Exhibition 'Verdwijnen: исчезновение', Zarya Center for contemporary Art, Vladivostok, Russia

8 videos, each 1 minute

Verdwijnen: исчезновение

Text by Рада Смолянская

Visual artist Elien Ronse visited apartments from residents of Vladivostok who responded on a call for things made in Vladivostok, in local factories or by the citizens themselves. She collected various artefacts: from the products of the previous porcelain factory to homemade knitted socks. Each of the items is being photographed, the history of its origin and appearance in the home is carefully documented like a persons biography.

Through a focus on private observations and everyday situations, the artist gives a look into global phenomena: the recession of local production and the growing market of cheap imports, the gradual deformation of family-habits and loss of tradition in crafts. The work identifies not only socio-economic problems, Ronse also questions the nature of subject-object relations in the context of possession. She deeply examines the concept of private property as a natural and universal category. A big part of human existence is determined by ‘having’, not only touchable commodities but as well individual routines. German philosopher and sociologist E. Fromm in his work "To have or to be" argues: "Ideas, beliefs and even habits can also become property. So, a person who has a habit of eating the same breakfast every morning at the same time can very well be knocked out of the rut even by a slight deviation from the usual ritual, since this habit has become his property and its loss threatens his safety. Contemporary society is focused on the value of consumption and profit, in here dominates ‘possession’ as one of the most important elements that form the foundation of a capitalist system. The artist offers the viewer to re-examine the links between the dualistic couple “subject-object”, starting from the interpretation of this rigid dichotomous relation between the two. The roles of the "knowable" and the "knowing", from the point of view of Ronse, are conditional and convergent, and hence the contradiction between these concepts is partly imaginary.


In her final work, inanimate things are given the right to speak, they act as contemplative individuals, capable of characterising their owner through a description of their own properties. Among the sources that influenced the approach of Ronse, it is necessary to refer to the works of classical Russian literature, in particular N.V. Gogol. The novels ‘The Overcoat’ and ‘The Nose’, in which the possessor and the thing change places, are the key texts to which the artist appeals.

Old things that have served their purpose are inevitably disappearing, family rituals are gradually lost or replaced, local identity is non-stop changing by globalisation. While documenting the local objects, Ronse attempts to preserve the last trace of disappearing phenomena and changing epochs.