Please visit the Harriman Institute to view our newest exhibit “Nostalgia,” a photography exhibit by Pavel Romaniko.
From Mimi Ferzt Gallery, New York:
The work from Romaniko’s project titled “Nostalgia” commenced in 2008. “Nostalgia” consists of photographs of miniature paper versions of Russian interiors. The artist describes this project as “a reflection on the topic of exile, home and the relationship with one’s past and belonging.” Romaniko manifests his curiosity and the desire to conserve history through the precise reconstruction of the modest yet so precious details of a Russian household or office. Devoid of human presence, Romaniko’s interiors bear an almost palpable air of uncertainty and the urge for change emblematic of Russian social and political landscape. “Kitchen” (2009, pigment print on archival paper) documents the Soviet residential experiment known as the communal apartment. The artist deliberately eschews the haphazard dynamics of communal cooking, allowing the viewer to reflect upon the peculiarities of communal living, both intimate and public. “Work Desk” (2008, pigment print on archival paper) is the artist’s tribute to Russia’s ominous past, with Joseph Stalin’s portrait hovering over a vintage piece of furniture, with paperwork scattered on the floor.
About the Artist
Pavel Romaniko was born in Pereslavl – Zalessky, near Moscow, in 1980. He received his MFA in Imaging Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology. The artist works with photographs, video and sculpture to explore gaps in the archive and the collective memory, relying on imagery and symbolism found in both the public realm and his own memory. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and collections, including Rovinj Photodays Festival in Croatia, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, Mimi Ferzt Gallery in New York, and the Art Center of Orange Coast College in California. Romaniko divides his time between New York City and Lowell, MA where he is a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts.
In the early part of the 20th century politicians, activists and artists in Communist Russia were involved in an act of building a Soviet myth, creating a new space-time continuum, while violently eradicating the past by erasing facts from history texts, documents, photographs, and from people’s consciousness. In the process, new histories were fabricated, thus creating a new order, new collective memory turning an entire country and its many cultures into exiles in their own land. In the years since, Vladimir Nabokov’s exploration of nostalgia and reflections on exile, and Ilya Kabakov’s reconstruction of the past, to name a few examples, are all part of a ritualistic return, an obsessive homecoming and anxious preservation of memory. Nostalgia in the work of these artists is palpable and real and has great impact on constructs of cultural memories. They do, however, remind us that the images produced and circulated within a culture need to be carefully examined. Perhaps, when remnants of history are scattered all over with no sign of provenance, they have no ability to tell a story of their own but can only remain in a form of melancholic nostalgia.