School. The Artificial Environment
‘School. The Artificial Environment’ series is a kind of memory reconstruction about some first school years and feelings, that the author has experienced while being a pupil of a soviet school. After 20 years the author comes back to her school in order to reconsider child memories and fears still living inside her.
The soviet school appeared as the first stage of upbringing a system- devoted person, a kind of man machine; the personality is suppressed by the common spirit and the individual means nothing. As the first year pupil the author felt from the very beginning this discordance of the inner need in respect and the school oppressiveness so as the consequence she could not get fit to standard rules.
As so, going back to school after 20 years period, the author struggles to understand the correlation of her private experience with present school reality, concluding with the fact that the school system has not changed a lot. It does not mean only absence of some outside improvements (old interiors and stairs, windows, dining-room, smells and sounds – all is left the same); that means the same old teachers are working there and using just as in good old times similar methods of personality suppression. The author feels as if she suddenly traveled back to soviet times, and gets horrified with everything that is going on around.
‘School. The Artificial Environment’ series were shot in 5 days of a school week. The photographs reconstruct school atmosphere from the point of view of a first year pupil. Spectator’s attention is concentrated on feelings of the author-child that vary from the highest delight to suicide thoughts. As such the author represents one of the possible versions of child’s reality perception.
The series create a parallel between children and houseplants. Both live in unnatural environment, both have to grow and evolve in such conditions. The series also play with the theme of windows as it seems to be the only way to overflow the boundaries of permitted behavior – if only in mind, not physically. Sun light, wavy gathers on curtains, drawings on walls – all these things are the point a child chooses to shift an attention, to meditate and compensate for a shortcoming of inner harmony.
Besides the images, the series are followed with short texts that are restored notes from an unreal diary.
Junior School Pupil’s Diary. Restored by Memory
‘September, the 1st. Everybody are happy. So I have to be happy too’
‘I was presented with the book ‘Winter stay at Studenaja’. Does not look interesting at all’
‘Our teacher is the best. Everybody say we are lucky to have such a teacher’
‘It’s not allowed to talk loudly, to laugh at school. Even during the break’
‘It’s not allowed to run during the break. They put a carpet in corridor that covers almost all the floor. You are not to step on it’
‘Discipline is the main thing at school’
‘It’s so quiet at the lesson. Teacher has opened the door to corridor to show how silent the class is’
‘Sometimes Teacher is angry. She does not shout – just looks into your eyes. You get frightened’
‘There are those whom Teacher likes in class, and those whom Teacher dislikes. I’m not lucky’
‘I have been late to school. To punish me for that Teacher took a bootlace from my shoe and gave me a sheet of paper where I had to write: “I can lie and I can be late”. I wrote. She put a bootlace through that paper and put on me as a necklace. I moved through all junior classes with that paper’
‘There are many flowers at school. They are very beautiful’
‘There are principal’s cabinet and Lenin’s portrait at the first floor. Lenin looks at You even if You move aside. That’s because Lenin is always alive’
‘If You want to prove the truth, You should hold on something red. Then they will believe You’
‘Teacher has got ill, we gathered a group from class and brought some honey, lemons, candies to her. Mom does not know yet that I have secretly taken some jam from home’
‘There are a lot of things interesting to look at during the lesson in our classroom: portraits, placards, curtains. But the most interesting is window. The weather is always good there’
‘I like after-school club. You are allowed to run there’
‘In spring it’s so hot in class. Especially when You have to change your clothes after physical training’
‘I don’t like to go to the dining-hall in ranks. I always look aside and tail off’
‘It smells with cabbage and dusters they clean tables with in the dining-hall’
‘Teacher makes us to eat everything to the last drop. I eat slowly so I’m usually the last who still eats. All the class is angry on me. Teacher stands next to me. I cannot swallow my food’
‘They teach us to march at physical training; I always get confused where is left and where is right’
‘I’m afraid to jump over the buck’
‘I cannot climb a rope. Teacher has said my muscles are not properly developed. Everybody laughed’
‘Collective is important. You can’t let down or betray your collective. Collective may judge You and punish’
‘School friends are quite similar to friends from the yard but a bit false. They can squeal on You to Teacher, break the secret’
‘Excellent pupils chum only with other excellent pupils. Teacher says I have a good memory and fantasy. But she gives me bad grades. And I don’t want to chum with non-achievers. Although they are not all bad’
‘It seems I’m not good anymore’
‘Bad scene happened. I inked in the word ‘diary’ on a transparent cover of my school diary. Teacher did not like that. She dropped my school diary into a dust bin in men lavatory. I did not go there to get it. It is a shame for a girl to come in men lavatory. After the lesson Teacher asked us to give her our diaries for check. I didn’t give. I told everything Mom at home. Mom came to sort out the situation and Teacher said that the boys from class threw a diary into a dust bin. The boys got it out from the bin. It was wet, all ink flew’
‘We got a task to memorize a piece from a poem ‘Lenin and a stove-setter’. And I has learned by heart the whole poem so got two excellent marks’
‘Once at after-school club I got a sight of a dog with a puppy. I yelled to puppy but his mom jumped at me instead. Everybody ran away and I stood, because You cannot run away from the dog. The dog came to me and bit my sleeve. Children and teachers came running. That was a real event’
‘I was accepted to Pioneers. I’m so happy to be accepted during the first stage. When we moved in a tram Teacher was so kind. She said to me that I would become an artist because I draw pretty well’
‘In the 5th grade Mom has forgotten to buy a Pioneer tie for me. As a punishment for coming without a tie I had to stand during all the lesson. And one girl from our school also came without a tie so she was sent back home. She was hit by a car on her way home’