The Artists Who Came in from the Cold: From Siberia to the Stanford Hotel, curated by Yulia Tikhonova as part of a larger grass-roots effort to bring contemporary art to Brooklyn branch libraries, creates an elliptical link between photographs of a village in Siberia in winter and portraits made a decade later of Russian video artists in a New York hotel. The photographs are tied together through their embrace of cinematic devices in still photography and a personal connection between the photographers; they both accentuate the use of black and white grainy effects, mood, and atmosphere to create a fictive tension in their documentary work.
The French photographer Emile Hyperion Dubuisson, (who moved to New York in 2006 after years in Paris working as a cinematographer with some of the leading directors of the new French cinema), went to Siberia when he was 18 years old in the winter of 93-94 with a French-Belarussian film crew to make a documentary about a remote village in the middle of winter. As soon as he got there, he became ill, so instead of working with the crew to make the film, he took his own still photos of village life as he recuperated. When he got back to Paris and developed the film, he accidentally underdeveloped his negatives, and they were too thin to print; he gave them up as lost and never thought about them again until 15 years later when, now living in New York and working as a still photographer, he tried to recover them through digital scanning and printing. From this vantage point in time, the “lost” but rescued material offered many surprises—basically, the charm and beauty of his young, wide-eyed perspective on a world completely different from his own—such as pictures of a woman proudly displaying a big fish, villagers skinning reindeer in the snow, and an ominous picture of a helicopter descending into the village during a snowstorm.
Allen Frame, one of Dubuisson’s photo teachers at the International Center of Photography in New York, admired this Siberian work, and encouraged Dubuisson as he compiled the images into a book and included them in various group exhibitions. Frame’s own aesthetic for many years involved using high-speed black and white film and overdeveloping it to emphasize the grain. He had also been to Russia, four times, from 200-2002, teaching photography workshops to college students. In New York, in 2004, he had the chance to meet and photograph some young Russian video artists in their rooms at the Stanford Hotel—including Anna Kolosova, Evgenii Palamarchuk, and Victor Alimpiev– who were showing their videos at the contemporary art space Art in General, brought to New York by CEC Artslink, which had sponsored Frame’s own travels in Russia.
Now, creating a whimsical connection between these coincidences, spanning decades and cultures, Dubuisson’s Siberian scenes and Frame’s film-noir-style portraits make an uncanny juxtaposition, scrambling documentary naturalism with Hollywood film tropes. With the large-scale, same-size prints of each photographer hanging directly across from each other in the library reading room, it is as though the stylish young Russian video artists had just emerged from the swirling blizzard of a Siberian winter into a New York “cloak and dagger” narrative. (The title of the exhibition is taken from John LeCarré’s novel, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, about a British agent in Berlin during the Cold War, made into a Hollywood film in 1965.)
Curator Yulia Tikhonova, who is Russian and based in New York, has created the exhibition for this branch library in Brooklyn, whose local community is heavily Russian itself, and the work, with its dark, wintry atmosphere, will open appropriately in December on Saturday, December 10th and continue through January 06, 2012. Both Frame and Dubuisson, who make portraits in photography, will be scouting for members of the Brooklyn Russian community who want to be photographed, hoping to create new work that extends the exhibition’s possibilities into further unforeseen coincidences.
Allen Frame lives in New York where he teaches photography at the School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, and the International Center of Photography. He has also given photography workshops in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Tijuana, Monterrey, and in Russia. His book Detour, a compilation of his photographs over a decade, was published by Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg in 2001. He is represented by Gitterman Gallery in New York where he had a solo show in 2009. His work has been included in exhibitions recently at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Fotomuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland. He has been the curator of numerous exhibitions, including Darrel Ellis in 1996 and In This Place at Art in General in 2004; Bearings: the Female Figure at PS122 Gallery in 2006; and Anatomy, Persona, and the Moment: 70’s Experimental Photographs of Luigi Di Sarro at the Camera Club of New York in 2010. He currently serves as the President of the Board of the Camera Club of New York. www.allenframe.net
Emile Hyperion Dubuisson was born in Paris and is living in New York. Prior to his photographic studies at the International Center of Photography in 2007, he studied cinema at Universite Paris 8 in France. His work is informed by the disciplines of both fields. He has been widely exhibited in the US. Foam Magazine awarded him as one of its Talent 2010 artists. He recently received the Juror’s Choice award in the Project Competition 2011 Center Santa Fe’s, honors documentary projects and fine art series. www.emilehyperiondubuisson.com
Brooklyn House of Kulture www.brooklynhouseofkulture.org