07.09.2020 - 06.11.2020

Every Cook

Just ten years ago, the national identity seemed to have become obsolete. It was awfully
inappropriate to say “I am French” or “I am Russian”. The enthusiasm related to the former glory of
one or other nation vanished when it turned out that all that heritage is absolutely worthless in the
new world, where people are constantly transforming throughout their lives. However, by the end of
the 2010s, a new wave of national identity washed over the world. With no irony or no critical
distance. The previously oppressed nations have risen and inspired at once those who were
anything but expected at this festival of national renascence – the power nations that made the
world shake. We started hearing people say “I am Chinese” and “I am American”. Now it has
become inappropriate – I would say, even impossible – not to identify oneself in any way in the
table of ethnic groups, cultures and state entities. But seriously, we did not return to the 19 th
century. Then why all these national antics? Is it a sort of a global cosplay? Maybe, after all, this
second awakening of nations has some kind of historical relevance, practical worth, or, at worst,
applicability in the national economy? Scientists are arguing, journalists are disputing, emotions are
running high on social networks. They cannot find a clear-cut answer.

And here the pot holder comes to the rescue. It is a simple yet perfectly symbolic object. It protects
hands from the fire when they are engaged in the ancient art of cooking. That is exactly what is
expected from the perfect nation state – to take on the function of protection while citizens are
peacefully doing their business. Peace and quiet. Decorated with the colors of the national flag, as
in Olga Bozhkos project, the pot holder allows you not only to define your identity but also to get
quite definite benefits from it, here and now – day after day. Even with football fan scarves, created
to clearly distinguish no less imaginary identities, this does not work – they are certainly scarves,
yet they are rarely used to keep warm. But Bozhkos pot holder demonstrates a strong and
harmonious union of the symbolic and the practical. You can even take it with you to a
manifestation. Lets imagine: hundreds, thousands of people marching and smiling, waving their
pot holders with, for example, a Chinese flag. It looks like reality. Now imagine the same with
Czech, Danish, Moroccan flags... Unexpected, but quite realistic.

And since, according to the recent events, the national question 1 is here to stay, shall we focus it on
similar areas? At least, it will be useful. In the art of cooking, despite any globalization, the ethnic
trace is strong. We understand well when people talk about Italian, Indian, Japanese cuisine. So let
the kitchen space itself be a national reserve! Just imagine visiting your friends and seeing the potholder with a Georgian flag hanging next to the stove – you can get straight away that within these
four walls there is a culinary consulate of khinkali, phali and khachapuri. Thats good. You can get
a stamp in your passport at the entrance. Meanwhile, the neighbors have a German pot holder and
a queue for sausages in their kitchen. And they pour beer – everything is clear. We just have to
choose which gastronomic tour to go on. Stereotypes in this case even seem to be adorable. And
may no national question with conflicts and claims of the past, no insults to the feelings of ethnic
groups, and definitely no “great power chauvinism”, go beyond the walls of the kitchen!
But I wish it was only about the new nationalism – as the artist shows, everything is much more
serious. Recognizable symbols of the Soviet project are being reconstructed for the tenth time. The
emerging post-Soviet rituals – from official St. George ribbons to protest emblems – are on air.
Every day we are invited to join one or other party which suggests, in particular, the adoption of a
certain set of symbols. A filter (attitude) for a profile picture, a sticker (worldview) on a laptop, a T-
shirt with a slogan (accusation), a graffiti (challenge) on the way home – all this is so ubiquitous
that no flags can compete with this amount of political declarations. You cannot hide, you cannot
run away. The key question is how to live with it. Well, the same way Rimbaud answered and the
same way Olga Bozhko repeats in her project: day after day.

Sergey Guskov

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