INSECTS. Elena Neil, Viv Iana and Elana Slobtseva, at Brighton Pop-Up, Monday 10 & Tuesday 11 September, 2- 10pm.
Elana’s project is based on her father’s suicide, and her PhD thesis, along with a current journey around Europe and further afield- including visiting Bhopal to volunteer at the Sambhavna clinic and conduct research. Within her thesis she analyses the Booker-nominated novel Animal’s People (2007), by Indra Sinha, a fictional tale of the aftermath of a disaster clearly resembling that of Bhopal.
In the novel the narrator makes several references to insects: “Listen, how quiet”… “No bird song. No hoppers in the grass. No bee hum. Insects can’t survive here”. Or in another section the discussion unfolds as such: “There are no insects in paradise,” says Farouq. Animal replies: “Don`t see why not. If they have flowers and birds in paradise, why not ants? Isn`t there room?”
On her journey Elana Neil seeks out the company of smaller and often unwelcome fellow earthlings, insects. She started the 70-day trip and blog to celebrate her father`s 70 years on this planet, during which he was: an organic farmer in the Alps, an inspiring host for people from all over the world, a visionary, and an avid environmentalist. He also struggled with mental illness which resulted in suicide.
Mental illness, suicide and their correlations with insects, which are regarded as pests in mainstream society, are central to her work. It conveys discomfort, disgust and uneasy emotions. At the same time Elana demonstrates how insects are worthy, necessary and, despite it all, beautiful. Insects are not “charismatic megafauna” but still a vital element of our ecosystems.
Neither the sensationalism of “megafauna” nor the stereotypically beautiful, sentimental or kitsch objects are central to her work. Instead, Elana chooses to focus on what others perceive as the disgusting and revolting. Her work is displayed in areas that are usually reserved for attractions and joyful experiences such as city centres, churches, beaches or museums amongst others. Her photographs and short stories capture peculiar moments. Zooming in and out – visually/physically and intellectually/mentally, shifting between the urban and the natural, if you want to separate these concepts. Can you at all?
Her approach is primarily and deliberately humorous and involves: interpreting and reinterpreting ideas; a shifting of scales and perspectives; and a blurring of boundaries. Her work is reminiscent of Kafka`s The Metamorphosis, as well as other creative human-insect explorations. Elana’s quest is to see how the urban lives of insects and their perception may correlate with the lives of humans in general and also those who are affected by mental illness. She started to write shomoirs (a mix of short story and memoir) during a difficult time after her father`s suicide, when she was working as a cleaning lady. She realized how insects often act as cleaners in the natural world.
This project is created in partnership with Bhopal Medical Appeal, of which Sinha was a co-founder. The charity was established in 1994 following a hugely successful appeal in the broadsheet British Press written by him and he went on to remain the charity’s main copy writer for most of the next two decades.
Elana’s and Elena’s paths first crossed at college in the United States in 2005. They have stayed in touch since and are now collaborating on this as they wanted to do a project on insects that focuses on shifting perspectives. They had their first exhibition last month in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Elena is an established conceptual artist and has had several exhibitions. She lives and works in Perm, Russia. She uses metal office and construction staples as her preferred material and works in the media of video and installation/object. Elena took part in several group shows including the parallel program of Moscow International Biennale of Young Art, 2014, and Garage Triennale of the contemporary art in Russia, 2017. The themes that she turns to are the body, the city and urban aesthetics.
Elana and Viv first met in 1999, during a study year abroad in Brighton, both have been coming back to this vibrant community regularly. Viv now lives in Brighton and has exhibited some of her paintings before. She will contribute to the exhibition with a painting entitled “Insects”.
Viv Iana: Viv_iana06