Anastasia TikhonovaUntitled (2014)

I’m intrigued by Tikhonova, or as she calls herself: Antipictures.

‘Anti’ meaning to stand against and also a clever contraction based upon the first two letters of her given name and patronymic.

It’s the exactly the same sort of multivalent turn upon which most of her work hinges.

She introduces her self in her anti-artist statement, as follows:

Photography is
a survival mechanism for me. My generation was the first to come of age
following the collapse of communism – my youth coincided with an
esthetic and existential wasteland experienced on the national scale. We
were caught between the institutional aesthetic of the Soviets and the
gaudy taste of the nouveau riche, and there was no established cultural
norm, no expectations to rebel against. That lack of expectations was
disorienting, but also liberating
– and I focused on drawing out the
sublime from the surroundings both vulgar and mundane. Photography is a
way to carve beautiful moments out of the habitual, and I live for that.

Projects followed, with magazine deals and exhibits. I moved to London
and sought to give a conceptual focus to the most basic of my drives –
to reveal the beauty and to show it to those who share a similar sense
of life… Yet the yearning for prestige and recognition gave me nothing
but panic attacks. I am back now – we haven’t met yet but take your
chances.

The added emphasis is mine because it hits upon something I’ve been trying to pin down for years; namely: the sort of It-factor that allows you to spot a mid-career Eastern European or Russian image maker from thirty paces is exactly that space between ruins and crass, resplendent decadence.

It’s a prescient observation. Unfortunately, it’s much more in keeping with say Igor Mukhin than Tikhonova.

I’m only halfway intending to knock her though. For example: the image above is–without question–pretty. Beyond that I’m not sure what it’s purpose is. There’s not enough context to determine what’s being said about notions of public vs private. And the ‘work’ tattoo on the subject’s right wrist suggests there might be something to do with notions of images as means of person expression vs agency-less objectification. But it’s all too muddle to decrypt.

Still, even though I don’t necessarily like all of her work it still resonates with me. I think she has excellent instincts. For example: I appreciate her artist statement for the fact that it functions in a way that mirrors the majority of artist statements splayed on gallery walls–except it replaces superficial pretension with something real. (Every statement I’ve ever written has made a similar gambit.)

And although it’s unspeakable poor form from the standpoint of webdev standards and practices (animated splash pages are just the worst, y’all), I do appreciate the way Tikhonova overlays her images with quasi-religious/meditative aphorisms. It underscores the degree to which her work is preoccupied with searching.

Ultimately, I think that’s what appeals to me about her work. I think, I’ve mentioned before that my training is as a film maker. Essentially, I stepped away from that world because I had developed extensive, existential doubts about narrative structure and the authentic telling of a story. A decade later, I’m still wrestling with messy questions but the crux of the debate boils down to two questions:

  • How do you known where to begin?
  • What details are inescapably relevant/what details are extraneous?

Looking at Tikhonova’s work I can’t help but think that she’s still trying to resolve for herself:

  • How do I know when a picture is worth taking?
  • Is the point to remember the moment or to render the moment intelligible to those who will only ever witness it second hand and in a heavily cloistered form?

These may not be the questions she’s asking herself exactly but despite some of her works failings, with regard to the process with which she’s addressing these considerations, her work is shockingly forthcoming if you’re willing to put in the time with it.

I can’t think of another contemporary image maker who show there work more faithfully and completely. So even if her work isn’t quite there, her process is very much on point.

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