Eye Candy Elena Kovylina
2007-04-19 - EYE WEEKLY, Toronto
Russian performance artist Elena Kovylina's 2001 piece Waltz is a growing legend, and Pari Nadimi Gallery gives Torontonians a rare opportunity to see video documents of two of its best incarnations – in Berlin in 2001 (its debut) and in Miami in 2005. Kovylina, with her searing feline eyes and impeccable bone structure, seems a born performer: her beauty, as with precursor Marina Abramovic, becomes a tool with which to lure audiences, and then to expose and make awkward their expectations and prejudices. In Waltz, Kovylina is a brazen symbol of her own country: decked out in military garb, she invites audience members to dance with her to Marlene Dietrich's version of “Lili Marleen,” intermittently pinning medals to her chest, taking serious swigs of vodka and smashing shot glasses on the floor – until she staggers and, ultimately, can barely stand. Obviously, Kovylina's appropriation of the Dietrich persona, not just in soundtrack, but in clothing and behaviour (steely elegance to start, masochistic abandon to conclude) makes special sense in Berlin, but also broadly and successfully conveys Russia's Cold War pride and its troubled, post-glasnost links to the global economy. Likewise, Waltz takes on stereotypes of Slavic femininity, ones propagated both by international media phenomena – mail-order brides and sex trafficking, for instance – and by works of high culture, like Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky's The Idiot, in which Dietrich-esque heroines become victims of circumstance and their own fiery wills.
WALTZ AND OTHER WORKS RUN TO MAY 12. TUE-SAT 11AM-5PM. PARI NADIMI GALLERY, 254 NIAGARA. 416-591-6464. WWW.PARINADIMIGALLERY.COM.
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