Royal College of Art in 2011. She is a receiver of numerous awards and residencies, including The Outset Prize and Red Mansion Prize. She was selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2011) and Saatchi’s New Sensations (2011) exhibitions. Her practice is a mixture of painting and video essays in which she often returns to her childhood in a small closed town in Urals and attempts to rethink her personal history in reference with her homeland’s past. She lives and works in London and Nottingham.

Natalia Skobeeva
Natalia Skobeeva is a video artist and photographer based in London. Her work received numerous awards and critical acclaim. Natalia is equally interested in aesthetic side of her images, often turning to forgotten or invented photographic techniques, as well their political dimension. Her recent projects involved interventions into Moscow’s d

Guest Projects is an initiative conceived by artist Yinka Shonibare in 2008 to offer the opportunity for emerging artistic practitioners to have access to a free project space for one month. It is situated on the ground floor of Shonibare’s studio alongside Regent’s Canal in East London and acts as a laboratory of ideas and a testing ground for new thoughts and actions. The space has previously hosted numerous exhibitions by emerging artists and curators.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE (b. 1962) is a British artist of a Nigerian descent who graduated from Goldsmith in 1991 as part of the YBA generation of artists and was nominated for Turner Prize in 2004. He is famous for his works exploring current and historical context of colonialism and globalisation. His practice revolves around the politics of formation and representation of identity and the conflict between Western European and African cultural references. Shonibare’s first public art installation Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle has been commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2010.

Olga Grotova (b. 1986) is a Russian-born artist based in London. She is a graduate of Central St Martins College and Chelsea College of Art and Design. Her artistic practice explores fictional histories and possible realities through story-telling, installations, video and performances. She is deeply interested in relooking at history and exploring archival material. In her effort to present young Russian artists to the wider public she has curated a number of shows in London. 

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