Anastasia Samoylova's Image Cities represents a sprawling international tour through theworld's most significant urban centers, which together form a powerful interconnected globalnetwork of cultural and economic influence.
Throughout 17 cities, which include New York, Paris, London, Zurich, Tokyo, and Milan, amongothers, Samoylova trains her lens intently on the public-facing images that saturate the surfacesof these metropolises and forms a critical and lyrical study of how such images exert theirinfluences on urban inhabitants. In doing so, the artist shows us not what is unique to theseplaces but what is the same: The ominous and creeping homogeneity of commodity culture thatis manifesting from an increasingly corporatized planet.
When we walk through the streets of a major city, we absorb the environment as a part of ouridentity. Who we are and who we become is so often realized by where we are and theinfluences of culture and values that surround us. What does it mean to be a New Yorker,exactly? Or a Parisian? The notion of local heritage is one that has traditionally guided ourorientations toward the rest of the world. However, what we find in Image Cities, and whatSamoylova urgently attempts to warn us of, is that when our environments change and becomedraped in the cloth of a larger globalized culture, we very likely will change along with it.
The city speaks to us as we walk its streets, and in Image Cities, Samoylova interprets itsmessages. Thick with advertisements for watches and blouses, billboards flaunting shiny andexpensive goods, and construction banners that offer us hopeful glimpses of how old buildingswill transform into new luxurious oases, the city becomes an arena of promises that beckonfrom all directions. As we continue our deep march into the 21st century, we should be well
aware that pictures are such promises - of a better life, of expensive ideals - which direct us withfeelings of glamor and aspiration. Much of what we encounter in our daily lives is guided by theslick aesthetic templates of contemporary image makers. This is the song of a corporatizedworld, and these are the values it urges us to keep closer.
The culture of commodities now circulates the globe, and the city is now an ideologicalbattleground between the local and the global, between community and the aspirational self.We are the target of such advancements, caught between forces beyond our control. Theimmediacy of visual communication is difficult, if not impossible, to defend against, and soprovokes an important question: Is it possible to prevent the influences of commodity culturefrom penetrating us? If we fight back against such visual persuasions, perhaps it is only in theproduction of new images that we can counteract the spells of rhetoric that so frequently temptus.
While absorbing and reflecting on these core themes, Samoylova's aesthetic tactics form aunique lyrical and symbolic visual play. Throughout her images, the artist employs collage-likepictorial strategies that hybridize figure and environment. It is a visual language made possiblewith the use of a telephoto lens - an antithetical tool to street photography's traditions, yet onewhich allows the artist to compress visual space and muddy the distinctions between figure andground. Throughout Image Cities, this mode of visual synthesis makes it difficult to separate thesingular human and the cultural constructions which surround them, mirroring the symbioticrelationship between product and consumer.
In the end, what Image Cities becomes is a portrait of the quickly advancing optimism that theconglomerated corporatized world thrusts upon us. They ask us to abandon the old andembrace the new, yet the question of why such change is important to begin with is one thatthese messengers hope we avoid at all costs.
Press release courtesy Sabrina Amrani.