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Unruly Encounters

Varvara Keidan Shavrova, Inna’s Dream, 2019 (installation view), hand tufted Axminster wool carpet objects, hessian canvas backing, thread, 7 m x 5.5 m x 3 m

Unruly Encounters

18 - 20 March 2022

Southward Park Galleries

1 Park Approach, Southwark Park, London SE16 2UE

Inna’s Dream

I stand with Ukraine, against the invasion of a democratic independent state by the Russian Federation and Putin’s expansionist imperialist ambitions. I am a Russian artist whose roots include Ukrainian Jews, ethnic Russians from Poland, Georgians, and Armenians. I’m Slavic, Indo-European & South Caucasian. I’ve lived & worked in Russia, Ireland, the UK, and China. I count myself a citizen of the world.

My work, Inna’s Dream is a collection of handmade rugs representing an historic aeroplane of the 1930’s designed by my great uncle. By using soft textile, the work is intended to undermine, even domesticate, the hard fabric of war machinery; its Soviet markings are realised as patterns on fragments of this ‘flying carpet’. The work is unequivocally anti-Soviet and anti-war; a sublimation of bitter histories with folk legends and our shared legacy of ancient craft traditions.

Russians here in the UK are now being harassed and persecuted purely based on their nationality. We are not oligarchs despite being Russian. Many of us lived in the Soviet Union, in families that were dissidents in the USSR, some of whom were jailed. We are as, if not more, anti-Putin, than many in the Government or media here. This Russophobia must be called out.

I do not pretend to be right all the time, but I will protect my rights as an artist to present my work, and that of other Russian artists – and so many other Russians braver than me protesting there, such as Marina Ovsyannikova- who stand with the Ukrainian people currently under attack.

Varvara Keidan Shavrova, 2022

“Perception is not simply embedded within and constrained by the surrounding world; it also contributes to the enactment of this surrounding world.”(1)

Unruly Encounters takes its title from Francisco J. Varela’s 1995 essay ‘The Re-enchantment of the Concrete’. This text explores the creativity of cognition and the emergence of ideas from unruly conversations, which begin with corporeal sensations of the concrete world. This notion became a curatorial springboard to elicit the unexpected and unforeseeable through the juxtaposition of works within the idiosyncrasies of the exhibition spaces. The title of the exhibition also captures the spirit of the show, conveying the ambition of conjuring an intensive space of exchange, encounter and emergence in a non-didactic and non-hierarchical way. Presented across the Southwark Park Galleries’ Lake Gallery and Dilston Grove spaces, Unruly Encounters encompasses the diverse and wide-ranging set of practices represented by artists from across the world all of whom are currently carrying out research at the Royal College of Art.

The relations between works encountered in the galleries set in motion possibilities for further thought, discussion and reflection. At the same time, this inspires a sense of riotous plurality, in which disruption, discord and dissonance live alongside kinship, affinity and proximity.

Unruly Encounters is an exhibition of work by students on the PhD, MPhil and MRes programmes at the Royal College of Art, realised in collaboration with Charlotte Bonham-Carter.

For further information and/or images please contact: Bryony James,

(1) Varela F.J. (1995) ‘The re-enchantment of the concrete: Some ingredients for a nouvelle cognitive science’. In Steel L. & Brooks R. (eds.) The Artificial Life route to Artificial Intelligence: Building Embodied, Situated Agent. Lawrence Erlbaum, New Haven: p 16


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