Cover illustrated book Katerina Belkina

Fotos © Oh Hedwig

This is not a book or a journey into the subconscious with Katerina Belkina

The present object measures exactly 33 x 23.5 x 2.5 cm, lovingly wrapped in paper. The brain and eyes do not allow the hands to free the book from its wrapping. The carefully thought-out and implemented wrapping of the work in a cloak of foggy paper alone suggests something mentally great inside. The book is now naked and lies on the tabletop. The high-contrast design of the cover immediately attracts full attention, so that only on second glance does it become clear that the photographic image of Katerina Belkina is not monochrome but colourful. The tonal values on the cover have been tuned to an admirable unison, where the consciousness asks for more – “Give me more of that!”. Placed on the spine of the book, the pages flutter from right to left like a flip book, but the result is not a cartoon but a fragrance. The nose catches the scent of high-quality paper and vegan colours. The scent sample already shows that the book is most likely a masterpiece of the art of printing and its name:

My Work Is My Personal Theatre​

On around 250 pages, numerous works of art are accompanied by texts in German, English and Russian. The exhibits can only not be clearly assigned to photography, sculpture, graphic design or collages. Every single piece in this print-format exhibition defies the technical as well as conformist boundaries of the performing arts. Almost every page demands full attention. Is it really a train? And the factories on the horizon – are they real? Are they even human beings in the pictures or androids using the human form? At first, many questions appear on their own. The textual building blocks do not provide answers, but point to something else – Ce n’est pas une pipe or, in Belkina’s case, Ce n’est pas un livre. In his painting ‘La trahison des images’ (de.: The betrayal of images), René Magritte showed a smoking pipe and pointed to the automation of human perception with the sentence “This is not a pipe”. For in fact it was not a pipe. It was a canvas with paint on it. But while one of the most important surrealists of the 20th century used the still quite traditional form and technique, the Croatian-French photographer, sculptor and model of Pablo Picasso Dora Maar went a step further and merged the art forms. Especially ‘Untitled (hand and mirror)’, ‘Sans Titre (Main-coquillage)’ or ‘The Years Lie in Wait for You’ were products of a creative source that, at least today, make her male contemporaries, colleagues and admirers, such as Magritte and Picasso, look a little old or perhaps even “populist”. But that is, of course, debatable.

Werke von Dora Maar der 1920-er/1930-er Jahre

Buch aufgeschlagen auf Bett Katerina Belkina

Foto © Oh Hedwig

Belkina also asks herself questions about her own role, mission and meaning as an artist, mother and human being in social, historical or perhaps even political contexts. With her works, she herself provides answers to these questions. The paintings make us reconsider ideas such as holiness and desire, indifference and brokenness, gentleness and cold-bloodedness, or human closeness and spiritual distance. In collaboration with the publishing team, Katerina Belkina has succeeded in implementing classical techniques of the performing arts in the tool-bandwidth of the 21st century. Moreover, it is not only about the approach and the implementation itself, but also about the content. With weapons of patriarchally occupied art, after several attempts (see Dora Maar), it has been possible to tear down the tower of autocratic dominance. The Gesamtkunstwerk is probably one of the most important building blocks of the political-social-artistic upswing of the 2010s/2020s, which the entire osTraum, but above all Belarus, Estonia and Slovakia, are currently experiencing. It is not explicitly about emancipation, but about the creation of an interpersonal existence and the de-automation of our perception. For this, we need to know the past, live the present with an open heart and sustainably, so that the future also becomes a joy and not a barren reflection of our world views. osTraum remains very curious about what the future holds for Katerina Belkina and with what works the artist will still enrich the present.

The post first appeared on the blog ostraum.com published.

Aleksej Tikhonov
Aleksej Tikhonov

Aleksej Tikhonov (1991), born on the other bank of the Volga, opposite Volgograd (former Stalingrad). In Berlin since 2003, now sometimes in Prague and elsewhere.

After his school career in Marzahn and Mitte and his studies of Bohemian, Russian, Polish and Sociology at the Humboldt University in Berlin, he defended his doctoral thesis on the language and integration of Protestant refugees from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia in 18th-19th century Berlin in 2021. Currently, Aleksej is working on the cooperation project between Humboldt University and the University of Oxford on the kinship of Celtic and Slavic languages.

In 2016, Maria Gerasimova and Aleksej founded the online journal osTraum, with which they try to fill a gap in the German-language media landscape, because everything south-east of the Oder still seems to be the "culturally empty eastern space".

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