Art + Anthropology

Моя Америка (My America) is an art project based on ethnographic field research with Russian-speaking residents of New York City.  Our objective was to learn about their stories of arrival and making home in the United States as well as to explore how they contribute to and transform the city itself. 
 We met and conducted interviews with representatives of this community who live in various boroughs. We filmed their home spaces, contemplated their daily lives, including their windows as an insight into their view of the city, and asked about precious objects from the past

Filming Bella

Gary Shikhman and his Izh Motorcycle

 We also created an interactive public art performance called The Brighton Beach Memory Exchange where we engaged residents of the Brighton Beach neighborhood into conversations about their lives through exhibiting art. At the Exchange, Daniel Gallegos and Diana Yun exhibited a collection of watercolor drawings about the everyday life in the Soviet Union. Diana Yun made watercolors of her memories growing up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Daniel Gallegos worked with Zhanara Nauruzbayeva to find old Soviet films and make them into watercolor stills. Mikhail Zheleznikov and Zhanara Nauruzbayeva bartered these watercolors for an interview with the neighborhood residents walking along the boardwalk about their memories of living in the former Soviet Union. 

The results of the project were exhibited as an installation in the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.  

“Windows” Video Installation (Mikhail Zheleznikov) depicts the view from the windows of apartments inhabited by Russian speaking citizens of New York City. These 13 separate video projections were a way of revealing their everyday life and to illustrate their city of New York.   

The Brighton Beach Memory Exchange art installation based on the results of a public art action that took place on Brighton Beach.The resulting video was exhibited at the Museum alongside the photographs of their new owners and the remaining watercolors that were not given away at the Brighton Beach Memory Exchange.

Anatomy of Infrastructure (Daniel Gallegos)is a series of drawings to convey the architectural anatomy of the neighborhoods we visited during our exploration of the Russian-speaking New York City.
“Objects from Another Life” is a video made by Mikhail Zheleznikov. An intimate portrait of the lives of Russian speaking immigrants making New York their home, the film is a series of interviews about an artifact from their former home.
Shashlyk, Mangal and Volga as Installation: To celebrate our time working with the community of New York City and to kick off our project at the Museum of the Moving Image, we made the exhibition opening as an artist-viewer interactive performance. Our performance was to make Shashlyk (lamb kebabs), marinated meat cooked over a mangal (Soviet barbecue), and to serve to the guests the opening night. We also presented a Volga car from the Soviet Union (a contribution of one of our project interlocutors) as part of a display in the rear courtyard window of the Museum. The shashlykmangal, and Volga car were seen from inside of the Museum and displayed to create a diorama of a virtual steppe scene. Maxim Tumenev, an Uzbek expatriot artist living in New York, and Daniel Gallegos prepared the shashlyk and adjika (a spicy Georgian salsa), and served along with Georgian hachapuri bread, Georgian wine and Soviet Champagne.

This project was sponsored by the One Big City program administered by CEC ArtsLink and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The project was presented at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York on May 24th, 2012.  

Collaborators: Daniel Gallegos, Mikhail Zheleznikov, Diana Yun, and Zhanara Nauruzbayeva

A special thanks to Cafe Tatiana, Pat Singer, Bella Barmak, Maxim Tumenev, Lev Chesnov, Jason Eppink, Tosh Woods, and Charles Richardson

Моя Америка (My America)
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Artpologist is

A collective of artists and social scientists that combine art and anthropology to engage in the visual exploration of urban landscapes. As artists, we investigate cities through visual means. As anthropologists, we use ethnographic fieldwork to situate our inquiry in the perspective of different people in changing places.