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“Home is with the people that love you and you love,” says artist, performer and director Lidia Russkova-Hasaya (@saintlidia) of her exhibition Homesick, shown during the Venice Biennale 2024. “The world is our home.” Expanding upon the overall theme of this year’s Venice Biennale, Stranieri Ovunque ("Foreigners Everywhere"), Homesick (curated by Alena Stetsiukevich) shown via CREA Cantieri del Contemporaneo Venice in Giudecca, Venice provided a unique perspective into the curatorial concept. The exhibition explored ideas including identity, dislocation, immigration, alienation and otherness.


Russkova-Hasaya by Daniil Onichev

Homesick encompassed a diverse array of disciplines and mediums, including video art, public art installations, and photography. Spanning three interior rooms (including one outdoor area), the show’s linear curation offered a narrative focused on the notion of “foreigners”, relating closely to the chosen Biennale theme from personal, global, socio-political view-points. 

The artists and curator showcased in this exhibition collaborated on an international scale. Russkova-Hasaya engaged with the curator in Dubai and reached out to Timofey Kolesnikov (@timofeykolesnikov), a contemporary visual artist based in Paris, France. “There’s no one word to express ‘Homesick,’ [in my own language]” Russkova-Hasaya explains, “it’s a very familiar feeling [...] homesickness is definitely something very familiar, it is sometimes painful.” The experience of being rejected for Georgian citizenship sparked the inspiration behind Homesick as well the artists decision to explore her personal histories to understand her own identity.

Images courtesy of artist

At the beginning of the exhibition, positioned on the outside patio, Russkova-Hasaya greets visitors with a neon sign reading: “I feel rejected by my own people.” Written in Georgian, the artist made the decision to display her own delicate, slanted handwriting on a brick wall. As she explained: “I really wanted to bring [Georgian] to Venice.” 


Walking inside of the first room of Homesick, art viewers entered into a dark space to view Russkova-Hasaya's artwork entitled Bebo’s Tales. Through this three-channel video portrait, the artist filmed a  conversation with her grandmother about her life whilst sitting in her female relative’s Tbilisian living room. Split between three video monitors, the artist’s grandmother spoke in three different languages (including a regional Georgian dialect and in Russian). 

Bebo's Tales, 2024. Video and installation shorts courtesy of artist.

In the second room, art-goers observed haunting photographs of alien-like creatures by artist Timofey Kolesnikov. Throughout this space, visitors witnessed random chairs positioned upright in the artist’s installation. The tone of the exhibition transitioned from an intimate, comforting feeling of home and comfort established by Lidia’s grandmother’s story to capturing sentiments of  isolation, dislocation and alienation via Kolesnikov’s larger-than-life artworks. 

Timofey Kolesnikov, 2024. Installation view courtesy of author

In the third room of the exhibition, Russkova-Hasaya created a powerful, site-specific display entitled Grandma’s Recipes - consisting of brown moving boxes (upcycled from local businesses in Giudecca and Lido) - to resemble a storage or an archive facility. On the side of the doorway positioned outside of the box display, Lidia wrote (in her own handwriting, again) a list of imagined objects of which might have existed in these boxes - adding her own sense of humour to the titles: VHS Tapes, High School Sh*t, The EX box (5), and Other Exes. Such artworks focused on Lidia’s life journey as a continuation of her grandmother’s life story.

 Photography courtesy of Daniil Onichev


In 2024, the power of Public Art is as important as ever. Although I avoid calling or referring to any artistic movement as a trend, I believe that artists should consider re-visiting this artistic mode of practice to make contemporary exhibitions a bit more accessible to the public. Following in the traditions of artists like Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor, Russkova-Hasaya’s Sculptural and Industrial art created exhibition experiences that immediately captured the typical art visitor’s attention. The artist and her work navigated between both personal and global perspectives skillfully - allowing viewers to establish their own connections to her specific pieces. 


As Kapoor noted in 2008 in conversation with Artistic & Executive Director of Public Art Fund Nicolas Baume: “Artists don't make objects. Artists make mythologies.” Artists represent formidable story-tellers: it is through their creativity and craft that these individuals communicate their own perspectives and specific narratives with the rest of the world. Especially for foreign artists, their abilities to convey their own stories provide a way for these individuals to establish their respective spaces in the art world. 

 Photography courtesy of Daniil Onichev

As we explored the exhibition, Russkova-Hasaya and I spoke at length about our backgrounds. I myself am mixed-race (half-Caucasian and half-Japanese)— however, I do not speak Japanese. Growing up, I always had one foot in each of my two worlds and cultures. Although I never experienced direct rejection from my dual heritage, I would describe my childhood as similar to growing up in an idyllic bubble: yes, I am mixed-race, but my that aspect of my identity was never a main topic of discussion in my family. My separate cultural customs made up specific parts representative of my whole identity.

The power of Public Art seeks to engage us as both art lovers and as art-viewers on a personal level. As Russkova-Hasaya notes, “It democratises Art,” she stated, “it gives you [the audience] a chance to really interact with the Art. I feel like it’s a very good tool [for] connecting society to the city’s infrastructure.” I find such artworks (when executed well) much more inspiring and thrilling to look at in an exhibition. Immersive artworks and artistic displays grant an artist a special connection to their audiences free from the constraints of the traditional white-wall gallery space. Lidia’s previous Public Art installations include Portal at the 18th International Architectural Exhibition in Venice, Italy in 2023 and Missed Opportunity at the Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2024. 

On the topic of this year’s Biennale, Pier Paolo Scelsi, Art Director of CREA Cantieri del Contemporaneo Venice offered this comment: “It’s about the art,” he remarked, “this huge event, I think it’s the most important in [the Contemporary Art World]. It should be able to connect people,” he says, “It’s the way that the [Giardini della] Biennale is not just the [main exhibition], [there] are more than 300 openings in three days.” 


Home is (not always) where the heart is. Home is a carefully-curated idea based on the notion of identity. As people, our lives are like building blocks. The beauty of Russkova-Hasaya's artwork in Homesick exists in the artist’s understanding of the importance of archival materials (note the red thread between Russkova-Hasaya's work and Christoph Büchel's play on historic archives and storage rooms in the ongoing Fondazione Prada Exhibition). Similar to how artists create artwork, we (as women and creatives) make our own families; home represents where our creations exist in the world. The feelings of dislocation and rejection do not truly exist; no government can dictate where a person chooses to live if their identity and their culture possess ties to a specific country. Through our own unique, separate identities we (as a society) make up one world (and even one art world). 

Homesick ran from 16th April 2024 - 7th May 2024 at CREA Cantieri del Contemporaneo, Giudecca, 211, Venice, Italy.


Zoe Goetzmann is an Arts Writer and a Podcaster based in London.


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