A r t > T i m e l i n e
G r a n n y ' s B o n e s
Performance, Installation, Photographs and VR Film
Received the Mansfield-Ruddock Prize
In the private collection of Mansfield College, Oxford
"Anya Gleizer’s piece, Granny’s Bones, combines monumental sculpture, virtual reality and doctored photography, referencing a trip to Siberia, and her costumed performances at the Ruskin School of Art and Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The jury felt the many elements to Gleizer’s work – performance, sculpture, VR, photography, and costume – were tied together by a strong narrative, exploring cultural identity, both personal and historical." - ArtDaily
Granny’s Bones, comprises an installation, a diptych-film in VR, a series of altered photographs and an accompanying performance.
The piece is inspired by the peculiar story of Maria Czaplicka, a female Oxford anthropologist who embarked on an expedition up the Yenisei River of central Siberia to study the Evenki people in 1914. Czaplicka returned with much of the museum’s current collections of material culture from native Siberia and with one of the earliest comprehensive accounts of Siberian shamanism. Her visits incurred a disturbance in the places she passed. She desecrated the graves of her hosts’ grandparents in order to retrieve artifacts and human bones for the museum. Upon her return to England, Maria Czaplicka took her own life.
In 2019, I followed Maria Czaplicka’s tracks up the Yenisei River of central Siberia to a contemporary Evenkia. I found an unfinished conversation of two cultures facing each other: daguerreotypes, letters, lantern slides, grant proposals, maps, post cards, travel cheques, lecture notes, receipts. Although Czaplicka was registered as buried in three different English cities, all the cemeteries denied having her on account of her suicide. Combing through the graves I found her ruined tomb and began to conceive of a fictive universe in which a little wolf haunted the disturbed graves of two grandmothers who could not find their peace.
My investigations of Czaplicka’s altered daguerrotypes, the two VR films (each 15min, which reflect two views of the same meeting point, shot from two perspectives), the “pods” which the viewer has to enter to see them and the performance of the little wolf, all use fiction to underscore the absurdist methods of early-20th-century anthropology and the reality of its contemporary consequences. Sometimes humorous, sometimes sinister, the methods employed by Czaplicka in the name of “Science” expose the inherent creativity of the anthropologist. In positioning anthropology as a subjective practice in world-making, we begin to see the true nature of the interaction that took place between native Evenki and western scholar — not as an objective observation of object by subject, but as a dance leaping from conflict to reconciliation.
Download the Expedition Report Here
I am thinking about Maria.
or Marie Antoinette de Czaplicka (ridiculous).
about her achievements, her blunders and our complicity.
At the turn of the 19th century many people thought about Maria:
an exceptional Oxford anthropologist, a woman, or, a “Man of Science”
(her own words), “a Healing Woman” (words of native Sibiriaki),
“a pure flame too intense for mortal body” (words of her male Oxford supervisor),
“her own mistress for too many years” (a professor at Oxford).
Not so much now.
Her grave is broken, grown over with small yellow flowers.
I am thinking about Tilka’s grandmother. Her grave is broken too.
I am thinking about the involuntary entanglements we stumble through and the broader choreography of anthropology performing its own antics and transformations through time.
She writes of the performances of the shaman witnessed in 1915; how he “falls to the ground unconscious, while his soul is wandering in the other worlds, talking with the spirits and asking them for advice.”
She is unwittingly enacting a very similar performance of her own.
She travels to the “worlds” of the Evenki peoples she deems “other,” and simultaneously, by articulating them as such, she begins to create a cultural imaginary world, her own conception of Siberian reality, through which others will later wander, seeking advice from a long deceased “spirit” anthropologist (Maria commits suicide in 1921) to reconstruct a cultural reality in the present.
I am getting entangled in this choreography.
I can hear the rattling of their bones.
Magpies in Siberia
Black River (In Basho's Footsteps)
The Blue Skies of Your Horizons (for Chandi)