Oksana Kazmina’s The Wedding in Docu_Presence: a project by composer/performer Solomiya Moroz

by: & Solomiya Moroz , April 19, 2018

© Wedding (2017) dir. Oksana Kazmina

I was commissioned to present a project for Contrasts Contemporary Music Festival in Lviv Ukraine for October 8, 2017 for which I picked the topic of documentation and the use of archival materials. DocuPresence was presented as an evening of audio and visual installations with a concert performance of four pieces by Julian Kytasty, Ostap Manulyak, Taylor Brook and myself.

The collaboration with the Ukrainian video artist Oksana Kazmina began as a commission for the visual installation of the project. The archival materials that I and Oksana Kazmina worked with came from Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folk Archive in Edmonton, Alberta, which referenced traditional events in the Ukrainian-Canadian Diaspora communities such as weddings, cultural events and instrument making. [1]

It is interesting that while we both had complete freedom as to what we wanted to do with the materials, I decided to work with the materiality of the imperfect videos, memory, and musical transcription of these videos while my colleague from the visual arts went for something less abstract: the gendered representation of a woman in a staged wedding ritual.

Working with archival materials artistically is an interesting process. One has the power to direct the viewer’s gaze to that which the documents were not meant to say, to add other interpretations, or to act as the historian of a fictional narrative. It is especially true when feminist artworks are produced using such materials, since the past is replete with stories of women’s underrepresentation and absences.

A few works which deal with memory and temporality in relation to feminist perspectives are addressed in the article “Woman’s Reappearance: Rethinking the Archive in Contemporary Art” by Giovanna Zapperi. [2] Here, the author discusses works by Zoe Leonard, Cheryl Dunye, Renée Green and Andrea Geyer, and coins the term ‘feminist time.’ [3] With this term, Zapperi discusses notions of temporality which include returns, accelerations, discontinuities, and subjective/collective dimensions and their place within historical, social and cultural conditions. [4]

I propose to view The Wedding by Oksana Kazmina through a similar lens of ‘feminist time’. Kazmina continually asks the viewer to find the woman in these scenes, with questions such as “Where is the Woman?”, “Where is She?” These questions correct/ direct the viewer’s gaze to the absence of women’s agency in the decision-making process of traditional wedding rituals. The woman is an object bound to its male subject.

In The Wedding, Oksana plays investigator, interrogating wedding traditions through the lens of this gendered dichotomy.

The original wedding ceremony was staged in Edmonton, Canada in the 1990s, and was intended to be a recreation for the historical preservation of wedding traditions. It aimed to represent all of the wedding traditions of Ukraine rather than any single region. Oksana’s work on the archived video takes place in today’s Ukraine, and is openly critical of its original.

In Oksana’s work there is already an implicit temporal dislocation between the original and the video art piece. The work humorously directs our gaze to the way in which a woman’s role is presented, with all the faulty generalisations of such representations. Such a critical review of an archival piece is timely in Ukraine, where questions around gender and women’s role(s) in society are beginning to be discussed, albeit not as rigorously as in North America or Western Europe.

Oksana made her video using two channels, whereby one channel commented on the other. In the first, the viewer is guided by the narrator of the wedding ceremony; in the second, the viewer is presented with the staged wedding ceremony from Edmonton, Canada.

I asked Oksana a few questions in order to understand the process behind her work in The Wedding:

Solomiya: How did you pick which videos you wanted to work with?

Oksana: I picked the videos which show dry sequences of the Ukrainian traditional wedding rituals which have not been changed over hundreds of years.

S: Why did you choose to respond to archives in such a way?

O: I wanted to show in a very simple way, that those rituals, without critical re-thinking and reflection just lose their sense.

S: Could you explain what the titles used in the video imagery mean exactly, is there any specific philosophy that you are reacting to, with titles such as object, subject, active, passive, immanent, transcendent etc?

O: These are very simple indicators which show that in a traditional Ukrainian culture, woman is always immanent passive object, while man is transcendent active subject. The video shows it in a very clear way. The generalized theatrical actions in the original archival video was a very appropriate way of showing this.

S: What about the form of the piece, what does its length, cyclical nature and alignment of titles as left and right channel mean?

O: The only goal of the titles is to indicate all “errors”, which rituals and traditional culture can reproduce. The cyclic structure just follows a formal approach of any video art piece and the video can be watched from any point of the loop.

S: What do you think the reaction would be from the viewer in Ukraine because I know you were not there at the opening?

O: I made it very simple and clear, so I expect the message would easily come through. People can either like or dislike the message, depending on their personal positions. If viewers agree or not does not matter at this point. If some discussions took place as a result, then the goal was achieved.

S: Does this work reflect your other work on gender roles, Ukraine, or politics in general?

O: Yes, it does. I recently produced a video clip about pregnancy and the perception of the pregnant women in Ukraine, you can check it out here: https://vimeo.com/230753669 Currently, I am also working on a hybrid documentary project about a female artist who explores sexuality, power and gender roles in her work. Her art is a way for her to process her childhood traumas. Here is the page of the film, with a more detailed description: https://www.facebook.com/underwaterdoc/


[1] Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folk Archive: http://www.mlcs.museums.ualberta.ca/BohdanMedwidskyUkrainianFolkloreArchives.as px (last accessed 18 April 2018).
[2]Giovanna, Zapperi (2013), ‘Women’s Reappearance: Rethinking the Archive in Contemporary Art – Feminist Perspectives’, Feminist Review, 105 (November): 21-47.

[3] Ibid. p. 23.
[4] Ibid.


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