Declared Detachment (2012 – present) by a Russian photographer Mariya Kozhanova takes us to the world of ‘cosplay’ in contemporary Russia, where the post-war generation explores its identity through costume play ‘imported’ from Japan.
‘Declared Detachment represents a generation of Russians, who were born in times when well-organised society and established identity fell apart. All myths and beliefs that were the driving force for the earlier generations were destroyed. Children were born into our times ideologically naked.
The lack of a foundation that held the society together created a reality that youth could not trust. Forces needed for developing their own identities were missing. At the same time, their society could not offer them any ideology or meaning. Thus, this young generation of Russians started to borrow ideologies from other, foreign cultures.
Some young Russians declared their identity through Japanese mass culture of “cosplay”, where in a simple, catchy, bright, spectacular, and superficial world of anime heroes, attractive idols, and colourful looks one could become anyone they wanted to be. Russian youth escaped into a different ideology and tried to build their illusionary worlds on the ruins of the past. Nevertheless, are their beliefs strong enough to establish a new self-identity or is all this just a temporary detachment from troubles and imperfections of everyday life?’
Mariya Kozhanova, 2012
Kozhanova’s portraits in the Declared Detachment series are rather intriguing and mix the East-East references in an interesting manner. Even though cosplay is something we tend to associate with Japan, tiny details in the background reveal true geographical context of the project. For example, the Teenage Princess (apart from quite Slavic looks) is seating on a sofa covered with a generic, Slavic-style blanket with the wall behind her decorated with a kind of tapestry that can still be found in many Russian and Eastern European homes. Otherwise, take the cherry blossom image. Cherry blossom is obviously loaded with meanings but when treated as a cultural reference, it is – again – mostly associated with Japan. Kozhanova’s Cherry Blossom is truly poetic – perfectly in line with the theatricality of cosplay. Nevertheless, the DIY-style plastic foil greenhouse in the background points the viewer in another direction.
Mariya Kozhanova (b.1986) is a Russian photographer based in Kaliningrad, Russia, where she was also born. In 2008 Kozhanova completed her studies at the State Kaliningrad Technical University. Since 2007 she has had work exhibited in solo and group shows in Russia, Eastern Europe, and beyond, including in Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, USA, Singapore, Nepal, and Japan. Since 2014, her work has been published in Emerge Mag, FOTO Magazine, VISION Magazine, SHOTS Magazine, New York Times Lens Blog, International New York Times, and 2014 Le Monde Magazine.