Video performance One of the central plots of mythology, customs, and cultures in different countries is losing/changing one’s hair. Hair is the source of power for biblical heroes who become weak after losing them. The sinner woman wipes the feet of Jesus with her hair. In Russian tradition, braiding woman’s hair means switching her status from girlhood to wifehood. Aside from that, cutting off woman’s hair is one of the oldest ways of punishment, which was practiced until the 20th century (as we know from the cases of French women whose heads were shaved after Second World War because of their connections with German soldiers). Braid is a symbol of “eternal feminine”, which “draws us upward”, while losing it, according to conservative view, means falling down. In Russian, the word braid (kosa) has several meanings: women’s haircut, scythe or spit, thin strip of land washed by sea from the left side and embracing the bay on its right. Ahrenshoop commune is actually a place like this, it would also be called a spit in Kaliningrad. Cane and dried grass, looking like women’s hair, is used to cover the roofs in Ahrenshoop. One can say that houses wear old-fashioned haircuts on their top, rather than roofing. While in residence in Ahrenshoop, Gentle Women group enacted a mythological rite, braiding their hair together with dune plants, and unbraiding them afterwards. The resulting braid mixes corporeal with natural, dissolving one into another and making them seem inseparable. The process of unbraiding hair from natural grass braids, rather traumatic and painful, may be considered as a metaphor for leaving one’s roots, or as a fairytale story which could have taken place here.
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).