‘Post-Soviet Visions: image and identity in the new Eastern Europe’ is a group show of photography exploring new visual representations of lifestyle and landscape in Eastern Europe. The exhibition, that opens at the Calvert 22 Space in London this week, gathers the work of a young generation of artists rising to prominence a quarter century after the end of Communism. Here we speak to the curators Ekow Eshun and Anastasiia Fedorova about the ideas behind the show and to select some of their favourite photographers involved.'
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Eastern Europe has often been overlooked and under explored in the West. We tend to think about it as grey and drab, as if it is still sunk in the Cold War. But there’s a cultural dynamism to the place right now coming through in everything from fashion to art to film.
The show gathers works from photographers in Georgia, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Although the personal circumstances of these photographers may differ, they share a common past: either they themselves, or their parents, grew up in countries that once existed under communist rule. Against the complicated politics of many of those countries, there’s a generational wave of creativity that is really thrilling to see.
With the show we’re interested in how people live and look and connect with each other; how they construct their identity as citizens of relatively recently independent nations and how they make sense of their own place against the complicated past of their country. For example, the relationship between photography and architecture in the show is very important. Communist-era buildings and monuments loom over many post-Soviet cities today. It’s very hard to walk through Moscow or Kiev or many other cities without encountering these domineering structures. They are a reminder of the power and control that an overbearing system tried to exert on its citizens. At the same time, history isn’t static. What’s interesting to explore, is how people now put some of these buildings to use and how photographers are looking anew at their own past.