Informed by her Sakha roots, Xenia Kudrina translates the ancestral culture of her people into contemporary forms and meanings. The poles in the installation refer to a serge, both as a hitching post and a sacred wooden pole that represents the Sakha cosmological concept of the World Tree. Using glass and steel, Kudrina transforms this archetypal object into a statement about her people’s values and memories. The land of Sakha (Yakutia) is rich in resources like diamond, oil, gas, gold, and silver. Considering the resulting mines, oil wells, and pipelines dotted across the landscape, the artist questions whether these symbols of extractivism have become the new totems of our era. The title, Black Ice, is a reminder of the force of nature, referencing the destructive springtime deluge that flooded Kudrina’s hometown of Lensk in 2001. In an appeal for protection, her serges pay homage to Mother Earth and the spirits of the ancestors who urge worship of the totem of love and care, not of greed and ambition. The installation is accompanied by the singing of Stepanida Borisova, a Sakha actress and singer whose performances are evocative of a shamanic ritual.

Work in the exhibitionBlack Ice (2014), glass, steel, 7 poles, heights vary, sound, 9' 41". Courtesy of the artist