Both times I met Kazakova, she said nothing. That is, if you don't count the few pleasantries we exchanged in English. It seems like she is a silent meditator. There is also a cultural and language border between us.
Wonderful, different, fast, sensitive, incredibly rich in nuances, but aarrgh, lost video works. Curator Masha Yufa introduced his friend and exhibited her work in a Petroskoi gallery two years ago in July. Inna Kazakova, 34, had prepared the videos in his free time with a computer of the Karelian Television, and some colleague--jealous or spiteful--wiped out the files. All that was left of several month's work was low quality VHS copies.
Last June, Kazakova was in the culture train that went from Belomork to Petroskoi via Oulu. She did not say anything then either, just smiled politely and gave me a CD-ROM with her latest multimedia art.
In her work Identity Kazakova examines the relationship between identity, culture and location. The viewers get to choose their favourite out of several different characters, after which a background is chosen for the character. The background can be changed, and with it changes also the audio landscape.
Kazakova has left off from the observation of how we on holidays always get our pictures taken in front of some local cultural landscape when travelling. In Kazakova's work, the same figure can surprisingly appears as a completely different person against another background. One cannot make out whether the picture has a Russian office worker dressed up with bad taste or a British journalist wearing trendy and laid back clothes, or whether an unemployed, melancholic Irishman or a womanizing Don Juan in an American casino? Even the character's face seems to change according to the background.
You can make the interpretation of the person's identity yourself. At the same time, you might end up wondering how tied our identities are with culture and location. One can also bump into one's own culturally bound prejudice.
Inna Kazakova seems to wonder whether we have ourselves photographed in different places in order to build our identity through experiences in different places in the same way we change our style by wearing different clothes. By recording ourselves in a new setting, we take over it and the cultural experience we connect with it.
Kazakova's work makes one wonder how consciously we nowadays build our identities. Can some people even have several identities, as the press claimed of the man first accused of murdering Anna Lindh? Are we able to choose and build our identity as we please? And how far, in the end, can we cross cultural boundaries that exist between us?