Tatar artist and researcher Yäniyä Mikhalina is occupied with the different ways that psychic and political dimensions produce, represent, and distort reality through the weaving of historical and contemporary case studies that address issues of coloniality, sex, mental health, class, and language. In her two-channel video installation, the artist employs a psychoanalytical lens to probe the historical, linguistic, phantasmagorical, and personal narratives surrounding the name Söembikä. This name refers to the last female ruler of the Kazan Khanate, a national Tatar figure of resistance. Legend has it that she leapt from a tower to avoid a forced marriage to the Muscovite Tsar Ivan the Terrible following his conquest of her kingdom and forced Christianization of her people. Mikhalina recorded six women of varying ages, all named Söembikä, as they sang a historical song about their legendary namesake in the Tatar language. With differing proficiencies in their native tongue, their accents become an important component of the performance. The second video references the myth of Söembikä’s final act by depicting a dress being cast from the tower that bears her name. In this work, Mikhalina is less concerned with the category of historical authenticity or with showcasing a multitude of interpretations of this story. Instead, she is captivated by the historical unconscious, which does not exist in and of itself but unfolds through each singular engagement with the story of Söembikä.
Work in the exhibition: The Voice of Söembikä, 2-channel video installation. Courtesy of the artist