Ksenia Afonina

Wartime Art, The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society
Participates in 1 Session

An independent scholar and researcher of art and memories of WWII with a focus on unofficial art and its potential to trigger empathy and create ‘prosthetic memories’ in viewers.

Coming from a business and marketing background, I started researching memories of WWII and their reflection in visual artworks from 2012. In 2013 I organised the first exhibition of unofficial Soviet artists in Cambridge, which raised an unexpectedly active interest and positive feedback from British viewers.

In 2014 I received MA in Arts Policy and Management from Birkbeck College, University of London. In my thesis I explored official wartime art which is still being produced by the Grekov Studio of War Artists in Moscow, and its place in the collective memory of WWII in Russia. The focus of my study was art of dioramas and panoramas, which has become increasingly popular in Russia. As part of my research I interviewed artists and collected feedback from viewers.

I then worked with witnesses and active participants of war both in Russia and the UK and organised a series of public talks and seminars “Memories and histories of WWII” in Cambridge with the participation of Russian, British and Canadian veterans and historians from the University of Cambridge in 2015, 2016, 2017 - together with my colleagues at The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society. http://www.camruss.com/en/

In 2016, together with the British artist Jon England, we organised the first cross-cultural project which explored memories of two artist-veterans of WWII as recorded in a series of personal drawings. The exhibition, “Dual Perspectives: Second World War Drawings by Architect-Veterans from Russia and Britain”, took place during the Architectural Biennale of 2016 in Moscow and then moved to Moscow Architectural Institute.

Following success of this project, we were invited to show this exhibition at the Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in 2017. http://dualperspectives.org. On both occasions the popularity of the display and the emotional feedback from visitors exceeded our expectations.

In 2017, Libby Howie, John Barber and I co-curated an exhibition dedicated to the Siege of Leningrad: “Art and Endurance in the Siege of Leningrad” which took place in Cambridge. www.artandendurance.org. It showed selected lithographs and engravings by Elena Marttila based on her memories of the siege as well as sketches which she made as a young artist in Leningrad during the winter of 1941-42. The display was accompanied by a series of public lectures, films screenings and open discussions with academics, specialising in history and culture of war on the Eastern Front, as well as representatives of the local community who shared their personal and cultural memories of the war. This project proved to be one of the most popular events of the year where visitors travelled across the UK to view the artworks.

My long-standing experience in marketing research and communications helped me to collect and analyse visitors’ feedback, which included personal interviews with various audiences. The results showed the amazing power of artworks to trigger empathy and better understanding of history and other cultures.

I am currently working on a new series of exhibitions and an English edition of the publication "Unofficial Art of the Second World War. Elena Marttila. Pavel Afonin. Sergey Babkov. Personal History and Memory"- Kriga, St Petersburg (2020). https://www.labirint.ru/books/785382/

Sessions in which Ksenia Afonina participates

Saturday 7 August, 2021

Time Zone: EDT/(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Sessions in which Ksenia Afonina attends

Thursday 5 August, 2021

Time Zone: EDT/(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Saturday 7 August, 2021

Time Zone: EDT/(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
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12:45
12:45
Frederick Bode
Speaker
Concordia University
Professor Emeritus
Alison Rowley
Moderator
Concordia University
Professor