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Natalja Vikulina

MPhil work

A Sense of Place: Narratives of Memory and Identity as Told Through Image and Voice

Drawing upon participatory artistic practices and using the capacity of documentary photography and moving image both to construct and unsettle official discourses, my practice advances a collective exploration of memory and identity as embedded in designated places, and in turn makes visible the memories of place. My research looks specifically at the identity of place in the post-Soviet context to explore notions of belonging, identity and migration.

The research is structured around two case studies, which provide an in-depth analysis of two different methodological approaches to the study of a place, each situated in specified locations. 

The first case study, ‘Out of place’, examines the phenomenon of national identity as found within Baltic Russian emigrants now living in the UK. Focusing on a network of Russian-speaking emigrants from Latvia, I've established an audio-visual archive of the objects and memorabilia brought with the emigrants as they move from Latvia to the UK. Ten participants were invited to contribute to the project by telling a story about the object of their own selection. The case study aims to look at how the identity with a place can be constructed through people’s experience, and how place manifests itself through the objects and artefacts.

The second case study, ‘The Landscapes of Nizny Novgorod’, produced in collaboration with sociologist Olga Chernyavskaya, emerged out of the question of how identity of/with place can be constructed through representation of landscape. The case study is aimed at exploring the identity of Nizhny Novgorod (Russia), through tracing the distinctive features of its eight districts. Eight walks were organised, each one dedicated to a particular district. These walks were organised as field studies, though they carried elements of the Situationists’ dérives, they were designed to document the city and gather ‘the field data’, but also create a situation where new and unintended encounters could take place.

The contribution this MPhil seeks to make is situated in both methodological and artistic fields, in a reconsideration of the underlying principles and artistic practices in representing and constructing the identity of / with a place. The use of oral history as a method in the ‘Out of Place’ case study allowed me to create an identity of a place based on plurality and multiplicity. In the ‘Landscapes of Nizhny Novgorod’ the identity of a place was constructed through the means of photography, by giving voice to those parts of the city that are usually considered to be too banal or not interesting enough to be photographed.

Info

  • Natalja Vikulina
  • MPhil

    School

    School of Communication

    Programme

    Visual Communication, 2013–

  • Natalja Vikulina is an artist, designer and researcher, working across a variety of disciplines in visual communication including photography and moving image. Her research addresses places as phenomena. Her practice explores how memory and identity are embedded in places and how artistic practices can contribute to the construction of identity of/with a place. 

    Natalja Vikulina holds an MA in Visual Communication from the University of Westminster. She has exhibited internationally in London, Riga, Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.