Azbuka Strikes Back
In May 2022 I conducted a workshop & lecture titled Rethinking Dolls (and Agniya Barto) as a part of the public program Azbuka Strikes Back at Slavs and Tatars Pickle Bar project space, Berlin.
There was a discussion of purity and cleanliness concept, shaming children for expressing emotions and being dirty, the gender division from early childhood, the problem of school uniforms, the foreignness of the Russian language in the Soviet republics, and the problem of emotional and physical violence against children in Soviet children’s poetry.
Photo Credits: rinanakanofoto
During the workshop, we empowered paper dolls to become symbolic voices for generations of silenced women, using controllers to put indigenous voices in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Azeri languages, enabling these dolls to sing lullabies or proclaim feminist protest slogans etc.
In the framework of the workshop I’ve weaved interactive piece White top, black bottom (Белый верх, черный низ) - a work, reminiscent of a Soviet pupil girl's uniform-shaped skin rug, serves as a metaphor highlighting the exploitation of oppressed republics like Kazakhstan under the Soviet regime, where the rug's various pressure points trigger indigenous voices reciting Russian children's poems with accents, echoing the forced assimilation of these cultures into Russian-dominated schools and the painful experience of ridicule and discrimination.
5 May–September 2022: “Azbuka Strikes Back”
Children’s books and curricula have often been a hot-button, polemical issue: an ideal platform to elaborate and instill ideological positions, be they from the left and/or right. Former socialist nations in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia have a particularly rich tradition of children’s literature, as part of an effort to create solidarity amongst different peoples and cultures. However, we know how that story ended. Today, a critical 21st-century look at this legacy reveals several shortcomings concerning race, sexuality, and gender. Azbuka Strikes Back, the spring and summer 2022 public program at Pickle Bar, looks at the tools, visual, rhetorical, and ideological underlying children’s publications with an aim to decolonize, revise, and queer the heritage of avant-garde education with a series of lectures, performances, workshops, and podcasts by international artists, researchers, poets.