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Berlin / NY / Shanghai Time


Polina Kanis was born in 1985 in Leningrad, where she studied at the Herzen State Pedagogical University before continuing her studies in Moscow at the Rodchenko Art School of Photography and Multimedia. In 2011, she was a Kandinsky Prize winner in the "Young Artist" category and in 2016 she won the Sergey Kuryokhin Award for Contemporary Art in the "Best Media Object" category. Kanis has also won and been short-listed for various prizes in the Innovation awards for contemporary art. She is a regular participant in Russian and international festivals and exhibitions.

Now Kanis is part of the residency program at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam.



Formal Portrait, The Pool, Celebration, The new flag, Workout, Eggs


Formal Portrait
video, 8'31'', 2014

The idea of the project is to reexamine the culture of parades and mass processions as one of the most powerful ideological instruments. The eternity of expectations become the key motif - we hear the roar of the engine as a symbol of a readiness to action. The pole has been prepared, the figures obediently come together to form a flag - this endless repetition is fated to remain in eternity, without ever becoming a moment in history. The ritual of the raising of the flag seems to be called upon to demonstrate a victorious strength in a dramatized, directed eternity, but it merely reveals the impotency of the action in place. The flag is raised in an enclosed, publicly unseen territory. Its ceremonial raising becomes a metaphor for a victory that will never come.


The Pool
video,  9'41'',  2015

The video The Pool exposes reality in all its dreamy ambiguity. People enter a relatively shallow pool and inexplicably disappear. The Pool displays the condition of a sealed vacuum thrust and plunged into reality by the suspicion of our essential experiences. The video reflects a borderline state where the exhaustiveness of the border is enhanced by the closed space of a sealed bunker hosting an impossible event that is half-hidden by the surface of the water. There is another border, which separates what we see from what is happening. The framing of the video directs the attention so that it follows the logic of a dream that is indistinguishable from reality. It is the video of airtight sense, airtight space and the airtight subject, estranged from itself and the socium of subjects who are just the same as it. The integral, visual nature of a nightmare shimmers onto us. Nothing happens there, other than the invisible catastrophe.


video, 13'27'', 2014

This work captures a moment when the repression that is embedded in everyday life is crystallized during a ritual of celebration. It shows us men in uniform dancing indifferently with each other. We do not understand who they are, why they are together and what will happen next. Although united in action, it is a strongly felt that each of the characters remains in his personal space, quite alienated from the others. It takes time to realize that the absurdity of the scene is a challenge to vision itself. More than a plea for empathy that maintains a safe distance, it is a diagnosis presented to the audience. But the distance between scene and audience disappears when the suspicion arises that this contrived image of the world is the nightmare of social reality. In this conventional celebration the sparkling trash is not jolly, and the signs of attraction do not entice. Absurdity remains the inherent meaning of these ritual exchanges. They are the worm-eaten fruit of tradition.


New Flag
Video, loop. HD, 6'26'', Photograph, C-Print, 80 x 80 cm, 2013

The installation consists of a video and photo where the horsewoman with a flag in her hand in a traditional paradigmatic winner posture sits astride the horse. The video demonstrates the process of making the photo: the dressed-up and young horsewoman tries to straddle the horse with the help of the assistants, but she repeatedly falls off and starts again. In this work the artist examines the relationship between the representation of any ideological form and the mechanism of its creation: the characters of the video are frankly indifferent to what is happening and only perform their specific functions, which contrasts with the result pictured in the photo.


video, 11'40'', 2010

The work is a video performance, in which the author examines fitness and aerobics exercises in today's parks around Moscow as a strange hybrid of totalitarian sport aesthetics, pop cultural new age readings, and the Soviet ideal of harmonious physical development. People who are no longer young warm up under the guidance of a strong, young fitness instructor against the background of the recently restored rotunda in Moscow's Neskuchny Gardens. The instructor encourages them: "Breathe! You can do it! ". They do their best to carry out all the exercises correctly, ready for the main event - a march, to the chant of "left, right, left right!"


video, 17'16'', 2010

The work is a video documentation of a performance showing the artist on a rooftop, where she tries to catch in her skirt eggs that fly from all directions. She catches some, but not all. The artist runs from left to right, like an old Russian electronic game where the wolf from the popular Soviet children's cartoon Nu, Pogodi! catches eggs in a basket. Eggs makes a statement on the gender status of the individual, as part of the social structure of prescribed relations between the sexes. The artist's performance concerns voluntary female victimization and the aggression that is inherent in socially legitimate forms.

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©  Polina, Kanis, Formal Portrait, video, 8'31'', 2014