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'Threads of Surveillance' by Varvara Keidan Shavrova Varvara Keidan Shavrova’s practice is focused on excavating the layers of history through the process of remembering, recalling, retracing and re-enacting stories. In engaging memory, nostalgia and reflection, Keidan Shavrova creates installations that make connections between historic and current narratives, between the archival and the present. In her current work, Keidan Shavrova examines the symbols of power and authority whilst investigating their relationship to the individual. The process of empathy is the means of materializing the past into the present. The materiality of her installations is a comment on women’s labour, and include objects and installations made of wool, thread, yarn and fabric, with methodologies of hand sewing, weaving, embroidery and knitting that are often combined with digital technologies and the moving image. Thematically, Keidan Shavrova’s work often investigates ‘borders’ in physical, geo-political and gendered terms. In her new and ongoing 'Threads of Surveillance'. 'Soft Drones Series' (2020- 2021), Keidan Shavrova examines the tools of surveillance, questions the notion of privacy and addresses the meaning of civil liberties in the context of the current situation in the world at large. By the end of March 2020, nearly 3 billion people, or every 5th person on this planet, found themselves under total or partial lockdown due to the onset of the global pandemic. Quarantine enforcement, contact tracing, flow modelling and social graph-making are some of the data tools that are being used to tackle the covid-19 pandemic. In the various states of emergency that different countries around the world are experiencing today, mass surveillance is becoming normalised. As citizens, we are asked to sacrifice our right to privacy and to give up civil liberties in order to defeat the pandemic. What happens once the state of emergency is over? Hovering on the intersection of historic appropriation and contemporary reflection, Keidan Shavrova develops ideas around tangible and intangible flying objects that conjure up various elements of surveillance mechanisms. The hand embroidered drawings of drones are sewn directly onto soft fabric used as interlining for drapery and curtains, thus evoking the sense of domesticity and comfort. That comforting sense of security and domesticity is in stark contrast with the objects that Keidan Shavrova is depicting, thus reflecting on the notion of surveillance that interferes with the very basics of our daily existence. The theme is further developed in a series of recent hand- loomed and machine-embroidered works that employ Venetian velvet and that the artist started to develop during the first global lockdown in early 2020, in collaboration with the 18c manufacturers La Bevilaqua in Venice. In the two large-scale knitted and embroidered works The Palace of the Soviets and King Kong, Keidan Shavrova is questioning the symbols of global power and authority by juxtaposing iconic images from movie stills and archival documents associated with Communist and Capitalist empirical architecture, namely the Palace of the Soviets project that was never realised due to its entirely absurd scale and utopian ambitions, and the Empire State Building pictured in a film still from the cult movie King Kong. Creating a visual and physical tension between the two im- ages is made possible by literally stitching the two parts of the knitted surface with bright orange thread to emphasises the dependency of one system on the other, and to point at the fragility that ensues once they are separated. This notion feels especially relevant today, in the times of global uncertainties and constantly unfolding global crises, conflicts and wars. Keidan Shavrova is also interested in the question of scale, where she is pointing at the discrepancy between the giant statue of www that adorns the top of the Palace of the Soviets, whilst dwarfing even further the multiplicities of tiny, ant-like figures of the demonstrators at its foot. On the opposite side of the knitted panel this image is juxtaposed with the figure of the giant ape towering over the New York skyline, adorned by a swarm of biplanes that also resemble the zeppelin flying around the Palace of the Soviets. This mirroring effect and a similar notion of grandiosity contrasting with the smallness of an individual continues in the other large knitted piece, Monument to Cosmos, where an office worker is hunched up and scurrying along under the shadow of the famous monument glorifying the Soviet Union programme of conquering of the cosmos. In these works, Keidan Shavrova employs method- ologies of machine knitting, hand stitching and manual embroidery, that allow the artist to physically interlink historically opponent political narratives that appear uncannily similar- those of Communism and Capitalism. Production of ’ Threads of Surveillance. Soft Drones’ Series generously supported by Visual Arts COVID-19 Response Award, Arts Council Ireland and Culture Ireland Award


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