NATALIA BALUTA (Moscow, Russia)
Natalia Baluta, visual artist
Natalia Baluta was born, lives and works in Moscow, Russia. She had graduated from the Moscow State University of Electronics in 1998. In 2012-2015 she was undertaking the course “Photography as Research” in the FotoDepartament Institute, St. Petersburg. In 2015 she studied at the joint course of Universität Lüneburg and the Goethe Institut “Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management”.
Natalia works with photography, collage, installation and the artist’s book forms. She also researches and collects the photo books, with focus on Soviet photobooks of 1940-1980s. In 2015 she co-founded ‘Russian Independent Selfpublished’ collective in order to represent books of artists and photographers from Russia at international festivals and fairs.
Natalia’s artistic practice is focused on the questions of interconnection and mutual influence of space, time and information, local mythology, decoding and creation of new rituals and myths. In her works Natalia combines the methods of art and science, employs various research methodologies.
Natalia’s works were included in many group exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Her books are in private and institutional collections and libraries, including the library of rare books and manuscripts of Yale University (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University); in the library of Thomas J. Watson Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; in the library of John Flaxman Art Institute of Chicago, collection of National Center for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, Russia, etc.
Project “Sea I become by degrees”: The Aral Sea had appeared on the maps just recently. Until the 17th century, scientists had only a vague idea about this part of the world. On their maps Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers flowed into different directions, the Caspian Sea was connected to the ocean, and instead of Aral Sea they placed on the maps deserts, swamps or emptiness at all. But there was the sea here, it had lived in perfect balance, breathing out as much water into the hot sky, as powerful rivers were bringing from the Asian mountains.
For people living along the banks of the sea and the rivers water had always been precious, almost divine and they always had a dream to fill deserts with the water and turn the sands into the gardens, to make life a little better. And they did it: the sea was dismantled into the canals and reservoirs. Water is now elsewhere, working hard. Each piece of Uzbek cotton carries a part of the Aral Sea, and the breath of the sea remains only in the patterns.
It takes almost a whole day driving across the deserted sea bed to get from the former sea port Moynak to the remaining water. Here it’s hard to believe that Aral could get back again once. This story is not about the people, it is about this place which used to be the sea and now is transformed into a desert. But even this landscape is not going to last long, the former sea area is now used for gas and oil mining and will become a huge industrial site soon. If the sea could get back once, it is not because of us, bit only as a miracle, by the mysterious forces promised by the legends.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
In my artistic practice I often work with the subjects which are elusive: memory, disappearing data, landscapes undergoing massive transformations. In many cases there is no physical representation of phenomenon which I am trying to visualise. In such situation working with film gives me an opportunity to bring the ideas to life, giving them physical existence on film. In the age of no-truth, in the digital era film is the only moment of physical existence for my subject, before appearing on film it is just an idea, mirage. After being shot, exposed and scanned, image becomes a set of digital data, stored in the cloud and shown in on-line galleries. Having an image on film, as a (relatively) solid object brings some metaphysical reassurance that the story exists and will last and travel in time, it will be seen by others.