My work is inspired by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, which led me to the realization of the necessity to reexamine the Soviet experience in the context of the history of the Left, including that of the international Communist movement. My work is a reaction to the collective amnesia within the post-Soviet space over the last decade, on the one hand, and the repression of the histories of the American Left in the US, on the other.
I’ve been interested in discovering and reflecting on repressed micro-historical narratives that highlight the complex relationships between social histories of the West and Russia in the 20th century. Having grown up and having been educated in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, my work is about coming to terms with the Soviet experience by carving out a space for critique both without and within the Soviet experience. Having lived in New York since 1994, I’m particularly interested in the history of the American Communist movement and the way it manifests itself in the present-day United States.
My work has been influenced by the writings of Susan Buck-Morss about discovering sites of the “post-Soviet condition” in today’s US and the effects of the Cold War on present-day American society and culture, and I am interested in the activist use of that legacy.
The reexamination of Soviet history in my work is very closely connected to my understanding of the position of the post-Soviet artist as one who is committed to and responsible for the formation of a proper understanding of Soviet history. An overwhelming sense of denial of Soviet history as a way of dealing with (post-) Soviet trauma is one of the most striking symptoms of the post-Soviet condition. While pre-Revolutionary history is being discussed at length and with much interest in the countries of the former Eastern bloc, Soviet history is almost totally repressed.
As the last ten years have shown, however, this repression and denial have not served the post-Soviet subject well. Reclaiming an active engagement with Soviet history is a more effective way of dealing with post-Soviet trauma. I am in no way suggesting that the post-Soviet artist should have a rosy or nostalgic view of Soviet times or that s/he should affirm the excesses of that period. The post-Soviet artist should also be careful to avoid the exploitation and commodification of the Soviet past.
I'm advocating quite the opposite, a critical kind of nostalgia whereby the work of memory becomes a tool for exposing and identifying the discrepancies of both the past and the present. Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” was important to developing my ideas in this respect.
Taking responsibility for one's history means regaining critical agency towards and within that history. Soviet history should be viewed as much as a site of intervention as current post-Soviet physical reality. Interventionist tactics normally applied to physical social space can and should be effectively applied to history. As far as my work is concerned, approaching history through interventionist tactics means uncovering and exposing repressed histories and scrutinizing the generally accepted official historical narratives. I view activism within the discipline of history as the formation of a parallel or alternative base of knowledge whose formation begins with the collection of radical historical data.
Within the context of contemporary Russian art, my work addresses issues pertinent to the critique of post-Soviet identity politics. I often depart from historical research and I approach these issues by means of analytical, conceptual, or interventionist tactics. I have been consistently interested in areas such as the “post-Soviet condition," 20th-century Russian history, Soviet-American relations and the Cold War, the history of the international Communist movement, and the Communist legacy in the West today. Over the last several years, my projects have included works that use a descriptive research-based approach (in such projects as “Communist Guide to New York City” and “Communist Party USA”) as well as more directly interventionist strategies concerning the Communist legacy, as in a project entitled, “Lenin for Your Library?”