"I wrote down stories that are especially memorable for me and, on their basis, made instructions with actions through which I can simultaneously share these experiences while simultaneously turning them into something new."
In my life as an artist, sometimes I think how strongly relatives influence us, but how often it is difficult to discuss our work with them. It happened that I took their stories for projects, that is, I used the resources of family memory. And I am left with the feeling that at a symbolic level, I need to give something in return. Therefore, I decided to communicate with my relatives through performative practices. I wrote down stories that are especially memorable for me and, on their basis, made instructions with actions through which I can simultaneously share these experiences while simultaneously turning them into something new: the participants become and join in the performances.
As it turned out, this project requires a doubt that I am not from a mono-ethnic family and that there are Nenets, Armenians, Russians and probably someone else among my relatives. What if the project was not perceived as exotic? I suppose we have an ordinary Russian family, where the devil will break his leg in the genealogy, and stories sound and feel special if you give them your attention.
On February 24, 2022, when Russia began the war in Ukraine, I realized that I’ve lost the country where I was born and that I don’t have a future there. Since that point I am haunted by the feeling that the past is gone forever, that all the things I’ve done up to this point are no longer valid. Therefore, my project for the Mattress Factory had to change. I was initially planning to make a room where people could re-enact my performances based on a set of instructions. I visited my relatives, filming my trip on my phone.
Since the war started, all of this has lost its meaning. I was considering dropping out of the exhibition, because the only thing that I wished for was a stop to the violence in Ukraine. I just wanted all the shooting and the suffering to stop. It’s horrible that it only takes one month to destroy THAT MANY lives. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve seen how pain can transform into fear, that fear transforming into panic, that panic morphing into anger, with all these feelings collapsing in a sense of powerlessness.
It hurts to think of the similarities between the war and the relationship with my father, the things I’ve once had to run away from. The sense that nothing can help, that there will be no miracle, that the only way for all this to end is to cut all ties and run away.
Violence always causes further violence. The consequences of this will remain long after the war is over. I’m trying to split my personal experience from current events, but that’s proving to be impossible. I wish that no one should ever experience the of lack of safety and ever-present anxiety that was imposed onto me by my father for 18 years.
I’m more or less OK now. I know how to survive even when someone makes my life unbearable. That’s why it hurts even more, knowing that this hell is organized by so many and imposed upon millions. This system will most likely have inertia. Even if one leaves this abusive relationship, it will take many years and much effort to fully understand what has happened and recover.
I am calmed by the thought that all of this is temporary. Even though I am horrified to think about my father’s death, I imagine that when it comes, I will not be crying in mourning. These will be tears of happiness. Because this death will mean that no one and nothing is forever. Russia will be free.
The performance for my father, Eduard, is, thus, dedicated to death.
Syanda Yaptik is a versatile master of applied homemade anti-magic throughout the world. Syanda grew up in Northern Artic Russia and is from the Nenets Tribe. She often uses family memory as resources for her projects. Her work is performative. She is inspired by memories of family, often building performative actions that are somatic, producing a moving symbol of these stories/memories—to help express the connection she feels to family.