Florida’s nickname is the “Sunshine State.” A quick Google search brings up glossy pictures of turquoise seas, endless beaches, palm trees and high-rise buildings. Yet, the region is hit by more storms than any other place in the USA. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian became the deadliest since 1935 – and the third most costly, causing over $113 billion in damages. As global temperatures rise, experts warn these events will become more frequent. Anastasia Samoylova (b. 1984) holds up a mirror to this reality.
The artist’s first retrospective in Germany offers a multi-dimensional view on the variety of people and places in the region, whilst reflecting struggles with extreme weather and flooding. Shots of pink flamingos – reflected in rippling pools – are met with images of battered trees and armchairs submerged in water. These scenes challenge shallow representations that only scratch the surface. The socio-cultural identity of the area also comes into play, with saturated portraits outlining political divisions. “This is a very troubled paradise, and a lot of my imagery reflects this,” the artist says. “I try to use familiar motifs of the leisurely tropics, but I present them as images not of promise or luxury, but of fragility and uncertainty.” It also expands on the history of art, from the road trip series of Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Robert Frank (1924-2019) and Walker Evans (1903-1975) to New Colour Photography, sparked in the 1960s by Joel Meyerowitz (b. 1938), Stephen Shore (b. 1947) and William Eggleston (b. 1939).
Moscow-born, Miami based Samoylova combines the symbols of environmentalism and consumerism in experimental, collage compositions – like an American fever dream. The collection builds a complex picture of the swing state’s layered, and, at times, conflicting, sense of identity. “My feeling is that photographs always pose more questions than they answer. That’s what they do best.” The show reflects this ethos, offering a fragmented vision of a seemingly familiar land turned upside down.
C/O Berlin | Until 4 May
Words: Eleanor Sutherland
1. Anastasia Samoylova, Venus Mirror, Miami, (2020).
2. Anastasia Samoylova, Blue Velvet Chair, (2020).
3. Anastasia Samoylova, Flamingo Reflection, (2018).