How do you do… Moscow!
Text by John Harrison
At last a group of foreigners has got together to do something to celebrate the fact that we are who we are: foreigners. The exhibition “How do you do… Moscow?”, which you can catch from August 21 onwards at MMOMA is, in the words of Iben Muriel, one of the photographers and organizers: “simply a photographic and journalistic project showcasing living in Moscow as seen through the eyes of a foreigner.” Putting on something like this is never as simple as it may seem in Moscow so I asked her how the exhibition came about and what it is trying to say.
How did this exhibition come about?
For a while, starting last year, four girls, Charlotte Cova-Coquillaud, Liz Anderson, Manuela Rüedi and myself) used to go out together to take photographs of Moscow. After the Christmas holidays we decided to do something with the photography that we were doing anyway, and try to put a show together. We all had various ideas, and the French girl, Charlotte Cova- Coquillaud, thought that it would be interesting to see how other foreigners live, and what they thought about the place. We deliberately didn’t call them expats because there are a lot of foreigners here who aren’t expats.
So, over the first half of this year, we took photographs of foreigners. It started with people we knew and it grew from there. There are 43 participants from the worlds of diplomacy, media, art, business and sport. We wanted to make it as wide a cross-section of who lives here as possible so participants include a mother, a teenager, a priest, a UN official, an ambassador as well as ÁÈ-2, (the rock band), John Warren (Warren’s Sausages), Arian Alikhani (Lensmaster), Thomas Bluy (head chef at The Most), Luke Harding (The Guardian), Martyn Andrews (Russia Today), Nick Barron (MediaCom) to mention a few. We tried to spread the nationalities and age groups as much as possible, but the reality is that there are more Brits than anybody else, simply because we know more of them. It is, however, more or less 50/50 men and women.
What is the main goal of the exhibition?
“We are trying to bring the foreign community together under one roof without the accompanying label of nationality, business club or women’s organization. This is a light-hearted and fun way to share feelings and thoughts about the city we are living in. There will also be ways in which the audience can come in and take part in the exhibition in an interactive way.
“When we started, we thought we’d interview each person, but in the end we decided to ask everybody a set of standard questions; such as: what have been your best and worst moments in Moscow? What would you say to the mayor of Moscow if he came round? What if Moscow was a song? What will you miss if/when you leave? Everyone had to complete the sentence: living in Moscow is… Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a different story. We wanted to tap into people’s experiences and lives here. All the participants have the same size photograph as well as a placard with some of their answers in English and Russian. There is no differentiation between people’s status.
Will you be making any money from the show?
We will not be making any money from ticket sales as MMOMA is really helping us out by providing a gallery space. We will, however, be able to raise funds for charity from the four different posters that will be on sale. Our sponsors are kindly paying for printing, so all money from those sales will go to charity. The charities are: Big Brothers Big Sisters (www.bbbsrussia.org) and Nastenka (www.nastenka.ru). We will be selling a catalogue of the exhibition – a percentage of any proceeds will also go to charity.
The purpose of this exhibition is quite simply to share foreigners’ views of living in Moscow. Come along and share your view.