| A context for work
During the 1970s, the Soviet Union permitted its citizens to immigrate away from the country after imposing restrictive policies that had dominated the last five decades1 before. In 1971, over 23,000 Soviets, the greater majority being Russian Jews, immigrated to the United States2. The number of émigrés leaving the USSR peaked in 1979 at 50,000 people3. Alina and Jeff Bliumis consider themselves to be representative of the Third Wave of Russian immigration 4 to the US. This last wave of immigration consisted of Soviet families leaving in the 1970's, 1980's, or through the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 1990's to come to the States, escaping from Soviet political ideology and anti-Semitism5.
About the artists
Alina and Jeff Bliumis are multidisciplinary artists who paint, create videos, animations, sculptures, installations, and related mixed media productions. They are both originally from the former Soviet Union now residing in New York City. Jeff Bliumis and his parents left Kishinev, Moldova, USSR, when he was fourteen years old6. His interest in art grew in the United States and he went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in Mathematics and Art and then continued to graduate school at Berkley University in California7.
Alina (Lukatsevich) Bliumis was born in the early 1970s
in Minsk8 and immigrated
to the United States in 1993, graduating from the School
of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts
degree in Computer Art9.
Alina explains that her and Jeff's emigration experience
to the States impacted their artistic development and
subsequent artistic productions10.
Alina and Jeff started working as an artistic team in
200011 and have since
collaborated on several projects. This paper will focus
on their joint projects, Geometric Geography.
It will explore how this piece relays concepts related
to the artists' personal memories and experiences of
emigration from the former Soviet Union to the United
About the work
Geometric Geography consists of five independent
works titled Example1, Example 2-4, Example 5-6,
Example 7-11, and Example 12. Geometric
Geography is charge with personal content relating
to the live experiences of Alina and Jeff Bliumis. Curator,
Olga Kopenkina, invited the two to participate in the
exhibition, "Post-Diasporas: Voyages and Mission", a
project at 1 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, where
Geometric Geography was first exhibited12.
Geometric Geography is autobiographical, portraying
the artists' reflections on their personal history,
memories, experiences, and emotions13
of leaving the Soviet Union. Geometric Geography
relates through sculptural elements a visual and tactile
story of the Third Wave of Russian immigration to the
US. Of interest, Alina mentions that although Jeff and
herself emigrated to the United States twelve years
apart, both consider themselves to be part of the Third
Wave of Russian immigration14.
In Geometric Geography, Alina and Jeff co-opt
geometrical shapes, children's paper art, and cultural
materials common to the former Soviet Union to represent
their homeland. The materials selected are mostly industrial
and manufactured forms such as plastic, rubber and metal
and Jeff explain how their education in the Soviet Union
was mainly based on the use of 'examples' or 'objects'
to illustrate lessons. For instance, certain state figureheads
were used as 'examples' of 'good' and 'ideal'16.
Thus, the two artists have appropriately titled this
series Example, reflecting their past educational experiences.
The artists incorporate diagrams to in their series
to illustrate themes of geometry and geography. The
numbers associated with each 'Example' also bear significant
meaning17. For instance,
Geometric Geography: Example 1 is a visual image
of a fingerprint representing the first step in the
immigration process. Alina and Jeff also attempt to
use visual symbols understood by a diverse set of viewers
who many have different cultural backgrounds than their
own. Nonetheless, the introduction of classic Russian
motifs which may be unfamiliar elements to their viewers
are used as a strategy to educate audiences about their
cultural, national and political heritages. The artists
feel the viewer should wonder and ask questions about
what is being presented and in doing so. The artwork
succeeds in offering a new understanding of different
1 Jacobs, Dan N. & Ellen Frankel Paul (Eds). Studies of the Third Wave: Recent Migration of Soviet Jews to the United States. iii.
2 Ibid. 11.
3 Ibid. iii
4 Interview. March 18th 2005
6 Alina and Jeff Bliumis. .
8 Interview. March 18th 2005
9 Pink and Pong: Biography
10 Interview. March 18th 2005
11 Alina and Jeff Bliumis. .
12 Interview. March 18th 2005
15 Interview. March 18th 2005.
17 Interview. March 28 2005.
18 Interview. March 18 2005.