On 16 March 2014, the Crimea voted in an unlawful referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. One year after this dramatic event that deeply influenced the world’s geopolitical situation, on 16 March 2015, Zhanna Kadyrova collected newspapers from around the world. She used them to create a 6-metre-long panoramic collage, cutting out all faces of people, re-composing them and juxtaposing persons of different social status, political position or religion side by side within the original frame of the newspaper page.
Losing all reference to text or language apart from the names of the papers, which “frame” the crowds in a geographical culture context, each collage
becomes a representation of a mass of people, with the installation in its entirety representing the portrait of a crowd. The work also investigates the differences and unifying features of the global mass media. By choosing newspapers from a single day, Kadyrova traces the international attention granted to Ukraine and its conflict, exploring the power and responsibility of media and focusing on how “man” is represented in different countries. In a time of worldwide social unrest, where people everywhere take to the streets for change, Kadyrova presents us with an unruly crowd, anonymous, multicultural and shared.
The idea for Crowd emerged from newspapers from countries all over the world that Kadyrova collected in 2012. The artist cut out silhouettes of people from each page of every newspaper and arrayed these figures from large to small, thus constructing a composition according to the principles of linear perspective. Kadyrova also kept the original frames of the newspapers’ pages, showing the issue date, country, price, sometimes even the weather and exchange rate for that day – in other words, that archival information that organizes levels of reality into some kind of coordinate system that measures the passing of time. Each of these compositions is displayed vertically, pressed between two freestanding glass surfaces, which form a kind of labyrinth in the space of the gallery. Kadyrova’s sculptural intuition transforms these “pictures under glass” into an installation space where the viewer finds him/herself not so much looking at the figures of people cut out of newspapers as surrounded by these people. More so, the silhouettes – two-dimensional newspaper representations – displayed and lit according to sculptural principles, unexpectedly “come to
life” and begin to cast shadows, which is usually the prerogative of a living body and not its flat likeness. The viewers, whose shadows mingle with the shadows of the newspaper cutouts, are literally implicated in the society that ends up on the newspaper pages. Each viewer of the installation becomes a part of media reality. In this artistic gesture we can see the continuation of Andy Warhol’s sacred utterance that in the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame. Still, Kadyrova’s installation space, filled with people-apparitions and their complex intertwining of shadows, can also be interpreted as a metaphor of society under constant surveillance, where everyone is at risk of losing privacy and ending up in the media arena. The dusky shadows of Crowd, like a visual echo, like the traces of the presence of those who are not actually here, also make us think about the diachronic aspect of society, with its complex social fabric constituted not only by horizontal relationships between those living today but also by the vertical ties connecting us with previous generations.