“Drink a glass of water, eat a slice of bread, but I’m sickened, my brother, to sail across the blue sea! The evil fate ruined us, stripped me of my precious dress”
In former East Prussia young women living on the Curonian Spit were considered the worst brides, practically dowerless. The soil on which they were living – partly sandy, partly clayey – was infertile. Usually only poor fishermen from the Lithuanian side of the Curonian Bay, the “Curonians”, married these women. A girl had no right to see her husband prior to the wedding – he sent a boat for her and she went to the other side of the bay. After the wedding these women rarely came back to visit their families. Their parents never knew whether to rejoice or to sadden – their daughters became fishermen’s or peasants’ wives and all that was awaiting them on the other side was the same wasteland, the same poor soil, only separated from here by a thin strip of water.
A boat was sliding on the bay surface. In it were two black figures – the rower and his bride. They are barely distinguishable, the girl was only standing out with her high headdress and a broad dark ribbon that came out and was tumbling in the wind.
This is a typical for that time and place wedding outfit of a Curonian’s bride: a dress made of rough black linen, black ribbons and a black homespun kerchief. No colors, mourning dominates. A mourning for her young life, for her parents’ house, for her motherland. The Curonian women only put on a white dress (the best clothes) on several occasions – christening, communion, a farewell to the motherland (prior to the marriage). A farewell to the motherland was a crucial ritual that was obligatory for each bride leaving their parents’ house.
And so she went, in her best dress and jewels, throwing herself in ditches, in a slow flow of clay, and there she was lying, long, trying to plunge deeper into the ground, to penetrate, to nestle. And then she rose up and went to the water to wash the dirt off. This actions of dipping in dirt, rising and going to the water were the soul of the heavy process of saying goodbye to the motherland. And being heavy here is not just a figure of speech and description of the state of one’s heart – clay was sticking in-between all creases, sleeves and the hem, so that the clothes went extremely heavy and bulky and impeded to make several steps at a time.
A total dissolution. A hand clutched tightly, trying to grab the ice-cold spur of spring water trickling down a slope, eyes open and lost, working it to the bone to grasp and to remember: that tree over a ditch with its roots sagged and weary branches, her dirty ugly hands, hair stuck together, a torn lace of the dress, a dim string of pearls, a strip of sand, an old boat that grew into sand up to its rowlocks and a boat in the distance. It slides smoothly and easily and will be here in an hour.
Gentle Women group
Gentle Women group was founded in 2008 by Eugeniia Lapteva (b. 1987, Kaliningrad, Russia) and Alexandra Artamonova (b. 1987, Kaliningrad, Russia). They live and work in Kaliningrad.
Gentle Women is one of the few Russian artist groups to systematically examine gender issues and study the whole complex of myths, ideas, and common beliefs about what women are, what people expect of them, what functions they are accorded, which responsibilities they are assigned, and what becomes of them in the end. The group uses life-performance, video art, video-performance and actionism in their artistic practice. The group’s mission is to study the feminine nature through the transformation of rituals. As a rule, the group reinterprets everyday and traditional rituals for a specific region. The majority of the group’s performances take place in a natural environment which plays an important role as an associate of the action. The group thinks that coming across such natural forces as water, ice, mud and fire allows to manifest the true femininity. The group took part in Russian and international art exhibitions and projects.
Selected group and personal exhibitions include:
Nemoskva (Manege Central Exhibition Hall, St. Petersburg, 2020), Nida-1-Adin (Nida, Lithuania, 2020), Red Corner (Mesnil-Eglise, Belgium, 2019), The 12th Time Zone (Bozar, Belgium, 2019), Bergman.Metamorphosis (Moscow, 2018), At night all women are tender (NCCA, Kaliningrad, 2018), Tragedy in the corner (Moscow City Museum, 2018), Art Residence in Ahrenshoop (Germany, 2018), DOPUST/Days of open performance (Vienna, 2017), Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art (Garage art centre, Moscow, 2017), Phantom Exhibition (Vasilievsky Island, St. Petersburg, 2015), In the Artist’s Absence, Sever-7 Research Base ( St. Petersburg, 2015); Signal-2: Today’s Art (Signal Design Bureau, St. Petersburg, 2014); Green Envy, Borey Gallery, public programm of Manifesta 10, St. Petersburg, 2014); Busan Biennale of contemporary art ( Busan, S.Korea, 2012), Cinema: New Device (National Center for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, 2012); Enclave (Ujazdów Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 2011), Women in Contemporary Art (New exhibition hall of City Sculpture Museum, St. Petersburg, 2009).