OLGA ULMANN
 

project description: Soviet Uniform Rituals and Quilts   

Soviet culture functioned as a superstructure over all regions of the former USSR, burying underneath itself all other cultures and ethnicities and pursuing a totalitarian ideology that strongly anchored in Soviet symbols and rituals.

An integral part of the ideological everyday life were uniforms that defined people in their social environment and conveyed cultural, social and personal values. The Soviet school uniform was a part of this ideology and functioned as a symbol for the Soviet system. This culturally charged piece of fabric was my companion growing up. 

In my video performances I have re- enacted typical Soviet rituals that have repetitively taken place in both public and private every day life. Inspired by the aesthetics of the propaganda posters in Socialist Realism style, I demonstrate the following typical rituals: In the video performance Soviet Pioneer ritual I act out the everyday ritual of a pioneer and tie the scarf around my neck, attach the “Leninstar” and put on the Pilotka. Finally, I display Pioneer’s salute.

stills from the video performance: Soviet Pioneer Ritual; color, without sound, 0:44 min, 2012 ; shown at Museum for Russian-German Cultural History, Detmold, 2012 - 2013 



In the video performance: Insignia on Uniform, I wear the common Soviet school uniform while pinning on “Leninstars” on my chest, until it is completely covered. My performances function as self-staged reflection mechanism, including my own body and my personal past. It is an analytical and also playful exploration of the functionality of signs and rituals and the logic of their perception as well as the emergence and loss of their meaning.

stills from the video performance: Insignia on Uniform; color, without sound, 3:22 min, 2012; shown at Museum for Russian-German Cultural History, Detmold, 2012 - 2013 

exhibition view: Form und Uniform at REINWEISS 9010, Frankfurt 2011



The fascination for the uniform has taken structural features, leading to its dis- and an alternative version of re- assembly. Especially the temptation to stitch together this former Soviet textile according to the meticulous rules of quilting, causing a fusion of Soviet symbolism and the traditional craftsmanship of North America. This is an allusion to the former dualism of the Cold War during which I spent much of my childhood. The following work connects an identity-forming everyday object with a traditional craft, uniting the two formerly hostile Systems.

7 Soviet Quilts consists of 7 individual pieces of textile, all sewn and quilted the same way from the same type of textile. They are congruent in terms of size, place- ment of the apron with the pinned “Leninstar” and the red border strip around the quilt and thus gives an abstract inter- pretation of the former Soviet Union schooluniform. At first glance the quilts may lookidentical, but each one differs in its com- position and displays different items of the uniform. Those parts are linked together and belong to one homogeneous whole - the complete brown dress. This work deliberately evokes a sense of uniformity and their number has a reference to the 7th of November 1917 (the October Revolution), an important national holiday in the former USSR.

 7 Soviet Quilts, textile elements, sewn together, each 100 x 50 x 3cm, 201; exhibition view: Form und Uniform at REINWEISS 9010, Frankfurt 2011

Soviet Quilt - details