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i© Yulia Knish.

yulia knish

forgiven and not forgotten*

«Touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing… memory. While Gentiles experience and process the world through the traditional senses, and use memory only as a second-order means of interpreting events, for Jews memory is no less primary than the prick of a pin, or its silver glimmer, or the taste of the blood it pulls from the finger. The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks – when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather’s fingers fell asleep from stroking his great-grandfather’s damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain – that the Jew is able to know why it hurts. When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?»

Jonathan Safran Foer**


«In thirty years – says Yulia Knish – two uprooting’s, three languages (Russian, Jewish and Italian) and three national identities have overlapped». An experience in which the need to order, retrieve the multiplicity of one’s soul, align the variegated complexity of the diverse cultures of which was and is a participant, is expressed in an iconic syncretism that ties the threads of an identity which is inevitably multifaceted.

In the territory of the memory reappear experiences and feelings that accompanied the first years of life, between naive vanity of a blusher traditionally interpreted by the colouration offered to the skin by passing a beetroot on one’s cheeks, natural country girl make up, and the unspeakable envy of a western world far away and forbidden. Bishkek, the city where Yulia Knish was born, is part of the remote provinces of the Soviet empire, which is the next to fall. Kyrgyzstan in the early eighties is far (not only geographically) from Moscow, the bourgeois and corrupt capital where everything may be found because the Soviet Union is second to none in the world and can offer its citizens everything the Western capitalist world has. But in Bishkek, so distant from the centre of power, things are different. Those who aspire to a different life, perhaps more similar to that of the West, must harbour their feelings in silence. And there are many who are not able to express a desire for another life. The paradox that even an exotic fruit, common on the shelves of fruit shops of the West and more than available in Moscow, in the soviet Kyrgyzstan assumes the role of symbol of suppressed aspiration and it changes into wings of freedom that sprout from its back. As well as the Disney characters appear on the bearskin as thoughts turned to a far West, detested as desired.

But the desire of freedom is not a clear sense of more or less impossible rebellion. It mixes and merges seamlessly with the dusha, the Russian soul, and with its traditions. Over time it inevitably resurfaces between the memories and is transformed into an image. In part one misses the sight of a sickle and a hammer, icons of the Soviet utopia, which over the years have ended up losing their mystical brightness, slipping under a coat of rust bestowed by time.

Leaving Kyrgyzstan first for Israel and then to Italy, the trauma of displacement in other lands, the language changes and the acquisition of new habits, eventually dissolve in the conquest of small and large freedom, which before had been denied. On the new horizon of life openness to the other is manifested, contributing to the definition of that sense of identity that lives through the perception of otherness. It is not just a process of preservation of one’s memory, but also (and perhaps especially) the recognition of that which the photographic image bears. In it, in fact, it takes into account the individual in their continuous development, challenges the mono cultural exclusivism known in the first stage of life, to reconfigure in a polysemous way the concept of identity. Present and past can contaminate each other, merge, without denying oneself or renouncing oneself in the perspective of an open future that participate in all components of the individual, making them live in a new identity and in continuous evolution.

[ Sandro Iovine ]

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(*) - Selected at Behance Portfolio Review within European Photography 2015.
(**) - Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated: a novel, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston - New York, 2002; pages 198-199.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i©Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

i© Yulia Knish.

© Tony GraffioYulia Knish - Born in 1979 in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), in 1990 she moved with her family to Israel. In 1998, after finishing her studies at the School of Art in Ashkelon, she moves to Italy. She received her BFA in painting in 2005 at the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence, and her MFA in 2014 in Visual Arts and Expressive Languages at the same institution. In 2013 she followed a workshop held by Alberto Garutti at the University IUAV of Venice, and the intensive workshop of sculpture and installation The Age of profit in Kulturni Dom, Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Between 2005 and 2014 Yulia Knish has been included in various exhibitions and long term residences in Tuscany. Her work has been exhibited in art galleries and museums in Italy and New York. She received a scholarship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 2010 - 2012. Currently lives and works in Italy and Israel.

Photo: © Tony Graffio

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