Neva Font. 1994
I’d always dreamed of a camera with the capability for multiple exposure, but practically all of my cameras lacked it, except for my Smena. The conclusion? I had to “deceive” the camera…
To shoot this series I covered half of the frame horizontally with a color filter mask. At first I shot a whole roll with the lower half closed, then rewound the film, covered the upper half with the mask and went to the Neva and began shooting it.
My first attempt was a “trial run”: I just walked about the city and took my shots, and when the film was developed I realized that I’d created Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman.
Later I used combinations of 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 masks. The selection process determined everything: the whole series was based on the relationship between city and water, between the subject and the state of the water. Each roll of film was shot with natural light in the course of one day: it was important for the light to be the same, insofar as possible.
Then I began having visions—maybe this was so-called “thin sleep”—that a flood had actuall y taken place in real life: I was rowing by these same places in my kayak and saying to myself, “I already shot that, and that, and that…”
Petersburg is the city between the sky and the Neva. This is both poetic utterance and historical reality. This city has no existence apart from the Neva and its waters. The mistress of this city is named Neva, Neva Petrovna… The city’s just a thin strip on dry land. Its inhabitants are dwellers of the mouth of the Neva, of the river mouth as a territorial, spatial locus and singularity of marine, aquatic and Nevanian air, spirit and Providence. In Andrey Chezhin’s series, one of the many key Petersburg mythemes comes to life and acquires graphic confirmation via the nearly epical process of circular ascertainment of truth via its multiple repetition. The possible is impossible. The impossible is possible. This series reconciles the irreconcilable: the old Russian legend of a city disappearing into the bottom of the lake and a legend of a city—the most European city on Russian territory—drowned yet continuing its former, dry-land existence; a myth of a city slowly sinking into the water and a true story of a city cleansed of vice and defilement by the flood, of a floodless city living despite the flood and thanks to the flood, of a city arising from the flood…
Andrey Chezhin’s Neva Font is both illustrative material for this and other mythemes and a contrivance for the realization of the Postmodernist right to construct one’s own veracious (or non-veracious) artistic (or non-artistic) culturological texts as realities and new realities as texts, with a clear tendency for the creation of hyperspace and its subsumation into hypertext and the endowing of hypertext with new characteristics, those of quantum waves or quasi-periodic pulsars, for example. There’s photo-recording here, and photocorroboration, and photo-documented delusion, and myth as falsehood, as the distortion of truth, and the reality of myth-creation.
Reflection as confirmation, as affirmation
The city in the water mirror, the Neva
The city as non-Antichrist
The city as non-phantom
The city in good order
The city in the realm of divine law and benevolence
The city not post-catastrophe or post-Apocalypse but in a place of cleansing for a new stage of life, for the process of germination
Truth and make-believe; poetry, romanticism, heroism and the raging elements; destruction, death, unanticipated salvation and the recovery of loved ones—all this and more has gone into the notion of “Petersburg flood” over centuries of history, drama, comedy and tragedy…
Punishment, salvation and the atonement of sin. The aquatic element’s cleansing force in the space between sky and city, between sky and Neva, between sky and water.
The chemistry and physics of water are both known and unknown. All inhabitants of the planet know that their lives depend on the presence or absence of water. The banality of the assertion “Water is the elixir of life” doesn’t diminish its significance. The conceptual ties are endless:
Water as a conductor of electricity and other forms of radiation, including those unknown to science
The universal solvent
The basis of life and beginning of beginnings
The Great Path of mankind
The great cradle of life on earth (including human life)
Water as an instrument of divine retribution
A substance both mystical and commonplace, a metaphysical and physical unity in three hypostases (liquid, solid and gas)
Open and closed metaphors, mythemes, symbols, signs, meanings and denotations. Memory and philosophy. The conceptual dichotomies of water vs. earth, water vs. sky, water vs. fire and water that giveth and taketh away. Water as an intermediary in the relationships between sky and earth and sky and city.
In the creation of the Neva Font series the photo-documentary aesthetic, with its appeal to truth as the a priori rejection of a mythical work’s spontaneously arising mythologemic organism, played the role of a point of contact between various meanings (at times excluding, at times giving rise to each other) and a point of transformation from ultimate truth to quasi-deception or the premeditated entry into an alternate realm of action where everything is possible. And here the artist asserts the illusority of semantic constructions in culturological texts in general, and in this text in particular, one constructed by Andrey Chezhin based on the already existing but prolix and barely legible and decipherable text of the cultural-historical artistic city body, whose existence is at once real, unreal and irreal, non-existent in the here and now but present in another, artistic, multi-textual multireality that exits the boundaries of texture, text and culture per se into the realm of the idea, into the realm of the meta-idea, into transcendent nothingness, into transcendent somethingness…