Workspace: Could you talk about your process and what draws you to the still life? I know you photograph elaborately constructed tableaus. Can you talk about their relationship to sculpture?
Marina Pinsky: What drew me to this genre initially was that I wanted to create a historical narrative with images of food that eliminated the neutral environment of a typical product photograph. So, the first such photos I made really were elaborately constructed period pieces, that period being the "cold-war era." I made backdrops of collaged images to provide the still lives with a specific historical context. The photographs also had stacks of books, the titles of which pointed to different possible lineages for the objects they were propping up. They were massive constructions that were trying to take what I would previously have made a photographic series and condense it into one photo. But the possibilities of working with still lives grew when I started to think more formally, rather than historically, about each element of the photograph. I've since been using new methods of collage, decollage, painting and drawing within the backdrops. I've also been building objects to be photographed, casting bottles or altering packages. I don't think making props makes the photographs sculptural, but I do think that altering the space the props inhabit does. As I learn how malleable the space of a photograph is, the pictures become more and more sculptural.
WS: In the past you’ve made a series of photographs that dealt with Soviet-era Russia. Could you talk about the struggle of representing the culture of a country in your work?
MP: I was born in Moscow and I've tried to understand my relationship to the culture of that city in some works, but it is always very problematic. I can't represent Soviet culture from memory or experience. I have only borrowed experiences of Soviet culture from literature, art, film and anecdotes. In the past, I have photographed physical traces of Soviet culture in contemporary Russia. These images have always just showed these remnants in relation to another culture. Even the still life from last year with Soviet groceries was half of a diptych and had an American parallel. These photos quite generally showed how two cultures once sold fear and didn't have a specific analysis of the culture on either end. For now, I am less interested in mining the archive of Soviet culture and more interested in watching the rapid development of contemporary Russian culture.
WS: What first struck me about your work is that it seems to draw you back to a specific place or time. Could you talk about the role of nostalgia in your work?
MP: My work attempts to draw a line between processing history through making an image and generating false nostalgia from an otherwise banal object. I don't want to create a fetish through the way I photograph an object. Formally, my photos tend to flatten things out, to mix things together optically and to privilege the containers of things rather than the things themselves. I don't photograph objects the way I do to give them any mystical significance or to elicit any sort of judgment of taste about these objects. I just want to slow down the way people look at the prints so they can study these objects and consider the histories that brought them into the world.
Marina Pinsky's solo show at Workspace opens on November 5th, 2011.
[all images Marina Pinsky, 2011]