Search for roots. 'My River' by Maria Elena Bonet

Art Project  |  BELARUSIAN  |  CONTEMPORARY ART  |  30.07.2020

The Triennial of Contemporary Art opened at the Palace of Arts in Minsk on July 22 — and not without scandals. Maria Elena Bonet withdrew her project 'My River' (exhibited in part) from the display and her name from the list of nominees for the National Prize in Fine Arts, which winners will be announced on the closing day of the exhibition on August 7. Maria made her decision when the Triennial organizers censored work by Sergei Belaoki. Our magazine publishes 'My River' as it could be viewed at the exhibition.


01 My river_Bonet (1) (1)

For many years, Maria Elena Bonet has been 'immersing herself' in cyanotype, photographic printing process invented in the second half of the 19th century. Project 'My River,' which includes 60 prints and a short film, is the result of her poetic and somewhat surreal interpretation of this nearly forgotten technique. 

The project took two years to complete, and over this time, it has transformed from the author's dialogue with herself to a study of one's identity. With inspiration and trust in herself, Maria Bonet has created more than an exhibition project, but a fair answer to the period, when one looks for their roots and confidence not just in the future, but also in the days long gone. 

'My River' is an endless story about the influence nature and native land have on the personality formation, and the impact the environment has on human perception of the world and one's sense of self.

02 My river_Bonet (1) (1)

'The main part of my project is the history of my ancestors, and I created it under the symbol of a river. The river is Neman — since childhood, its depth has been teaching me about my own depth. My ancestors were born on its banks, they've been living there generation upon generation – they were 'river' people, the spirit of the river lived in each of them, and blood running in their veins was half the river water. The river is a medium, it connects us all, all my family in time and in timelessness. Touching it, I touch the past and the future and feel the present in its fullness. We 'recognize' each other and ourselves in this touch.  <…>

03 My river_Bonet (1) (1)
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08 My river_Bonet (1) (1)

To one who is constantly seeking their roots, life is a flowing river. Just as the water has to run over the rough ground, so the one, acquiring their roots, has to accept the rough history, the constricted identity, and the forgotten traditions of their ancestors. The feeling of freedom nurtured by the river is passed on from person to person, gradually becoming a way of life. 

09 My river_Bonet (1) (1)

The river has given me a feeling of home that is inside me wherever I am. Lacking the sense of home on a national scale, I could perceive the world around me clearly — like an uprooted tree still grows its roots into the sky.  But at the same time, I remain tied to a certain place — when I face difficulties and feel bitter or in doubt, I come to the riverbank, and the river brings me back to myself again.

Sometimes I feel like the whole world is still breathing just because there is clean water somewhere in a small river that will always run to the sea.

10 My river_Bonet (1) (1)

All the works are cyanotype prints on watercolor paper. Cyanotype is an early technique of manual photo-printing.

Photo-131 (1)

Maria Elena Bonet is a Belarusian artist and photographer. She was born in Minsk in 1986.

Since 2007, Maria focuses on film photography and creates artworks using alternative photographic techniques such as gum bichromate process, tintype, cyanotype, and traditional silver gelatin photography.

In 2009, she graduated from the Belarusian State Academy of Art.

In 2017, photograph by Maria Bonet was recognized as one of the 100 best original photographs of the 19th and 21st centuries, according to the State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSPHOTO in St. Petersburg and was presented at the anniversary exhibition 'ROSPHOTO's 15th Anniversary Exhibition' in St. Petersburg.

This year, Maria Bonet's book won in the category 'Art Book' at the National Contest 'The Art of the Book – 2020.'




All materials are taken from the personal sources of the artist.

Reprinting of material is allowed only with the permission of the publisher.

If you found a mistake or would like to offer an addition to the published materials, please inform us.


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