Grandmothers: Q&A with Anna Radchenko

GRANDmothers continues Anna Radchenko’s body of work encouraging us to ask: “What if?” The project plays with the idea that we will eventually be able to have children later in life, to the extent where even as grandparents we will have the choice to become pregnant. Composed of a set of photographs and a short film, GRANDmothers stands as a humorous visual commentary on society’s pressure to become a mother by a certain age in order to still be considered valuable.

We at TWSS sent Anna our questions, and are thrilled to share her responses and photographs from the project.

These images are surprising, unsettling and humorous. What is the audience reaction you are hoping for?

Obviously this was a project that I did for myself, as a way to engage with a topic that is close to my heart. But it’s great to see how so many people have reacted to this. My aim isn’t really about choosing where people stand; I just want to make sure that this conversation takes place.

The photoshoot took place in an old gynaecological hospital and the photos have a strong post-soviet theme. Would you say this project is more about reflecting on the past, challenging our present, or looking to the future? 

It’s all of it. We are looking at our past as a reminder. Projects such as GRANDmothers are a way to challenge our expectations to make sure that we can make things easier for ourselves and for the future generations.

In one of your shots, there is a framed image of Vladimir Putin, positioned as if he’s staring down at the subject’s ‘pregnant’ belly. Is this an intentional comment on the control of the state over women’s bodies and their privacy? If so, could you reflect on this theme?

The whole project works with an aesthetic of oppositions. The location and the props play with our perception, combining the new with the old. Channeling a strong post-soviet aesthetic, we find pop band posters hanging on the wall, as well as Russian propaganda prints praising the traditional family. The aim is to leave us wondering about what would happen if we stopped adhering to social norms and acting according to society’s expectations.

You also explored the theme of ageing in your 2017 fashion film ‘Silver Goddesses’. What is it about this theme that interests and inspires you? And how do you think ageism can be challenged, both systematically and personally?

It mostly comes from my mother. She’s still so young to me and yet I can see her being worried about what people may think if she’s at a restaurant by herself, for example. This is the mindset I want to shift. Ageism should be challenged on a personal level, but also from a societal point of view.

How has this project built on or been influenced by your earlier work?

My work stems from the question “what if”. This is something that I’ve had since my childhood and it helps me work on a variety of topics but always with a clear direction.

Would you consider this project to be feminist? If so, is your work a form of activism?

I would consider myself to be a surreal femminist. I want to address topics that I care about, but always with a hint of surrealism behind it. I feel it’s a good way to have people engage with important issues. 

To learn more about Anna’s work, head to her website.

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