15.04.2023 — 15.05.2023

Yulia Abzaltdinova’s exhibition at the Volna Cultural Centre
A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism,
a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.
Social reality is lived social relations, our most important
political construction, a world-changing fiction.

Donna Haraway, 'A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century'
Artist Julia Abzaltdinova works with visual media, including photography, video, and installation. Performance, participatory, bodily, and psychological practices and other forms of work with representatives of various communities, especially inclusive ones, play a significant role in her artistic practice. For her residency project in Vyksa, in which she examines the potential of vision, she teamed up with blind and low-vision individuals to conduct an experiment designed to create a new complex system of relationships in which works of art emerge through co-creation and collective work with photography assisted by a neural network and mediated by the artist herself.

'As a rule, blind and low-vision individuals do not use photography as a documentary snapshot of a time or place to capture important moments in their lives. The camera was invented so that an ordinary sighted person could show others what they've seen, as a device that allows one to "try on someone else's eyes". Blind and low-vision people do not use cameras, they don't need to make visual casts. When sighted people take photos of memorable places and moments, and keep photo albums, blind and low-vision people keep visual images in their heads, perceiving, imagining, and building on reality from memory or from haptics,' explains Julia Abzaltdinova.

In an attempt to create a space in which the participants could construct an image and make the imaginary accessible to others visually and tactilely, Julia becomes the mediator and technical conductor between the authors of the photographs and the camera, the neural network and the sculptures. Her co-authors chose filming locations, organised plein-air photography sessions, and suggested prompts for the Midjourney neural network that generated images based on them. Abzaltdinova paid special attention to the sculptural translation of the resulting images, which she named photosculptures, categorising them as a separate genre in which photography has volume, and underlining the tactility with which the visual can correlate with the tactile and be accessible to people who use different sense organs to see.

'During the conversation, the co-authors suggested places in the city that held personal significance, which they photographed together with me, indicating the haptic features of these places and describing them for the neural network,' explains the artist. 'As a result, I created tactile photosculptures based on real places in Vyksa. The sculptures were made from round and rectangular tubes produced at the Vyksa Steel Works, as well as from stainless steel sheets. The images that emerged as the result of the collaboration between the co-authors and the neural network were printed on soft and flexible materials, including artificial leather, fabrics (gabardine and polyester), plastic, and tracing paper, using various techniques.'

Julia Abzaltdinova claims that 'in this project, she acts as a conductor between the camera and the co-authors, between the co-authors and the neural network, between the real and the virtual'. However, her approach is not limited to focusing on these dualities. On the contrary, it creates a more complex fabric that unites the artistic space with the social one and turns the territory of imagery into a setting for action. By altering and expanding the boundaries of notions about what photography is, and blurring the line between memory and imagination, Julia demonstrates that in today's world, an artist can be released from the task of generating images and can delegate it to others, both people or neural networks. At the same time, an artist can still perform the social function and act as a platform for a new way of thinking, generating narratives and conceptual points that give rise to new forms of participation, mutual acceptance and solidarity for people, regardless of their abilities, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence.

Co-authors of the project: Yegor Ermokhin, Nina Simonova, Vera Denisova, Marina Ladugina, Irina Kurushina, Dmitry Proklov.

Yulia Abzaltdinova
Yulia Abzaltdinova is a contemporary artist whose main themes are the representation of national identity and traces of anthropogenic impact on the natural landscape.

Education: Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. Rodchenko; Free workshops, Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

Personal exhibitions: "The Big Game", VTsSI, Voronezh (2017); "The Big Game", Yeltsin Center, Yekaterinburg (2017); "The Big Game", Museum Center "Ploshchad Mira", Krasnoyarsk (2018); "CHAD", gallery "Bogorodskoye" of the Association "Exhibition Halls of Moscow", Moscow (2020).