Presenting herself to viewers through the images of fourteen people of both genders, Kadyrova appropriates the external characteristics of the most common social roles of the past era: secretary, accountant, librarian, etc. The artist calls her work a “social iconostasis,” adding, “This project is a response to the tradition from Soviet times, when the portraits of leaders and honored personnel were visibly displayed in institutions and companies to serve as an example for their peers.” Yet Honor Board is more than a parodic gesture aimed at Soviet social hierarchy, which is still implicitly present in the minds of the post-Soviet population.
Despite the photographs’ superficial resemblance to self-portraits, there is no “real” Kadyrova in the Honor Board, but only the impersonation of
feminine and masculine types, based on the concept of gender performativity put forth by Judith Butler, which explains gender as a role chosen and played by people over the course of their lives. Thus Honor Board goes beyond a parodic-nostalgic treatment of the Soviet past and becomes a commentary on gender as constructed reality. Kadyrova’s convincing transformations demonstrate that the notions of “masculine” and “feminine” can be confidently set off by quotation marks, as they are often only a set of particular external attributes. This conditionality of gender, which brings Kadyrova’s work closer to Cindy Sherman’s photographic performances and ties it to others who work with gender critique, incorporates a certain degree of freedom, as the role here is not innate – it can be partially or completely altered.
11 black-and-white photographs,
190 × 280 (photo)
1800 × 1300 (board)*
Collection of “Izolyatsia.
Platform for Cultural Initiatives”
Photo: Dmitry Sergeev