Accepted Paper:

Actionism as Anthropology: Katrin Nenasheva and the New Politics of Performance Art in Russia  


Angelina Lucento (National Research University-Higher School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that Katrin Nenasheva's Actionist performances constitute anthropological experiments. They examine the ways in which the Russian state governs its citizens, while also unearthing pathways to resistance through the aesthetics of live and New Media performance.

Paper long abstract:

I specifically examine Nenasheva's most recent performance projects: Punishment (2016) and Between Here and There (2017). During Punishment's twenty-one days, the artist publicly demonstrated punishments meted out to orphaned children, who had been deemed "mentally retarded" by state organs. She also collaborated with former orphans by caring for their physical and emotional wounds in spaces associated with state power, such as the public park next to the Kremlin wall. In Between Here and There, she spent a month visiting sites around Moscow that "mentally retarded," incarcerated wards of the state told her during interviews that they would most like to see. During these performances, Nenasheva wore virtual reality goggles containing footage of the spaces inhabited by the incarcerated citizens she interviewed before initiating the action. In both cases, the artist chronicled her experiences and invited commentary on the social media networks Facebook and VKontakte. Through these collaborations with the most marginalized members of contemporary Russian society, whose daily lives are directly controlled by the state, Nenasheva revealed the material and immaterial aesthetic practices through which the Russian state inscribes the notion that masculinity and heteronormativity constitute health and power into the bodies of its citizens. Her tactile, spatial, and linguistic analyses also begin to show how these inscriptive aesthetic practices might be diverted in the act to create a new kind of politics that transforms the state's power structure from patriarchal-vertical to matriarchal-horizontal. In so doing, Nenasheva's work offers new insight into the meaning of contemporary political art.

Panel P065
The state of the art: the anthropology of art and the anthropology of the state