Maria Babikova
9 May - 15 May 2023

3741 (3740.9 to be precise) kilometres is a direct distance between Chelyabinsk, the town in Russia where I grew up, and Brussels, the centre of Europe, the unofficial capital of EU.

The project aims to explore the questions of European identity and perceived idea of “the ideal western world” by a foreigner (i.e me), who very much exists within the European context.

In this work I explore these relationships with Europe and my experience of boundary, belonging and acceptance. Through photography and personal archives, I try to create a connection witing the disjointed worlds I have experienced.

Growing up in Russia in the 90s I have always perceived the West as some sort of ideal version of heaven, where everything is in order and everything works – through the limited number of films, tv ads and music videos that were available.

At 16 I found myself plucked out of Siberian obscurity and thrown into the world of high fashion, reinforcing these themes. This formed the connection between aesthetic of beauty, fear and rejection.

Fear and repression are ever present in the work or in subconscious, from memories informed by my upbringing within an oppressive and often dangerous world of 90’s Russia. This imagery becomes intertwined with the subtle symbolism of perceived ideals of European world and structures created by society.

The work is an attempt to capture the inherent beauty and pain.

Maria Babikova (b. Soviet Union) works primarily with photography and film.

She received BA in Fine Arts in School of Visual Arts, New York. Her work is often influenced by her context - her relationship to place and where she sits within the world.

From an early age, Maria was pushed into the highly competitive world of rhythmic gymnastics and later into an even more competitive world of modelling. These experiences underpin the themes that are explored in her work - questions of beauty, belonging, fear and rejection.

Her recent film work includes the documentary feature “Harmony”, exploring the gender roles in Russian society through sport, which had a world premiere at CPH:DOX (Copenhagen), UK premiere in Sheffield DOC/FEST (Sheffield) and Russian Premiere at ARTDOC Fest (Moscow).

Maria Babikova’s photographic work has been featured at Unseen Photo Fair (Amsterdam) in collaboration with Futures photography and Calvert Journal, and been published in Dazed Magazine, Dazed Beauty, the Calvert Journal, Bird in Flight and elsewhere.