UBC | Digital Visions
Digital Visions
Alina & Jeff Blumis
Writers: Elisa Tjin & Sylvia Borda
Geometric Geography

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 based movement"24.

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 closed circle"29. 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 cultural phenomena.

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.
21 Ibid
22 Interview. March 18 2005.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
25 Interview. March 28 2005.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.
28 Interview. March 18 2005
29 Interview. April 5 2005
30 Ibid.

previous 1 | 2