Alla Esipovich’s new project continues a theme that has always troubled her. This motif was defined in the title of a novel by Hans Fallada, a German writer famous in his day: ‘Little Man, What Now?’ Yesipovich’s ‘Little Man’ is actually an ordinary individual at the mercy of opposing circumstances: he finds himself in a situation where he has to fight for his very ordinariness. The people portrayed by Esipovich are always oppressed by encumbrances that may relate to the body (physical anomalies, aging etc.), society, behavior or the question of taste. They doggedly overcome these obstacles, locked in a never-ending battle for what they consider to be the norm. In other words, happiness. This time the norm really, not metaphysically, equals happiness: the project is dedicated to newlyweds captured at a deeply-felt moment in time that offers them the possibility of a blissful release from routine circumstance. As always Esipovich takes a viewpoint that is anthropologically and socially merciless: her subjects are not only far removed from the modern idea of beauty, but also from standards commonly used to judge charm, social success, self-assurance, and so on.

This is not simply the ‘humiliated and insulted’ – the author least of all aspires to the role of the social or moral critic. No, her subjects are piecework rather than material for social generalities. These are unwitting freaks, a retreat from the ‘Sex in the City’ industry: they are ‘non-standard’ yet vibrant and individualized. Esipovich has an unerring ability to visualize this ‘non-standard’ quality as individuality. She respects her heroes’ perseverance in their struggle for the ‘norm’, but reveals something different: although doomed because the above-mentioned encumbrances are insuperable, the craving to be ‘like others, just like other people’ produces human types remarkable for their determination and intransigence. With each new project, Alla Esipovich strengthens her position as an artist working with material that is not so much a social critique as a social, anthropological and aesthetic statement.

Alexander Borovsky

Head of the department of contemporary art State Russian Museum