Tears in the Sand: Performance and History

Night in BerlinTake a walk down a dimly lit road into a portrait of eastern Europe may never have seen before.

Came across this video the other day thanks to a friend’s post on the interaweb and was completely taken aback. In this 8 minutes long performance, Kseniya Simonova–winner of the contest ‘Ukraine’s Got Talent’– manages to bring her audience to tears while narrating a tragically beautiful visual rendition of the country’s history through swift motions of her fingers through grains of sand.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Her work is a series of temporal images that morph and change shape through time as she delicately brushes, indents, and sculpts copious amounts sand over a light box. Moving from landscapes to silhouettes to portraits, her movements through the sand evoke powerful emotional reactions from an audience watching her mold, sculpt, and re-create a deeply intimate moments in the country’s history. She conflates the public and private, shaping narratives of the past through her movements and changing images in the sand. Utilizing the protean nature of the sand, her material serves as a greater metaphor for the turbulent nature of history as it is remembered and re-told as she moves from close-up images of men and women, to distant landscapes of the country and city, only to be erased by the shaking of fingers or application of more sand. The process of shaping the images pulls the viewer between intricately personal and public worlds while never stopping for more than a second on one or the other, embodying the flux and motion of human experience over time.

Her performance is simultaneously in and out of time, occupying a liminal zone that extends into a realm where nothing but nebulous feeling exists. Her motions are too swift to linger on any one image or moment for too long. Perhaps it is the music, or the deep sadness portrayed in the images her fingers shape mirrored by the tears of the audience, but it is near impossible to watch her work without feeling a sense of nostalgia and loss, whether or not the experience is your own.

This will mesmerize you.


~ by Em on October 25, 2009.

One Response to “Tears in the Sand: Performance and History”

  1. I, too, enjoy watching the video, introduced by a friend of mine. It is very captivating and moving. Especially with the dramatic music and narrative that personal to many of the audience. Yet, I can’t help but asking one question, “Is it art?”.
    It it a good “Performance”, Yes. But Is it “Art”?
    I admit that it is very impressive well-crafted skill. It is a great performance.

    Then again, I would rather watch something well crafted and trained than someone screaming and rolling around in fishnet doing all the nonsense in name of art. (esp. when the performer is easy on eyes like Ms. Shimonova)

    Art is very subjective. Boundaries between Pop art, high art, and designs are ever so thin in our time. But if I were the performer, I would rather find myself a better platform than a TV show equivalent of “American Idols”.

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