Polina Medvedeva is a Russian-Dutch artist and filmmaker. In her work she is exploring practices and ways of being that are often considered “informal” or “non-conformist,” such as shadow economies and subcultural and communal care practices. Yet, at close sight, the protagonists that Medvedeva portrays, and who in turn become involved with her artistic process, – be it unlicensed taxi drivers, rappers, junk dealers, or undocumented female workers – complicate the prescriptive narratives attached to their livelihoods. Instead, their stories elaborate how lived experience does not fit into rigid categories of inside/outside, belonging/exclusion, formality/informality. Often practiced by necessity rather than by choice, the everyday struggles, survival techniques, and support mechanisms are revealed as being at the core of today’s global economy.
Her work merges ethnographic filmmaking, AV performance, and installation, inviting the viewer to become immersed into her observations. Medvedeva’s pieces embrace the very contradictions she encountered while growing up between Russia and the Netherlands, between two distinct political and economic systems. Her body of work speaks of the sensibilities one has to develop when navigating different cultures and finding a way in-between. Ultimately, her work is a plea for a more differentiated, non-judgmental, and open-ended engagement with differences across societies and economies.
Medvedeva’s work was selected for de Gouden Kalf competition of the Nederlands Film Festival, screened at VPRO, Eye on Palestine festival, IDFA Docs for Sale and exhibited at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem; Art Brussels; Rotterdam City Theatre; De Nieuwe Vide, Haarlem and CBK Groningen. Performances include Sonic Acts festival, Amsterdam; Lofoten International Art Festival, Svolvær; Brighton Festival, Brighton; Inversia Festival, Murmansk and A4, Bratislava. Medvedeva has been a guest tutor at Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, ArtEZ Zwolle, Gerrit Rietveld Academie and is a tutor and lecturer at the Utrecht University of the Arts.
Text by Michaela Büsse