Nadezhda Grishina links live performance to the moving image. Her video installations are both theatrical (because they hinge on movement, pace, rhythm and other expressions of physical intensity) and critical (because they diagnose and satirise the reality that they reformulate as spectacle).
Grishina’s work draws strength from some of the most powerful streams of Russian culture: the art of narration and the art of acting. Nevertheless, she rarely uses dialogue or professional performers. Instead she works experimentally with the semi-articulate, emotionally stunted reality of the ‘digital life’ that many people live today. She has invented a new coming-together of edited footage and mechanical or electronic props where it can be difficult to separate men from machines.
It is no coincidence that the machine-like quality of Grishina’s works is reflected in their titles. The best example of her exacting method is No-Go Machine. The ‘system’ she presents appears to be built precisely for breaking down those who agree to perform a function within it. Grishina writes: “The No-Go Machine is a space where theatrical action is inverted. The stage is the hierarchical pyramid of the system of government, with agents in their proper places. Each level of the pyramid corresponds to a level of the game. The uppermost level controls the lower ones – everything is done by the book. But the players lack their own will; their actions are based on primitive stimuli and reactions. Absorbed in the game, they hammer at their keyboards and stare at their screens. In their irritable behaviour – reflecting the plasticity of contemporary movement – we see the simulated tension of anti-efficient action concentrated.”
The male protagonist in Grishina’s latest work is seen on a flatscreen and on a projection as he struggles to assert himself over an imperious and unpredictable prosthetic head. Grishina connects theatrical performance to psychoanalytical speculation, again through bodily movement and ‘spoken voice’ rather than through words that need to be translated. The man is in the head, but the head wants to govern him just as he is struggling to take control over it and himself. (AK)