Men in my life

Alla Esipovich’s new series “The Men in My Life” continues the principal theme of her art: the corporeal in its utmost manifestations, in such circumstances that it almost seems to overcome itself. Alla Esipovich in her previous cycles found an opportunity to grasp and visualize a certain direct channel of expressing the bodily in extreme situations: naked dwarfs and very old women (“No Comment”), married couples with a great age difference (“Happiness”), adult women who were not successful in either their professional, or private life (“Star of the Scene”). All these directly approach the topic of the conflict between bodily-visible and bodily-universal, bodily-given and bodily-desirable, that which is dreamt about and craved for. Illustrating this conflict is, apparently, not at all a “glossy” subject, but we must give Alla Esipovich her due: she was always more interested in dignity and humanity, rather than in extremity and anomalies as such… In her new series, the artist turns to the mechanism of personification, popular in contemporary art, showing herself in different scenes of relations with various men.
This is outright production photography, so any autobiographical or “spicy” associations are irrelevant. The men change, they are different both in terms of their social rank and in the style they are presented: some, it seems, really exist in “her life” in one way or another; others simply represent personage “masks” or, in the words of the philosopher V. Podoroga, “bodies-stimulators” (a macho, a body-guard, a comic aging womanizer, a student). The subjects and settings are also typological and generalized: a hospital, the midst of everyday life, “love” in stages “before” and “after”. Additional “universal” character is also created by the structuring of the scenery and the “behavior” of the heroes. Some time ago a certain critic wrote that our artist trains her models;
well, a kind of “circus training” is present here as well. Alla Esipovich’s strong point is the ability to skillfully place her personages in space, it is this ability that imbues the space of her works with accurate and recognizable emotional content. I perceive it as a space of punishment (or at least of constant checking oneself, keeping oneself ready for testing procedures). A woman is punished or punishes herself – for what? For love (or the inability to love or be loved), for egoism (or for utmost openness, for complete credulity), for sexuality (or for rejecting it, for becoming too shabby, too “every day”, etc.). The narrative aspect is always present in Alla Esipovich’s oeuvre in the form of a certain potential possibility. It is not a literary story (even though it is not rejected – “let them talk!”): from inside themselves, for themselves and about themselves speak the bodies, their behavior in space, their ability to “echo” one another. Finally, their mutual need for each other or the absence of it. The authentic character, the maturity of this “body conversation” break through the general production scheme and the rationale of “dividing the roles”. And – color. Red in Alla Esipovich’s prints does not represent any kind of specific symbolism or expressionist boiling of passion. It is a metaphor for X-raying, of the test procedure, which we spoke about earlier. And at the same time, it is the possibility of a certain electric current that may break through the alienation between human beings. This possibility is vitally important for Alla Esipovich’s unglamorous, not-too-hedonistic artistic world.

Alexander Borovsky

Head of the department of contemporary art State Russian Museum