The tragic outbreak of war started by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dramatically changing our attitude towards memory. The principles of how we used to work, with traumatic memories of the past, can never be the same again. The Fragile Narratives exhibition by SASHAPASHA (Sasha Rotts and Pavel Rotts) addresses memory on different levels. While Sasha’s objects and embroideries are dealing with her own memories, Pavel’s works are based on the memoirs of his grandparents, but what is common to both, are memories from childhood.
Sasha’s mother kept many drawings that she made as a child. Mostly done in kindergarten, her name is written on the reverse, in the teacher’s hand and the first letter of the surname is followed by a full stop, Sasha F. At what point do adults lose the ability to create in the same way as children do? Not being afraid of making mistakes, depicting a circle with jagged edges, changing proportions and animating objects. The shining sun is smiling. Why don’t adults want to draw a smile on the sun?
As a child, in order to learn something, one has to repeat it many times. Squiggles in notebooks, numbers, letters, drawings. In Sasha’s art she has fallen in love with routine; the ritual of repetition, the process of performing the same simple action until it reaches perfection. She folds postcards one after another to make a curtain. Opening the curtain one can enter her childhood world, where she is an artist and a demiurge.
In the exhibition, Pavel’s works jumps over a generation creating a bridge between his childhood and the childhood memories of his grandparents - children of war. The objects are first and foremost, metaphors. The wooden pencil case of his grandfather's, who travelled from Russia to Finland. Wicker baskets, made by his maternal grandfather during WWII on the Belomorkanal. Soviet lollipop moulds that were used by his grandmother’s Ingrian family to survive through the winter during their evacuation in Sverdlovsk.
The Fragile Narratives exhibition aims to create a bridge whose foundations are based on the concept of memory as a continuous flow. The ongoing war has shown us that history is not a progression from wars and conflicts to humanity and peace. History is a loop of traumatic memories and the only safe space we have is the fragile narratives of our own micro-histories.
We would like to thank everyone who was helping us with this work. Elena Rotts, Maria Poikalainen, Natalie Hamada, Robin Elis and foundations that made this possible to happen. This exhibition was supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) We also thank GALLERIA HUUTO for space and support. We wish to offer separate thanks to our families who participated in the project, not just with their help and support but also by investing their memories and biographies. Especially Sasha’s mother and sister Tatiana and Natalia Fadeeva, Pavel’s paternal grandfather Vladimir Rotts, and Pavel’s maternal grandmother Lilija Fedorova.