In Example 1 (see fig. 1), a large graphic appears
representing a fingerprint. Typically fingerprints are
collected when applying for a driver's license, citizenship,
or are used for other government-related applications19.
When the viewer moves closer to the graphic image, it
becomes apparent that the fingerprint is constructed
from a series of rubber shoeprints. As mentioned earlier,
the fingerprint represents the first step in the immigration
process wherein the rubber shoeprints arguably indicate
that first step into the new country20.
Example 2-4 (see fig. 2) is a self-portrait of Alina and Jeff. Their faces are illustrated through a series of hand-painted dots, denoting a significant amount of invested artistic labour. Each dot is a unique unit or signature but in unity creates a portrait. According to Jeff, the dot technique illustrates their fragmented souls caught between two cultures.
Example 5-6 (see fig. 3) appears from a distance as
a Star of David, however, it is constructed from more
than 1500 Soviet Union-issued gold star pins from the
former communist country21.
The Star of David is emblematic of the mass Jewish emigration
from Russia to the States. Of particular interest, each
pin displays the child portrait of the founder of the
Russian Communist Party, Vladimir Lenin22.
It is significant to note that these pins were worn
by Soviet elementary school children and are well remembered
by the artists. To Alina and Jeff, the pins resonate
with the mandatory membership in the "Oktjabrjata" party
(children of the October Revolution) and thus were issued
as a way to demark citizens alliance (October refers
to Lenin's Socialist Revolution, which began in October
of 191723). The artists
used state-issued pins to further emphasize their relationship
to the former Soviet Union. Jeff rationalizes the pieces
further by stating, "the radical transformation from
a Soviet school child - under a symbol of a five corner
star to a member of a Jewish emigration - under the
symbol of a six corner star is the idea behind Geometric
Geography: Example 5-6. The work emphasizes the transition
from the socialist reality into a nationally and politically
Example 7-11 spells out the acronym, "U.S.A", and is constructed from more state-issued pins depicting Lenin. The two artists relate that when a person immigrates to another country culture shock is one of the first reactions experienced. However, with time, a new immigrant can adapt to this adopted homeland. According to Alina and Jeff, Example 7-11 reflects this process of adaptation.
According to the two artists, the U.S.A. was a, "destination
point of the current journey, where one's identity goes
into the melting pot and comes out reshaped by the new
reality"25. The placement
of this ready-made, Soviet icon spelling the three letters
of U-S-A symbolizes this processes of cross-assimilation
of two countries and ideologies melding together26.
Therefore, Example 7-11 stands as a symbol of settlement
and assimilation in the and ironically plays off the
7-11 food store chain. The artists explain that '7-Eleven'
is a brand that all Americans recognize, thus 7 and
11 are used as the symbolic numbers for assimilation
and for the title of this work27.
Example 12, is composed of three black panels with
twelve black boats adhered to it. This vignette displays
an early form of transportation used by immigrants in
arriving to the United States. The three black panels
are symbolic of the Black Sea, which separates southwestern
Russia from the Western World28.
The successive reduction in boasts displayed from one
panel to the next symbolically illustrates the journey
and the boats lost at sea. In viewing the whole pictorial
place, three panels have a total of twelve boats, which
according to Alina and Jeff is a number that corresponds
to "the geometric idea that twelve represents a full
Both add that the number twelve also represents the
twelve tribes in the Old Testament of the Bible20.
Some of the twelve boats are not displayed statically,
some are depicted submerged implying a symbolic sinking
or disappearing from old communist ideologies to new
The rational behind why people move to a new house, school or even country vary from socio-political to economic or religious reasons and freedoms. Regardless of reasons for immigration, what remains certain is that both identities and individuals are mutable over time and shifts in experiences from newly adopted environments and geographies. Those who experience emigration are faced with dilemmas of being torn between old customs, new ways, and unfamiliar geographies to negotiate. Thus, Alina and Jeff Bliumis's Geometric Geography is a mixed media installation ultimately illustrating where one leaves behind familiar cultural geographies in search or new futures and experiences.
19 "Fingerprints", April 2005
20 Interview. March 28 2005.
22 Interview. March 18 2005.
25 Interview. March 28 2005.
28 Interview. March 18 2005
29 Interview. April 5 2005