In her recent project Mapping Fates, artist Varvara Shavrova brings to life her own and her family history by using historical photographs that become templates for tapestries, woven fabrics and textile art works and a sound track that is based on some stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, and occasional letters that survived wars and conflicts.
Shavrova‘s practice is focused on excavating layers of her own and her family history through the process of remembering, recalling, retracing, re-enacting stories that are assembled into a visual montage, and where a collective notion of ‘a history’ is explored through an individual perception of ‘a past’. Through the perspective of one family that was living in Georgia and Russia, we are invited to explore some of the key themes in the history of Eurasia in the 20th century: dispossession, migration, immigration and loss of identity experienced by Shavrova’s ancestors at the turn of the last century are mirrored by almost identical crisis experienced worldwide today – poverty, wars, global migration, refugee crisis, redefinition of borders, redistribution of world power and creation of new dominant geopolitical order.
In the context of the festival, Shavrova‘s project interferes with the exhibits at the Elizarovs museum, a beautifully preserved 5 room apartment that was the home of Lenin’s sister Anna Ulyanova and her husband Mark Elizarov, and from April to July, 1917 also of Vladimir Lenin and Nadezhda Krupskaya. The everyday objects of the Elizarov museum (furniture, photographs, a chess set, Lenin’s wheel chair, photographs) that are part of one family history at the turn of last century are contextualized by the re-traced history of another family – Shavrova’s – with a completely different historical and personal fate.
Branch of the Smolny State Historical and Memorial Museum The Elizarovs’ Apartment Museum is located in a tenement house built in 1913. The apartment was owned by the engineer Mark Elizarov who was Lenin’s older sister Anna’s husband. Besides the Elizarovs the apartment accommodated Lenin’s younger sister Maria Ilyinichna Ulyanova and his mother Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova who spent here her last years and died in 1916.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya moved into the apartment upon their return from the Swiss exile in April 1917. During three months spent by Lenin in the Elizarovs’ apartment, he wrote 170 works. Here the meetings of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party were held and many Bolsheviks attended them. The apartment was converted into Museum in 1927, its exposition being dedicated to life of a city intellectual of the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century. The permanent exhibit tells about the life of the Ulyanovs-Elizarovs family.
In the installation, housed in the Museum-apartment of Elizarov, Varvara Shavrova revives the history of her family with the help of artwork on textiles based on historical photographs; a soundtrack inspired by family legends handed down from generation to generation; and letters that survived despite the wars and other upheavals.
The artistic reception of Shavrova allows her to reconstruct the family history in the process of remembering, repeating and narrating, creating a story flowing into a visual image in which the concept of “big history” is explored through the perception of the past by an individual.
Through the history of an individual family, we are invited to look at the history of Eurasia in the twentieth century: poverty, wars, global migration, refugee problems, the redistribution of power and the emergence of a new world order.
The Shavrova project is inscribed in the exposition of the Museum-apartment of Yelizarov, where museum objects (furniture, photographs, household items) were once part of the family history of one family at the turn of the last two centuries – and now they are a context for the history of another family, with a different fate, at a different time.
Varvara Shavrova was born in Moscow in 1968, a graduate of the Moscow Polygraphic Institute. In 1990, the international professional career of the artist began: in 1990 – 2003 Shavrova was a member of art residences and art programs in London and Mayo County, Ireland. From 2005 to 2010 she lived and worked in China, in 2010 she returns to Ireland.
The artist has held more than 20 solo exhibitions in London, Dublin, Frankfurt, Beijing and other cities, she also participates in numerous group exhibitions around the world, has several international awards, her works are in public collections in London, Staffordshire, Essex, Oxford and etc.
In 2007, Shavrova’s project “Borders”, combining photos, video and graphic works, was shown at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg in the Peter and Paul Fortress. Multimedia project “Opera”, dedicated to the Beijing opera and having a great international resonance, was presented in Spain, Ireland and China (2011 -2016). Currently, the artist is working on a dissertation at Goldsmith College in London.
Branch of the State Historical and Memorial Museum “Smolny”
The museum-apartment of Yelizarov is located in a former apartment house built according to the design of engineer Alexander Ehrlich in 1913. The apartment belonged to Mark Timofeevich Elizarov – husband of his elder sister, VI. Lenin’s Anna Ilyinichna. With them lived the adopted son of Elizarov Gora, younger sister Maria Ilyinichna and mother Maria Aleksandrovna Ulyanova, who spent the last years of her life and died in 1916. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya settled in the apartment on their return from the Swiss emigration in April 1917. For three months, held here, Lenin was written 170 works. Here there were meetings of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b), there were prominent Bolsheviks. The museum was opened in 1927. The exposition demonstrates the life of the urban intellectual of the late XIX – early XX centuries, tells about the history of the Ulyanov-Elizarov family.
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