wrap around me, my river,
with your white sleeve
when I reach the sea mouth
turn me into wine
I will keep our betrothal
at the source of light
I will become blood
for you and other people
The My River project includes:
3 photographic series made in the technique of manual photographic alternative printing, Cyanotype (total 60 artworks):
• River mouth
2 short films:
• My River (8:45 min)
• Radonitsa (1:25 min)
"My River" is, above all, a family story, created under the symbol of a real river. It is the Neman river. On its banks my ancestors were born and lived from generation to generation. I call them the “River” people.
The "Source", "Riverbed" and "River Mouth," which make up the project, visually form a flow, as an idea of spiritual path.
Alternative Photographic Process
Work on the project began several years ago with an exploration of my own roots by the means art. I was trying to understand the continuity in my family and in my land. The thorny question of my identity, the one I care about, has always led me to the river, since I was a child. In my family, as in many others, there still exists the memory of repression. In my homeland this memory is being hidden and killed.
I was looking for the basic thread that connected me to my ancestors to find my roots, I mean, somewhere in my heart, to somehow get a foothold in the land where I live, to generally learn to live in the land that has been invaded, to be aware of the cultural disaster, to feel this land, to love it.
Based on my personal experience of life by the river, I felt how the element affects the formation of personality. This deep connection with the river revealed as a way to preserve oneself in the country with history of destruction of original culture and nation, and deprivation of identity. I discovered that continuity in our family was formed by the shared love to the river and the sense of freedom it nurtured. This energy of the river's naturalness passed from one to another as a way of life. I think, nature cultivates a sense of self on its own heights.
The atmosphere of the river creates such a rhythm, that in the midst of this element one becomes part of it. The dance of the stream is born, always different, but monotonous. It is the dance of time, the dance with time. I float beside it, I float in it and against it, until time completely disappears in me, until time becomes me. The one invited to dance with the river becomes the dance.
In this flow, the sequence of birth and death feels a renewed unity. The linear perception of time dissolves in it. Since childhood, the river water has given me a sense of home, like communion. It is as if murky water stores the memory of the pure water: the memory of the real world, the memory of the source one unconsciously seeks, the memory of future purification as a mode of aspiration.
In the Source series i assembled the photos of uprooted trees from the Neman’s banks with archival photos of my ancestors as children. In one of the pictures I appear as child next to uprooted cherry blossom. I worked on these pictures during a peaceful revolution in Belarus that was brutally suppressed. This series is a response to the lifelong pain I feel for my homeland. Yet, it is a hopefull response: seeds will sprout under the uprooted stump when the time comes, just like free people are born in a country banished by years of violence. Thus, the river led me to the vision of my personal state, the one of a flying tree, whose seeds have been cast into the grief-stricken land. My broken roots return to the source, trying to grow again, to flow again. Time after time after time…
2019 – 2020
Alternative Photographic Process
I completed the My River project in September 2020 during the revolution in Belarus. The project absorbed the meaning of the river as a symbol of natural aspiration of human spirit to freedom, like that of the river to the sea. This metaphor found its reflection in the peaceful protests in Belarus, when rivers of people marched towards their sea of freedom.
In the series "River Mouth" this metaphor finds its reflection in a photo where people all together with lights in their hands, form a luminous river, like the milky way. The Belarusians, in a single rush, merged into a river and became light themselves. When it became so dark in Belarus that one could see no stars, we began to see them in each other's hearts.
January - February 2022
Solo exhibition My River. Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art,
Solo exhibition My River. Instytut Kultury Willa Decjusza, festiwal Kultura na uchodźstwie. Dni solidarności w Willi Decjusza
Source. My River among the winners of the Mois de la Photo 2021 in Grenoble.
The movie My River was selected for the ValdarnoCinema Film Festival in Italy and was shown in the short film competition at the Cinema Masaccio di San Giovanni Valdarno.
The My River project was shown on the walls of the White Church, accompanied by OKO orchestra.
The work from the "My River" project was selected for the cover of Valzhyna Mort's book of poetry "Musik för de döda och återuppståndna" (Swedish edition)
Personal exhibition of the My River project, ZAL#2, Minsk
The My River project was nominated for the National Fine Arts Award in Belarus – Art photography. Subsequently, Maria Bonet withdrew her candidacy from the competition as a sign of solidarity with the censored artist and with the victims of the violence of the current government in Belarus.
Collective exhibition "Correspondances", La Galerie Rouge, Paris, France
Collective exhibition "La Passeggiata", Galerie Agathe Galliard, Paris, France
Collective exhibition "Lyubchansky region. People and time", The National Historical Museum, Minsk, Belarus