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Book of the Week: A Pick by Adam Bell


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Adam Bell Adam Bell selects Fate Shifts Shapes by Nicholas Muellner, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Sasha Rudensky and Clemens von Wedemeyer as Book of the Week.
Fate Shifts ShapesBy Nicholas Muellner, 
Anzhelina Polonskaya, Sasha Rudensky 
and Clemens von Wedemeyer. 
Spaces Corners, 2016 .
Adam Bell selects Fate Shifts Shapes by Nicholas Muellner, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Sasha Rudensky and Clemens von Wedemeyer from Spaces Corners as Book of the Week.

Like many books, Fate Shifts Shapes began as a show. In this case, a 2016 exhibition at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center curated by Nicholas Muellner that included his own work, as well as that by the poet Anzhelina Polonskaya, and the artists Sasha Rudensky and Clemens von Wedemeyer. Like most ambitious catalogs, the book does not simply transcribe or record the show, but instead reimagines it as a fascinating artist book. Eschewing captions or explanatory essays, the only text is interspersed fragments of poetry by Polonskaya. Weaving together the various artists’ work (shot almost entirely in Russia, Ukraine, and the Russian-occupied Crimea), Fate Shifts Shapes is an evocative and mysterious book about the fragility and resilience of identity and personhood in the face of an authoritarian and conservative regime.

In constant motion, the book makes excellent use of double and single gatefolds — opening and closing, the pages spill out to reveal or fold shut to conceal. Paradoxically, each fold and interlinked image seems to draw us closer, while at the same time leading us further astray or down a hall of mirrors. This clever design element mirrors the theatrical personas visible throughout the book — men and women displaying, hiding or performing their gender or identities in peculiar ways. Young men in black leather outfits hold a giant python. Two young strippers stretch and comb out blonde extensions on a mirrored stage. Yet danger seems to exist around the bend. Although not explicit, the work focuses largely on gay men, women, and migrants — vulnerable populations most places, but especially in socially conservative Russia. Read in this light, the work is about the ways in which identity is shaped by circumstance and pressured to conform. At a time when we’re confronted by our own authoritarian turn, it’s important to remind ourselves how much we still control, be wary of the ways we’re being forced to change, and fight when we can. — Adam Bell

Purchase Book

Fate Shifts ShapesBy Nicholas Muellner, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Sasha Rudensky and Clemens von Wedemeyer. Spaces Corners, 2016 .

Fate Shifts ShapesBy Nicholas Muellner, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Sasha Rudensky and Clemens von Wedemeyer. Spaces Corners, 2016 .

ADAM BELL is a photographer and writer. His work has been widely exhibited, and his writing and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Afterimage, The Art Book Review, The Brooklyn Rail, fototazo, Foam Magazine, Lay Flat, photo-eye and Paper-Journal. His books include The Education of a Photographer and Vision Anew: The Lens and Screen Arts. He is currently on staff and faculty at the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Art. (www.adambbell.com and blog.adambbell.com)


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