Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents the latest work of artist Elian Somers, which explores the hidden essence of the cityscape in “Border Theories” until April 7.

Featured artist: Elian Somers
Amsterdam - FEB 05, 2013

For Elian Somers, photography servers as a medium for questioning the urban and social landscape, capable of registering what is shown and what is hidden. The main body of her work investigates the moments of transformation of the cityscape, searching for those elements and essences that reflect the place’s true history and its ideological baggage.

The images presented in Border Theories reveal what is not obvious at plain sight, offering a rare glimpse of the architecture’s secret story. Her style is straightforward, showing what is literally there, with such detail and precision that it almost seems unreal. This way, she creates invented landscapes from true existing architecture. As the artist herself explains, she focuses “on utopian cityscapes; realized dreams invented as an alternative to the existing built world.” These utopic landscapes evoke a hermetic silence that is found throughout her body of work, a powerful silence, and one capable of undressing the structure to show its true essence.  

Somers' work also explores the falsification of history and the urban and social landscapes related to it. Her images trace the impact of the political and ideological efforts that imposed a new, virtual past through the use of architecture and urbanism on the landscape. Little by little, her images show the layers of what is utopic and unreal. Her reflections seem contradictory, almost paradoxical. But this is the truth that lies behind utopian thinking, as it both attracts and deters. It attracts because it offers a critical impulse but it also deters due to the weight of its failures and perversions. 

In Border Theories, Somers adds another layer to her investigations by confronting enclaves that have double historical interpretations. Places like Kaliningrad and Sakhalin and Birobidzhan serve as examples of the Soviet Purpose and its political efforts to create a new past. All the sites chosen are near the USSR borders and have been witness to territorial issues over the years. Each photograph shows a utopic reality, where the future is orchestrated and the past is transformed from fiction to truth through a controlled urban process. This is where the main concept of the exhibition is revealed: an investigation of how these histories have been believed by the ‘colective’ mind and about the way these utopian elements become tangible truths. 

More information: Elian Somers, “Border Theories”


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