I was brought up in a Russian village, where traditions and family values took deep roots and were supposed to be a dogma. My views on my own personality were out of focus. My outlook was always concentrated on someone superior in the hierarchy: a man, a parent, a grown-up, a teacher, an expert. This model of thinking fed up a Victime inside of me, and I grew up in a very oppressing world where a girl was a priori considered to be second-rate. Many times I heard my granny telling me that a woman is nobody without a man, that she isn’t worth anything. I was this kind of woman, I saw myself like this, like being second-rate. When I realized it, I discovered that the person who I felt I was all my life, and the person who I “really am” are disastrously opposite essences. I tried to get rid of my previous image of self, step by step removing other people’s imposed ideas about me. I strived for something better, something rejecting old canons, something right, something which was “not as it used to be”, an Ideal.
Finally, it led me to an exhausting chase after new idols, which again manifested my traditionally-hierarchic way of thinking. I still was a product of the system of oppressions, a Victim who structurally was the same oppressor. While frantically getting rid of my past, I was in fact oppressing myself,giving birth to my suffering. That’s how I discovered a monster in myself. This was the most painful revelation in my life, and it turned my inner world upside down. I was feeling a chaos inside me for a while, I became a cosmos, an endless obscurity.
So how to get out of this system? What am I then?
I have sewed a dress in a puritan style, as a symbol of oppression (which is also a part of me) with an awkward polka-dot print hinting on my ironical attitude toward that system, as if I tried to reconcile two sides of self. Then I met Lizo who stunned me by her inner fight with herself. I was amazed by the similarity of our conditions, by this riot against the system. I told her about the dress and suggested sublimating our feelings into a statement with the aim to understand what this condition is, to comprehend this moment of a threshold from the previous personality to a new one.
We made a series of photos and a video. To my horror, I realized that the result turned out to be a typical fashion photoshoot with a model in a dress on the pictures. And it’s only in the video that I saw Lizo in the process of performance. From this revelation I started to change. At once I started to see the power of canons everywhere. I have never observed that the aesthetics of contemporary fashion photography was a canon for me, or that the cut of the dress was a canon as well. A video recorded with a VHS camera is now a sort of a canon too. My first reaction was panic and intention to reshoot everything.
To make it differently. Deny canons. Race after the idols, again. It took me some time to accept it all and perceive a new meaning from this experience. The process of transformation has been started. I denied the idea of reshooting and chose the way of experimentation and rethinking. All the photos have become the subject of my manipulations with the form. I couldn’t help modifying images so and so, I enjoyed the process of transformation itself. Once I started editing the video, I went through the same thing facing the canons of rhythm, narrative, power of image, and the further revision of methods themselves. All this reminded me of relaunching a computer system. I like the analogy with the Blue Screen of Death, an error screen which indicates the necessity to update the computer system or delete a virus with the help of specific software or new drivers. This is what happened to me – I launched the software update. It isn’t an installation of a new system, but an update on the base of the previous one.
The transition from the old to the new is a real psychological and physical metamorphosis that leads to the emergence of an entity in a different form, distinct from that which was before, but in fact a synthesis of the Old and the New. It doesn’t make sense to fetishize the tradition (previous system) nor to deny it for the sake of Contemporaneity (new system). Every radicalization leads to an absolute, that is to say hierarchy. What if we chose another plane? A fringe where two opposites cross?
A caterpillar becomes a butterfly not by changing its essence, but by walking a long way of transformation, by becoming itself.
Yana Pirozhok (b.1986) is a documentary photographer and visual artist from Russia. She works with photography and video art and her projects explore the concepts of psychological trauma.