Birch man

Yanina Boldyreva

2021 - Ongoing

I took the birch symbol as a basis for my project, like one of the main ones in Russian identity. Through him, I want to reveal different sides of the current mythology of the new Russian time, connected in one way or another with the concept of patriotism, militarism, and the image of Russia created under the influence of official Putin propaganda, as well as social and existential issues.

Birch man is flesh and blood of a birch forest. His life is quiet and mysterious. Perhaps this is an ordinary person, like you and me, but turned by an evil witch into a creature rooted in forest soil, overgrown with bark, heritage of ancestors and patriotism.

It is known for certain that he is an autotroph, and it needs very few resources to survive, therefore birch people live for a very long time, but this existence does not seem like full-fledged life.

The project has just begun, but in the future it should contain several parts - installation, a series of public art objects, which are then documented, staged and documentary photographs, drawings, texts, the artist's book.

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  • Birch is often associated with death in Russian folklore. It is believed that the birch planted on the grave contains the soul of the deceased. This tree is still common in cemeteries.

  • In modern Russia, both utilities and ordinary people like to paint poles and fences imitating birch bark. I continue this tradition and imitate this color on the foundation piles. In this way, they become a metaphor for traditional values. Destroyed and strong at the same time. We cannot build anything on this foundation, but we also cannot ignore it.

  • Memorial consciousness is a concept that has appeared in recent years; it describes well the state of mind in Russia. The Russian authorities elevated the victory in the Great Patriotic War to the rank of shrines. The cult of veterans, like the cult of ancestors, is supported by Putin's propaganda, so that people can be proud of past merits and look into the past, and don`t thinking about the present.

  • The snow sculpture made by cadets of a military school depicts a military man and suddenly! - a tiger, a symbol of 2022. Soon it will fall apart and there will be nothing left. The military is the cannon fodder that is the first to disappear in this meat grinder of war, and is subjected to the oblivion of time. Especially those who carry out a criminal, predatory war. The memory of these military men is not honored, they are not erected monuments, they are not visited at their graves.

  • the craving for traditions, Orthodoxy and nationalism coexist with nostalgia for the socialist past in the mind of a birch man , and one does not contradict the other. Оn the contrary, the image of great Russia was also cultivated under the Soviet Union, therefore it organically enters the picture of the world of birch people

  • The Iranian carpet on the wall is part of the Soviet mentality. Its true value is the insulation of the wall next to which a person slept. At the same time, the carpet became a symbol of prosperity for the Soviet people. Now the carpet on the wall in Russia is considered by the older generation as a symbol of tradition, family, and at the same time, the carpet is a symbol of bad taste and poverty for younger people.

  • Some images have a separate story, for example, a birch tree on which the words "Mama 46" are engraved is in the park, which is a former cemetery. When the cemetery was closed the park was formed in its place. People came and made notes: carved and painted with paint the names of their deceased loved ones, on those birches that were closest to their graves. Some of these inscriptions have survived, but very few, mostly overgrown bark swallowed them up, so that often we can see only separate letters. Thus, birches are literally physically saturated with social memory, and are turned into custodians of knowledge about the dead. The sacredness and role of birch in memorial culture is just one of the aspects of my project.

  • Birch personifies the image of a woman, a bride in Russian mythology. Young girls often told fortunes about marriage by means of the birch trees to find out whether the upcoming marriage would be happy. The picture shows an installation is advertisement with tear-off stripes of paper on birches. They contain female names, typical for intimate services ads, and generated phone numbers. Similar announcements can often be found in many cities of Russia. People stick them on the street, including on trees, houses, bus tops. These announcements give an idea of ​​the attitude towards women in modern Russia, as something sacred and utilitarian at the same time.

  • Birch sap is considered extremely useful in Russia. People often harvest and sell it in the spring. At the same time, if birch is a bearer of traditional values, is it possible to become a birch man by pouring birch sap into a normal human body?