© 2021 MOCT Foundation
Artists' Film International
Whitechapel Gallery &
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
March 2021

Established by the Whitechapel Gallery in 2008, Artists' Film International (AFI) is a collaborative project of 20 global art institutions, bringing together recent moving image works that are screened in each of the participating venues for one year. During 2021, works responding to the theme of care unfold across all partner organisations.

MMOMA is the first state museum in Russia to concentrate its activities exclusively on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is an energetic institution that plays an important part in the Moscow art scene and has one of the largest and most impressive collections of modern and contemporary Russian art.

This is the second year of MMOMA being a partner organisation in the AFI initiative. The board of selected curators at MMOMA had picked a video piece The Friendship Tree by Polina Kanis, an artist from St Petersburg.
Polina Kanis explores a utopian vision of political and ecological symbiosis based on the Friendship Tree developed in 1934 by a Soviet scientist out of hundreds of grafts of citrus varieties donated by different countries. Fyodor Zorin, a Soviet scientist, planted a wild lemon tree in the botanical garden in Sochi. Then he grafted other fruits onto its crown: Japanese mandarins, Spanish oranges, Chinese kumquats, Italian lemons, grapefruits and more, up to a total of 45 different citrus varieties. A tradition grew up: new grafts were added to the tree by prominent figures, politicians, artists, scientists, astronauts, athletes. Today there are more than 630 of these additional shoots, representing 167 different countries. The grafting ritual is mirrored by the gifts sent from all over the world. The Friendship Tree (2021) of today imagines how to equip ourselves with new tools and new ways of relating to the planet.

To watch the film go to polinakanis.com
Artists' Film International (AFI) partners are: Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas, USA; Belgrade Cultural Centre, Belgrade, Serbia; Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden; CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania; Centre for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan (CCAA), Kabul, Afghanistan; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland; Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Galleria D'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; Friends of Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; KWM artcentre, Beijing, China; Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation, Amman, Jordan; Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland; Video-Forum of Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin, German; Para Site, Hong Kong; Project 88, Mumbai, India; Tromsø Kunstforening, Tromsø, Norway; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK.
in conversation with
Polina Kanis
Polina, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I am from St. Petersburg, moved to Moscow and now I'm based in the Netherlands.
I graduated from Rodchenko Art School majoring in Moving Image, though I have started studying photography. I have realised that moving image is a more challenging medium for me and allows me to develop the potential of my projects further. I can't say I only work with moving image, though it always stays a significant element of my projects

What inspired you to make the work?

In order to resist the prevailing structures, resistance itself must be interrogated. Challenging the notion of 'action' and 'resistance' is a prerogative to reorient the definition of dissent. Rather than buying into the dichotomy of 'to act' or to remain 'passive' a new space must be forged. Responding to my ongoing work with 'the non-event', an un-suspenseful stasis, my proposed artistic work is a Toothless Resistance.

One of many starting points for this project is The Friendship Tree in the Tsentralny City District of Sochi, southern Russia, which symbolises the context of failed global utopia. 167 nation-states are represented by donated sprigs of citrus trees that have been grafted together to form one monstrous, artificial whole. This "living symbol" of global unity is human-centric with no consideration of the process from the position of the tree itself. How can this tree be sensed in order to transition from one planetary gaze to another?
I found it an important case for reconsideration of the resistance and the dichotomy of the 'action' and 'resistance'.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I continue to work on the Toothless Resistance project and its next part which will be shown at the end of 2021.

Read more: polinakanis.com
Watch more: vimeo.com