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From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


alexandra polina

made in USSR*

«Thousands of new emotions, moods, feelings... It was as if everything had suddenly changed around us: the signs, the objects, the money, the flag... And man himself. It had become more colourful, distinct from others, the monolith had been blown up and life was scattered in to islets, atoms, cells»**

Svetlana Aleksievič

When I think of myself of who I am and what I want with difficulty I relate my reflections with my being Italian. I do not consider it fundamental, perhaps because of a scarce sense of belonging or perhaps more likely, because I could not think otherwise. I was born in Italy by Italian parents, I speak Italian and I have always lived in the Bel Paese. In other words, Italy is part of me it is my identity in some ways I belong to it.

The concept of identity is however complex to define. It depends on the perspective it adopts. There is, in fact, a psychological identity, that is, «sense and self-consciousness as an entity distinct from others, and continues over time»***, which we normally appeal to during our existential questions, often considering it as a sort of hermetic box within which the essence of every individual can barricade and protect themselves. In social sciences, however, that concept expands, it becomes even more fluid and stratified, establishing a strong correlation between that unique set of characteristics, which makes each individual unique and unmistakable with the social changes surrounding it.

What would happen to my identity, therefore, if suddenly the hubs of society in which I was raised were blown up, and with them the system of values, which this society was at the same time guardian and direct consequence? How would I describe myself if, with one deft clean of the slate, I had taken away from me both the certain and historical tracks on which I left to run my whole existence, and the reference alphabet through which I was used to define myself?

The economic and social restructuring process that was set up between 1985 and 1989 in the former Soviet Union by Michail Gorbachev with the Perestrojka had undoubtedly set in motion a process of transformation that, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall, led to a profound fracture between a before and an after, between the socialist project of yesterday and the capitalist dream of today.
However, for those who lived the experience, this clear break has gone far beyond the political and economic issue, it has become an identity in the widest sense of the term. Who, until the day before, had been identified as Soviet, with its burden of principles, values and definitions of reality and truth, the day after awakened in Belarus, Turkmen, Kazakh, Uzbek ... in a new world which, suddenly with different languages, openly rejected everything that had been taught, propagated, infused with every means.

«I asked everyone I met: "What is freedom?" Fathers and children responded differently. Those born in the USSR and those born after the USSR do not share the same experience, they come from different planets»****. Planets that in the Soviet Union fleetingly overlapped each other between the eighties and nineties, imploding one another in front of the immature and unprepared eyes of a generation born under the communist flag and had become adolescent under the banner of capitalism.

A sudden cultural slippage like an avalanche had overtaken everything by disrupting the realm of reality, of the imagination, perceptual appearances, emptying the reference iconography of meaning. «The facts we observe depend on where we are from and from the habits of our eyes», claimed Walter Lippmann *****. It is easy to guess what consequences it can bring to the sudden blast of such habitual gaze for that generation in the middle described before, the last generation of Soviet citizens. Those propaganda images that had incarnated and conveyed Soviet identity have in fact become increasingly irreconcilable with the reality surrounding them. Empty shells, woven with symbols that are now sterile but sediment in the depths of their personal identity and imprinted indelibly in their eyes like a tattoo on skin.

To entrust the framework of the sign the task of recovering the remains of an abandoned iconography, a mirror of a collective identity cultivated with care and then suddenly rejected, is thus configured as the will to avoid an imposition of collective rewriting out of touch with the feelings of the single individual. The attempt of a generation ridiculed by history to question its identity, without the fear of looking closely at the many discordant turns it is composed of.
It is the portrait of young women and young men of my own generation. Individuals who now demand a sense of belonging denied and at the same time seek through reconciliation with their own idiosyncrasies towards the past and the present the path to re-assembling pieces of a new identity, probably hybrid but truly authentic.

[ Stefania Biamonti ]


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(*) - Made in USSR (Made in URSS) is a photographic work that FPmag has selected at Arles during the Voies Off 2016 portfolio reading.
(**) - From Memorie di un complice by Svetlana Aleksievič in Tempo di secondo mano, Bompiani Vintage, RCS Libri S.p.A., Milan, 2016; pp. 13-14.
(***) - Definition from the Treccani Online.
(****) - From Memorie di un complice by Svetlana Aleksievič in Tempo di secondo mano, Bompiani Vintage, RCS Libri S.p.A., Milan, 2016; p. 14.
(*****) - Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, Free Press, New York, 1965; p. 54.


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From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


From the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra PolinaiFrom the series Made in USSR. © Alexandra Polina.


Alexandra PolinaAlexandra Polina - She was born in 1984 in Uzbekistan. She studied Journalism at the National University of Uzbekistan in Tashkent. She graduated in 2012 from University of Applied Science in Bielefeld with a major in Art and Design. Currently, she is pursuing a master's degree in Art and Design and working as a freelance photographer.
The main subject of her work has always been concentrated around the themes of immigration and identity, especially their social and emotional aspects. Having spent twenty years in her home land, Alexandra moved to Germany, which was a life-changing experience. The personal history and identity of the photographer runs through her work across the fields of staged photography and documentary themes.
Alexandra is a winner of several awards including PhotoVision competition (2012), La Quatrième Image - The Fourth Image (2013) and Photonic Moments Award (2014). Her works have been shown in Germany, France, Italy, England, Luxemburg and other countries.


Alexandra Polina
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