Who is Elena Rabkina?
Elena Rabkina is Belarusian artist focused on photography and interactive art.
Elena researches and documents the immaterial story of people, things and places, pays attention to the small real-life details and explores the current meaning of the mass culture. Her artworks have social commentary and reflect on agism, social inclusion, urbanism, ecology, mental health, migration, activism.
Left Belarus in 2020 due to the political repressions, lived and worked in Odessa, Ukraine till the beginning of the war, and now is in Europe with no particular residence. Apart from being an artist, Elena is a social activist, co-organizer of urban and art festival Vulica Brasil and mentor for social and art projects.
CV AND BIO
2021 - Speaker and Mentor at the Contemporary Art Festival "CONNECT" in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.
2017 - 2020 - Organizer of the Urban and Art Festival «Vulica Brasil». Minsk, Belarus.
2020 - Speaker at the Art Laboratory in Belastok, Poland.
2020 - Speaker at European Architecture Student Assembly in Grushevka, Belarus.
2019 - 2020 – Speaker and mentor at the Collabex Art Accelerator. Minsk, Belarus
2019 - Participation in the Nantes Forum of Creative Generations. Nantes, France (was awarded with the grant).
2019 - Run game "Animals" at Burning Man, Black Rock City, USA.
2017 - Nominated for RADA Awards in the category Best Art Project with the project Blind City. Minsk, Belarus.
2017 - Awarded 2nd prize at Photo Competition by the Embassy of Sweden.
2016 - Speaker on TEDx, Belarus.
2015 - Worked at ikonoTV, mute TV that was developing the direct language of art through slow videos. Berlin, Germany.
Born in 1989, in Vitebsk, Belarus. Attended Vitebsk Art School from 2003 to 2005. In 2011-2012 took part in the year-long course on the art of photography, created by Belarusian photo artist Alexander Veledimovich.
In 2013 was representing Belarus at «Photo Intercultural Marathon», Beysehir Konya, Turkey. It resulted in the participation in the open-air exhibition. Elena presented a collective photo-installation work about social inclusion and agism in Turkey.
From 2013 to 2016 I was working on the photo project «Motion to Emotion» dedicated to the topic of objects and memories that they carry along with different places you travel to (exhibited at Photozone, Minsk, Belarus in 2016).
In 2015 created the photo project “City Inside” that studies the relationship between people and the city, as well as a way become closer through a joint experience.
In 2016 Elena Rabkina created work “Moreless” as a part of "Concrete Delusion" project. It included sound, installation and series of photos that and was dedicated to opening up new possibilities for the aesthetic interpretation of political and industrial progress. In 2016 the project was exhibited at the National Center for Contemporary Arts (Belarus), at SÜDBAHNHOF fotografische Werke (Germany), in 2017 at the Mark Rothko Art Center (Latvia).
In 2017 the work "I see you, I miss you" was awarded 2nd place by the Embassy of Sweden, and exhibited in Minsk as part of an exhibition dedicated to the Week of Sweden. The photo series is dedicated to the feeling of nostalgia about something you’ve never seen for yourself, but have awakened thoughts and fantasies about.
In 2017 also was created the photo work "Black stories» about the ecological situation a Bali and transformational power of nature. The photo series was exhibited in 2017 at PhotoZone, Minsk, Belarus.
In 2017 Elena directed at staged an interactive performance larp-play “Critics” at the Center of Belarusian Dramaturgy (Minsk). The main topic was subjective and objective in art, a paradigm shift in the perception of expert opinion by society.
In 2019 Elena took part in the collective portrait photography exhibition “Youth”. Exhibited at Background, Minsk, Belarus.
In 2020 due to the persecution by Belarusian government because of political activism Elena had to flee Belarus and moved to Ukraine.
In 2021 she took part in the art residence Artivism and Solidarity – the Department of Social Illustration and Public Art. As a result she carried out a research and developed a board game about mental health and burnout. Odessa, Ukraine.
In 2021 Elena in collaboration with Alexander Uriev created a photo series about the Belarusian refugees that fled the regime of Lukashenko and settled in Odessa. The project consists of a series of interviews and portraits.
In 2021-2022 Elena took part in the art residence from MediaLab Fem “Her deed” and produced a photo series and interview about the urban activist Daria Pugacheva, who’s work was dedicated to the renovation of the soviet fountain in Rovno, Ukraine. This work was exhibited in 2021 at the main square of Lviv and Lviv Municipal Art Center, as well as in Dnipro Center for Contemporary Culture, Ukraine in 2022.
I have an unstoppable desire to explore, look deeper and connect to the everyday life in different corners of the world. With my photography I try to grasp moments that are ethereal, can be only read between the lines and rather felt than seen.
As an artist, I mostly gravitate towards the topic of urban-people relationships. Every place, be it a room, building or the whole city has the energy of its own, its tempo, habits, good and bad, its rules and experiences. The charisma of the environment is built by people, but also it affects people back, as a never-ending circle.
I believe that an attentive eye and open heart can you far in experiencing the precious elements of everyday life. And I use photography to bring these stories to a wider audience.
Frankfurt (Oder), Germany
The work covers the topic of the war in Ukraine and visualises the data on the amount of rockets that have fell on the Ukraine, according to the latest statement by Vladimir Zelenskij. 300 knifes represent less than 10% of the bombs, but after each of them stands destruction and pain. For our brain it’s hard to see the difference between 2500 and 3000, though the difference is immense. This piece is created for the European audience that is not affected by the war, but is eager to learn and reflect on the scale of the tragedy. Visitors are invited to interact with the piece by stepping on the platform and raising the bombs. Yet, when one steps away – the knifes come back in their position.
Idea and concept by Elena Rabkina.
Construction: Elena Rabkina, Sofia Brem, Ilda Kurti, Orest Dovhan, Yuliia Trymorush, Robert Schwaß, Nathan Rubene dos Santos, Nicoleta Jantoan, Oleksandr Klymenko.
Mentorship: Tobias Schmitt, Mauricio Sosa Noreña.
Still Standing, 2022,
The work "Still Standing" is dedicated to the unbreakable spirit of Ukrainian people. Apart of being the typical plant in Ukraine, no matter the conditions – sunflowers will always tend to keep their heads high and reach the sky. It is also typical in Ukrainian villages to use bandaging in sunflower seeds harvest, so that the seeds don't fall out.
Performance "Still Standing" develops the topic of the war in Ukraine and incorporates artist's personal experience of being the Red Cross Odessa volunteer. Elena became a volunteer in 2020 in need of legalisation in Ukraine after running from the regime of Lukashenko in Belarus. The main condition for the volunteer was to finish the Entry Volunteer Course on the First Aid.
14 Confessions to the city, 2022, Vienna, Austria
Public art project "14 Confessions to the city" is done in the form of an open diary. Coming as a new person to Vienna I have the luxury of being completely honest to the city, as it's always easier to talk to strangers. So I've placed around the city 14 confessions, as well as located the empty boards for others to confess.
Being a Belarusian artist that lived in Ukraine before the war, I speculate about going through this experience, politics, charisma of Vienna and some accumulated insights.
After the public exhibition on the streets Vienna's 2nd District, the boards are to be collected and exhibited at Superbude on the 7th floor as the recurring exhibition. Guests of the hotel will have an opportunity to send their confessions and once a month I'll reveal one new saying.
This project explores the relationship between vulnerability and publicity, as well as allows viewers to get a glimpse of my refugee experience though self-reflection.
Meet the artist
About the project
INVISIBLE PEOPLE, 2022, VIENNA, AUSTRIA
"Invisible people'' is an interactive photo-documentary project by Elena Rabkina, who was staying at Superbude as part of the "Artist in Residence" program and the "Question Me & Answer Art Residence".
Visitors are invited in an interactive way to discover the staff behind the scenes of the hotel and speculates on the topic of diversity, inclusion and labor migration in the environment of the Austrian hotel industry.
“When I got to visit the employee cafeteria at Superbude - I was so impressed with the people there. There was such a diversity of cultures and ethnicities. There were people from countries I'd never met before, and everyone was so different and charismatic! So I decided to take a look behind the scenes at Superbude and pay my respects to the people who create it every day, as in most cases, multicultural staff remain unseen or fall into the blind spot”.
The interactive photo series “Invisible People” took its permanent disposition at Superbude, Vienna. Please come and find the hotel workers that make this place amazing at -1 level.
HER DEED, 2021, ROVNO, UKRAINE
This work was exhibited in 2021 at the main square of Lviv and Lviv Municipal Art Center, as well as in Dnipro Center for Contemporary Culture, Ukraine in 2022.
Art Resindece Media Lab Fem brought together 10 Belarusian and 10 Ukrainian photographers. Each of us worked on the documentary photoseries about female activists and an interview or an essay.
I chose to tell the story of Daria Pugacheva, a performance artist, who has returned to her hometown to take part in the first Contemporary Art Rivne art residency in Rivne. And was doing my photodocumentaty research living closely to her for the whole week of reading this project.
To draw attention to the condition of the fountains in the city, Daria performed "I will wake up when this fountain is filled." Residents of the city were also able to take part in the artwork, sharing their memories of the fountain and ideas about its future. And after the performance, Daria submitted a petition to the city hall calling for funds for the reconstruction of the fountain.
In the context of her performance, Daria shares her thoughts on the impact of art on people the urban space, and talks about the path of an artist.