Maria Babikova


After the Soviet Union collapsed Russia was left without a new system of values, but an assortment of different, often opposing ideas and identities.

This project attempts to look at those identities, systems of order and operation within society now and the way they have been manipulated and morphed by власть “power”/government in modern Russia.

This project acts as a road map or a dictionary for my understanding of the human condition and remains ongoing, probably forever.

There is an invisible relationship between fear and joy, that is deeply embedded within the Russian system. This in many cases is based on oppression and boundaries, forming certain accepted order.

The theme of oppression vs exhibition is constantly present within those systems. Joy itself becomes a form of repression. There are moments of freedom in the constructed safe space, but they can only be obtained and permitted behind the mask. You must fit into the central mass of these systems unless you have power, money or beauty.

I myself was very well fitted within this structure – as a girl, at a very young age, I was pushed into the competitive world of rhythmic gymnastics, where beauty and perfection were the sole goals, and could only be obtained through continuous pain and dedication. A stepping stone of social mobility for many girls. I then found myself plucked out of Siberian obscurity and thrown into the world of high fashion, where the value is placed on appearance and I, in turn, valued myself because the western world seemingly accepted me, even for this superficial reason.

Fear and repression are presented in the work - overbearing structures, bright lights, altered landscapes. This unconsciously seeps through, perhaps a memory informed by my upbringing within an oppressive and often dangerous world of 90’s Russia. This imagery becomes intertwined with the subtle symbolism of perceived ideals and structures created by society.

The work is an attempt to capture the inherent beauty and pain of reality, constructed from the stains of memories left behind.