Polina Medvedeva
Russian-Dutch filmmaker, researcher and artist
INFO
About
Polina Medvedeva is a Russian-Dutch artist, filmmaker and resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In her work she is exploring practices and ways of being that are often considered “informal” or “non-conformist,” such as shadow economies and subcultural and communal care practices. Yet, at close sight, the protagonists that Medvedeva portrays, and who in turn become involved with her artistic process, – be it unlicensed taxi drivers, rappers, junk dealers, or undocumented female workers – complicate the prescriptive narratives attached to their livelihoods. Instead, their stories elaborate how lived experience does not fit into rigid categories of inside/outside, belonging/exclusion, formality/informality. Often practiced by necessity rather than by choice, the everyday struggles, survival techniques, and support mechanisms are revealed as being at the core of today’s global economy. Her work merges ethnographic filmmaking, AV performance, and installation, inviting the viewer to become immersed into her observations. Medvedeva’s pieces embrace the very contradictions she encountered while growing up between Russia and the Netherlands, between two distinct political and economic systems. Her body of work speaks of the sensibilities one has to develop when navigating different cultures and finding a way in-between. Ultimately, her work is a plea for a more differentiated, non-judgmental, and open-ended engagement with differences across societies and economies. Medvedeva’s work was selected for de Gouden Kalf competition of the Nederlands Film Festival, screened at VPRO, Eye on Palestine festival, IDFA Docs for Sale and exhibited at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem; Art Brussels; Rotterdam City Theatre; De Nieuwe Vide, Haarlem and CBK Groningen. Performances include Sonic Acts festival, Amsterdam; Lofoten International Art Festival, Svolvær; Brighton Festival, Brighton; Inversia Festival, Murmansk and A4, Bratislava. Medvedeva has been a guest tutor at Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, ArtEZ Zwolle, Gerrit Rietveld Academie and is a tutor and lecturer at the Utrecht University of the Arts. - Text by Michaela Büsse

CONTACT
p.a.medvedeva@gmail.com

VIMEO
vimeo.com/polinamedvedeva

INSTAGRAM
https://www.instagram.com/p.a.medvedeva/

CURRICULUM VITAE
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But this was later, when they already had a name for us
But this was later, when they already had a name for us
Synopsis
A diptych positioning our home footage shot in the 1990s’ Russia alongside a portrait of my mother and her Russian friends, all of whom had migrated to The Netherlands when the fall of the USSR signaled a turning point in their personal lives. Oral histories of cross-border suitcase trading in the 1990s, the first wave of online dating in 2000s and present day dealing with Dutch institutions as a migrant ate retold at a temp that mimics the making of lampshades – our first side job upon moving to The Netherlands – as this all-female support network continues to operate.
Trailer
Credits
2021, 12" + 25"

Direction / Cinematography/Editing/Grading:
Polina Medvedeva

Additional camera:
Merel Oenema

Sound Design / Mixage:
Suzanne Boekestijn

Original score:
Andreas Kühne


https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2021/06/17/rijksakademie-toont-lichting-zeer-krachtige-kunstenaars-a4047708
https://www.volkskrant.nl/cultuur-media/de-rijksakademie-kon-haar-jubileum-niet-vieren-zoals-gepland-maar-gelukkig-zijn-de-ateliers-weer-open~b7d78616/
The Informals II
The Informals II
Cinematic A/V performance
Synopsis
Addressing the idea of single narrative truth, the improvised documentary performance explores the lives and stories of Brighton’s youths. In a time when the political climate is not representative of them, they use their music culture to challenge stigmas, such as music inciting to violence, and stereotypes and to reclaim public spaces, focussing on community and wellbeing. The work is assembled live on stage, where Andreas Kühne is composing the sound score, adding dialogue while Polina Medvedeva edits the separate clips into scenes, highlighting different narratives with every performance, endlessly reshaping the documentary.
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Credits
Collaboration with Andreas Kühne. The Informals II is a new commission by Lighthouse and Brighton Festival, with support from Re-Imagine Europe, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, Mondriaan Fund and Creative Industries Fund NL. The Informals was originally commissioned by Sonic Acts and Inverse Festival, Murmansk. Thanks to AudioActive for introductions and supporting the artists to align this project with the talent across the city.

https://brightonfestival.org/news/informals-ii-interview/
https://www.lighthouse.org.uk/events/informals-live
https://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/live-outdoor-immersive-performance-and-cinematic-experience-platforming-brightons-music-talent-comes-to-jubilee-square-for-one-night-only/
The Informals/Неформалы
The Informals/Неформалы
2019, audiovisual live-documentary performance, duration varies
Synopsis
The Informals/Неформалы is partly an autobiographical work, as well as a universal statement on the notions of decentralization, collectivism and non-conformist ways of living among the youth in the digital age. The audiovisual collaboration between Polina Medvedeva and Andreas Kühne researches the improvisation technique in the medium documentary and in its methodology resembles the patterns of the digital natives of Murmansk, who in order to escape the norms and social constructs of the Northern Region of Russia navigate to deserted spaces in their area, and through their collective presence improvise with the space, adding a new layer to its genealogy. Medvedeva and Kuhne travel back to the former military zone Medvedeva was born in and through documentation and field improvisation, much like the youths of Murmansk region, by resonating with this now abandoned area temporarily transfer it into the present. The collected data, divided into separate interchangeable contextual elements and prepared for live triggering and processing, resembles an audiovisual instrument which, when played by the artist duo, produces and exports new unscripted versions with each live performance, with narrations, connections and interpretations emerging through the presence of the audience.
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Credits
In collaboration with Andreas Kühne

Joint commission by Sonic Acts and Inversia Festival, supported by Creative Industries Fund NL and Performing Arts Fund NL

Screenings and presentations include:
Inversia Festival ‘19, Murmansk, world premiere
Sonic Acts Festival 19, european premiere
Sonic Acts publication 2019
The Champagne Drinkers: Russia’s Informal Economy from the Back seat of a Taxi
The Champagne Drinkers: Russia’s Informal Economy from the Back seat of a Taxi
2015–2018, documentary, 53’ with four-channel video installation on smartphones and car seats
Synopsis
Drawing on my childhood memories of growing up in Russia during the transition to capitalism in the 1990s, I analyze the informal economies that provide a livelihood for a significant portion of the population. The video installation The Champagne Drinkers focuses on the unlicensed taxi drivers in my hometown of Pskov, who proudly defend their work by citing a Russian proverb: “One who doesn’t take risks doesn’t drink champagne.” Recording from the back seat, I document a population of resourceful, strong-willed individuals who refuse to give in to hopelessness, even when faced with widespread unemployment and financial hardship. For a 2018 exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, the film has been set up as an installation, and is accompanied by smartphones placed between car seats reflecting on the film three years later, where feverish economic activity of this newly-formed precariat is contrasted by continuous waiting for the order.
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Exhibitions and screenings include:
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, as part of Freedom of Movement, municipal art acquisitions, 2018-2019.
NPO2 and 2Doc, in “Makers van morgen”
Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem,
Framer Framed, Amsterdam as part of the ‘Dialetheia’ group exhibition
Hotel Droog, Amsterdam

https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/freedom-of-movement
https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/digdeeper/polina-medvedeva
#VerlorenJongensZullenWinnen
#VerlorenJongensZullenWinnen
2020, transmedia documentary
Synopsis
#VJZW is a playlist of a new generation of young game changers armed with a telephone, camera or microphone, each in their own way, fighting against various forms of inequality within our society. From systemic racism to stereotypes and typecasting - together they kick against norms that do not represent them, claiming space from established institutions and mainstream media as independent creators, thereby redefining political engagement.

#VJZW is a film, an installation and a live performance that explores new media as a tool for social change.
Trailer
Credits
Direction / Cinematography/Production/Concept and Research:
Polina Medvedeva
Isaura Sanwirjatmo

Montage:
Emma Mandjes

Sound Design / Mixage:
Suzanne Boekestijn
Jan David Hoogerheide

Grading:
René Huwaë

Original score:
Lévi Nathan De Hoon
(Kauwboy)

Visual Effects / Graphic Design:
Sofija Stanković En Teodora Stojković
(Teyosh)

Developer installation:
Van Leeuwen & Van Leeuwen

Premiered at Nederlands Film Festival in competition for Beste Interactive '20
Pre-premiere Take Over event at WORM Rotterdam

Research presentations include:
Progress Bar S03E07
Pecha Kucha x Melkweg cinema
Netherlands Film Festival ‘18 professionals panel
Roffa film club IFFR edition ‘19

https://www.filmfestival.nl/nieuws/nff-interactive-interview-polina-medvedeva-over-verlorenjongenszullenwinnen/
https://stimuleringsfonds.nl/nl/digitale_cultuur/interview_polina_en_isaura_verlorenjongenszullenwinnen/
https://www.filmfestival.nl/nieuws/selectie-gouden-kalf-beste-interactive-2020-bekend/

https://www.instagram.com/verlorenjongenszullenwinnen/
Area C, System D: Dealings along the Jerusalem Ramallah road
Area C, System D: Dealings along the Jerusalem Ramallah road
2017, documentary, 84’
Synopsis
Area C, System D was filmed over the course of a year in Al-Ram and Kufr Aqab, and at the Qalandia, al-Am’ari and Kaddoura refugee camps in the West Bank. The documentary depicts the informal socio-political structures of these locations, which remain ungovernable by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities. Area C, System D portrays the thriving grey economy and self-governance along the main Jerusalem-Ramallah road, where shops and buildings are unlicensed, the cars often stolen and where the electricity and sewer lines are built on one’s own initiative. Told from the perspectives of shopkeepers and a group of young musicians heading for their illegal concert in an unlicensed car, the film is a parallel narration of both daily struggle and resilience, desperation and the power of individuals, amid a constant bustle of vibrant entreprise and rap.
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Credits
With appearance and music by: Sa’aleek: Tyseer Qatom, Maen Ozrail, Mohammad Silwadi; Straight Outta Palestine: Shams Aldeek, Saleh Abu Diab; Yazan Yaqob.
Sound recording: Andreas Kühne

Soundtrack composer: Bram Stadhouders
Sound engineer: David Hoogerheide
Motion Graphics: Benedikt Wöppel
Translation: Shams Assi, Shevan Haj

Produced with the support of Creative Industries Fund NL
http://www.areacsystemd.com

Screenings include:
IDFA docs for Sale, Amsterdam
WIELS Foundation for Contemporary Art, Brussels
Black Market during Art Brussels event hosted by school for architecture brussels
Eye on Palestine festival, Antwerp
Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem
Dutch Design Week, In No Particular Order group exhibition of the talent development grant recipients of the Creative Industries Fund NL

Surely God Is In This Property
Surely God Is In This Property
2016, video, 15’
Synopsis
Surely God Is in This Property is about the growing economy of Nigerian Pentecostal churches illegally housed in industrial properties in South-East London. From the outside, the buildings appear abandoned, but, in fact, they are used to service hundreds of worshippers. Through interviews with a realtor and a real estate broker, the informal economic structures within which the churches operate become visible. In order to evoke the contrasts between religion and entrepreneurship, I juxtapose the reality of these informal economies with the exuberant aesthetics of the churches’ online media channels.
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Credits
With music by: Davide Cairo

Commission by De Nieuwe Vide gallery, Haarlem for the exhibition during Haarlemse Lente 2016
Presented during the ‘In No Particular Order’ exhibition of the Dutch Design Week with recipients of the Talent development grant of Creative Industries Fund NL
Export
Export
2016, video triptych, 6’
Synopsis
Produced as a triptych to be exhibited on the 12-meter long video wall of Rotterdam City Theatre commissioned for the Informal Ecologies program of its Club Imagine series, the video focuses on the informal export and reuse of car parts taken from junkyards as the one in Kralingen by individual entrepreneurs from inside and outside of Europe. A Ukrainian man I met at a junkyard around Amsterdam in 2014, who helped me tear the car chairs out using solely his hands, served as an inspiration for the video. In that time he drove to the Netherlands every month, buying as many chairs from the junkyard as could fit in his car for €20,- to sell them on a market in Ukraine. The precarity of these traders and their dependency on the fault-lines in agreements between governments and corporations become visible through processes of formalisation, as the laws established following the referendum on the official trade union between Ukraine and the Netherlands, from late 2016 on resulted in Alexander’s own trade construction becoming unprofitable. Instead of him, I found many other traders at the Kralingen junkyard in Rotterdam, driving from Turkey, Russia and Egypt. Their routes are exemplary to the multiplicity of ‘trade unions’ emerging informally which, when mapped out together sketch the real-time map of Europe, its borders continuously shifting. The combination of the manual labour performed by the users of this mechanical wasteland and their rhythmic movements resembling machines is highlighted by the music’s repetitive counterpunctual polyphonic canon.
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Credits
With music by: How Town
Commission by Rotterdam City Theatre, part of the Informal Ecologies Programme of Club Imagine 2020, an interdisciplinary programme on notions of sustainability in the arts, part of Creative Europe 2020

Links:
https://www.theaterrotterdam.nl/agenda/5095/Informal_ecologies/Club_Imagine/
Spoonful
Spoonful
2016, video, 12’
Synopsis
Spoonful is a speculative video researching instead of the physical, the economic dependency of sugar by drawing parallels with heroin, to which studies show a similar brain reaction, and its trade routes. Through different stages of this dependency, along its diverse economical interests the video takes the viewer from pop culture imagery including film, music and fashion, past the the Heroin Chic trend Prada brought back in 2016 while referencing the 19.. cult film Cristiane F and along the poppy fields in war torn Afghanistan into the laboratories of the contemporary bio-scientists, terminating in the kitchens of the home brewers worldwide. Spoonful speculates on the power and opportunities these individuals will acquire in the near future in the safety of their homes, out of sight of the authorities and on the crucial role sugar will play in this process.
Trailer
No trailer available
Credits
Commissioned by CBK Groningen for the 100-year anniversary of the Groningen Sugar factory and the exhibition “Made of Sugar and Salt”.
Veem theatre promotional video
Veem theatre promotional video
2018, video, 2’
Synopsis
A video summarizing Veem’s 2017-2018 season, also known as The 100 Day House in which, rather than yielding to the cultural sector budget cuts and compromising the quality of the programme, Veem radically decided to only programme the 100 days of the season.
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DAS graduate school promotional video
The Sandberg Design Network
The Sandberg Design Network
Interactieve website, 2014
Synopsis
In this interactive website functioning as a yearbook of the Sandberg Instituut design department, next to showcasing their work the departments’ tutors and students discuss the components of their practice used to take a position in the field. The website showcases video content shot through Skype, its form researching the idea of directing a the video from a distance, with the camera in the hands of the subject. The videos are set up as a social network linked together, responsive to themes and keywords, creating the idea of the Sandberg as a social network, through which the user is being navigated.
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Credits
Commission by the Design Department of the Sandberg Instituut, in collaboration with Mark Jan van Tellingen, website by Van Leeuwen & Van Leeuwen.
Rhyme lessons in a phone shop. The new knowledge economy in Amsterdam-West.
Rhyme lessons in a phone shop. The new knowledge economy in Amsterdam-West.
2012–2013, print and video, 1’
Synopsis
In an effort to redeploy the dogmatic structures of specialisation, unused knowledge, relevant experience, character traits and talents of 95 shopkeepers along one line of businesses in Amsterdam West are collected. What happens when a baker in his shop is asked for additional advice based on other qualities and experience besides his skills of running a bakery? People are so much more than their jobs. Recognizing their qualities and realizing their full potential strengthens their self esteem. And the worth of a neighborhood community as a result of that. This research interviewing the 95 small businesses and shops resulted in an alternative Yellow pages of these three streets in Amsterdam West with more than 600 talents, where you can learn history from a kebab vendor, coping with stress in a daycare center and rhyme schemes in a phone shop.
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Palestine
Palestine
2014, video, 1’
Synopsis
Shot in Palestine in 2014, this video is part of the series 'After the Arab Spring' of The One Minutes Foundation, curated by Yassine El Idrissi.
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Credits
Screenings include:
Reykjavík International Film Festival (IS); Arab Camera Festival, Rotterdam (NL); WOW, Amsterdam (NL); L’École supérieure des arts visuels de Marrakech - ÉSAV(MA); L’Institut Néerlandais au Maroc NIMAR, Rabat (MA); One Minute Film & Video Festival, Aarau (CH); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (NL); deBuren, Brussels (BE);
Dortmunder U (DE); Drents Museum/CBK Assen (NL); East China Normal University, Shanghai (CN); Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle (NL); Museum Hilversum (NL); Museum De Pont, Tilburg (NL);
Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam (NL); SCHUNCK*, Heerlen (NL); Huis de Pinto, Amsterdam (NL)
Bike lane musings
Bike lane musings
2014, book with additional soundscape
Synopsis
Fascinated by the multiplicity of characters living in Amsterdam, rotating within their self-created circles of contacts and as users navigating the city spaces with their tactics unattainable to the eyes of the urban planners, I decided to interfere with my own cycle routine by interfering into theirs and biking with them to their destinations. The simple question 'What's on your mind?' while cycling together unchained a series of anecdotes, life stories, dreams and worries and resulted in a book with 21 alternative bicycle routes compiled after these Amsterdam residents, taking the reader throughout the entire city along their personal stories and sights.
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The One Minutes workshop videos
The One Minutes workshop videos
2014-ongoing, video, 1’
Synopsis
Working as a film trainer for the One Minutes Foundation and Unicef, I guided workshops in Afghanistan, The Ukraine, Albania, Philippines and The Netherlands. During the five days, the trainers together with each participant would realise one-minute films from storyboard to end titles. Working with youngsters on visualizing their stories taught me a lot on the socio-political structures in these countries from the perspective of its young residents. The two videos below, developed during the Afghanistan workshop were nominated for the One MInutes Awards and screened during IDFA 2014.

Next to filming as part of the workshop, I shot scenes depicting subjects I research in my own work. Just outside of Tirana, Albania stands this house, and the family living there was kind to let us use its premises as a film location for the workshop. Observing their daily routine in the meantime, I was surprised by the simplicity yet self-sufficiency of their household and their adaptability to the elements.
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La-la-land of survival
La-la-land of survival
2013, video essay, 21’
Synopsis
This video essay deals with two types of informality I was researching while studying a semester at an MFA programme of OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. The street artists on the one side, the seemingly free spirits of Venice Beach who make clear to function outside the system by choice, performing their sidewalk shows as a daily form of resistance against the establishment. And on the other side the illegal vendors in Downtown L.A., often immigrants who through their socio-economic position are forced to take part in the informal economy. Although many are repeatedly arrested, they continue trading in pirated music, nowadays sold on sd and usb cards, jewelry, clothing and fast food, sold out of carts, trucks parked on street corners and the occasional ‘shops’ stacked up against the wall of a parking garage. Next to these performers and vendors I spoke to Caleb Zigas, a San Francisco entrepreneur who provides a platform for groups of illegal home cooks to develop their practices in an official manner.
Trailer
No trailer available
Credits
Produced during MFA exchange programme at OTIS, Los Angeles. Screened as part of Amsterdam-Athens group exhibition of the Sandberg Instituut at Kunsthalle Athena, Athens