Dazed Digital

Moscow / Русский

Elena Dendiberya

March 15, 2012

Using wine as a mean of intercultural communication, artistic expression and the search for family roots

  • Text by Kemal Tarba

Elena Dendiberya is a 25-year-old graduate of Samara University of Architecture and Construction and student at the Strelka Institute of Architecture, Media and Design in Moscow. She works on a project dedicated to Urban Culture, exploring the works of generation of young Moscow-based artists and their links with the city, comparing two discourses in Moscow and Berlin. Elena’s project "Vina" ("Wines") is intensely personal and autobiographical in nature, at the same time it seeks to delineate and channel certain universal truths concerning the issues of intercultural communication between the isolated societies.

Satellite Voices: Tell us about your "Vina" project?
Elena Dendiberya:
The project is directly linked to my personal history and my family. For many years I felt no connection with any cultural roots. In Russia with my family name - Dendiberya - I am hardly regarded as Russian, something repeatedly articulated during my childhood. The issue of search for my cultural identity has always been to me of great importance, but the history of my family is quite vague.

I feel myself very close to wine culture, my father is an experienced winemaker, so the idea of ​​using wine as a symbol of artistic means was organically lodged in my head some time ago. So I began to use wine as a natural pigment, experimenting with different varieties of wine. This series is created using red wine Saperavi which in Georgian means 'paint'. In the relations between Russia and Georgia wine has always been a kind of link and means of intercultural communication. In Christianity as well, wine revered as a sacred substance, a symbol of redemption. My works were made during the period of cessation of diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia, the period when it was hard to get Georgian wine in Russia.

Due to the fact that from the very beginning the project is rooted in my personal history, it is naturally was reflected in my work. The picturesque part consists of six iconographic self-portraits that appear to be constrained, immobile and devoid of interaction. As per its physical properties wine fades with time, evaporates, and these works have already become a half times lighter, and in a few years will disappear altogether. Bandages soaked in wine, encircling each canvas, symbolising the element of protection on one side and ripped cultural ties on the other.

SV: Do you think lack of political freedom in a country affects the work of an artist living there?
Elena Dendiberya:
If we are talking about contemporary art, then, of course, you should consider the fact that the work of an artist exists in the context of social relationships. Art reflects reality via artistic means but this is not a mirror reflection but rather distorted one, exaggerated, passed through the artist's personality and thus creates a new dimension of reality. The political unfreedom as a form of a certain state of society and is not ignored by artists. Another question is that, in its extreme forms, it can be transformed into a so-called inner emigration, the spiritual separation from the state and the system as some other form of protest.

SV: What is the most challenging part of being a young artist in Russia?
Elena Dendiberya:
Being a young artist in Russia in and in general requires an understanding of the situation within the local system, which, like many things in Russia, is woven from certain paradoxes, built on the lack of any links in the chain of the art system and poorly functioning communication between artist and community. But on the other hand, the young people, working on a full drive and self-denial, are most sensitive to all the transformation taking place in an unstable society. They are both the driving force and the explosive material at the same time. But society, in turn, sends a request to the youth, though bearing some speculative nature, dictated by the pervasive cult of youth in contemporary culture, and the attractiveness of investing in "young". There are emerging institutions dedicated to work with young artists in Russia: special programs, funds, Biennale of Young Art, but at the same time there is a huge lack of education in contemporary art. Two-and-a-half schools, working in Moscow, of course, are not sufficient. In general, the situation is not the most inspiring, but if we talk about artists, people who choose this path, are not guided by rational factors, but simply cannot be otherwise. This is an internal necessity.

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