In his most recent work “The Appleseed Necklace”, Alexey Shlyk processes memories of the once predominant DIY-culture in his home country, which developed in his early childhood. Inspired by the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the people living in conditions of constant scarcity, he discovers a certain beauty in it and re-stages everyday items of his home to illustrate post-Soviet society functions today.
Alexey Shlyk was born in Belarus in 1986, when the state was still part of the Soviet Union. The collapse of Soviet communism in 1991 is still one of the most significant and turbulent events in recent history, with shock waves felt around the world. The countries of the Ostblock went through a transition from communal to individualistic, market-economic thinking. Families were forced to be creative and responsible if they wanted to make ends meet and survive at all.
“The Appleseed Necklace” series is based on the childhood memories of Alexey Shlyk. In this work, small personal anecdotes become socio-historical investigations of human flexibility, creativity and survival instincts. A bicycle wheel becomes a chandelier, a broken vase is laboriously glued back together and a chicken coop is built out of old wood.
Shlyk carefully builds facsimiles from memories: So they are not the things themselves. These objects have passed through the complex filter of time that determines what is left and what is lost. In fact, his images are as subjective as photography itself, which chops and alters time while pretending to show reality.
Alexey Shlyk's photographic work simultaneously transports itself to the present and the past, forming an ode to the tiny acts that carry the weight of history.
Mainly used by constructors, it was a number one toy for the kids’ war games.
Based on the story that was told by a friend, this lamp is a reconstruction of the traditional wheel chandelier, which was destroyed during one of the crazy wedding parties that where held in the house.
Cheering up the people during one of the financial crisis Lukashenko (president at that time) stated: You don't have enough of money for the gym? Take the bricks, and exercise at home!
I don't remember exactly who broke the vase, weather it was my brother or I. It took my grandmother almost a week to glue it together from the small pieces. At the moment it is still standing there, at my parent's house.
Re-styling and re-shaping the clothes that were previously worn by the parents has been one of the few means to actually have a fashionable dress.
Activated charcoal was used to treat food poisonings and prevent hangovers. An urgent measure was to swallow the burned matches. Be sure to discard the “heads”!
The Potato Picker
It is still quite normal in Belarus to send students to summer job of collecting potatoes on almost obligatory basis. My classmate came unprepared for that dusty work and the crafty tractor driver made the protective glasses out of the available material – a plastic bottle and a rubber string. This ability to make something vital out of nothing has really surprised me.
It has been a great moment in my life to own that wooden horse that my father made. I have tried to carefully reconstruct it from my nostalgic feelings of that moment.
Nothing was thrown away, even if there was no evident need to keep it at the moment. Later those still working pieces were used to repair another objects.
Inner bicycle tires were a kind of a treasure material. The thin and light rubber was used to fix various things – from umbrellas to inflatable boats.
The similar flowerpots can be seen today in almost every city of the post-Soviet region. I don't have a clear explanation for those objects, but I guess that it was one of the means of recycling the material and at the same time the source of joy to the owners.
Old clothes were never thrown away. They were recycled in any possible way –starting from the ropes that were used to support the tomatoes in the garden to the beautiful patchwork blankets and curtains.
One summer we went for a vacation to the seaside. At very moment when we came to the water my father saw that it was full of shrimp, and he ran to the apartment that we stayed at, and came back with a pillow cover. It was a delicious dinner that day!
Mayonnaise Hair Nest
Inspired by the rare western movies, high hairstyles became very popular. To obtain that look all different kinds of objects were hidden in the women's hair. Some people say that empty mayonnaise cans were the best.
The Chicken House
'Dachas' or the summer cottages are a specific cultural phenomenon for the post-Soviet region. Those tiny islands of freedom mostly feature constructions built out of the accessible material.
Home made alcohol at all times was an important product and in most of the cases it could even replace money. I think that pretty much every family was at different points making either house wine or ‘samogon’.
My very first bed was made from chairs that were put together. I do not remember much of it except that I was trying to escape from that little cage.
Back in the days green corners could be found in schools, polyclinics or other institutions. Perhaps they were aimed to teach kids how to take care of nature but later some plants were replaced by the plastic ones.
As nothing could be thrown away in 90s, car was a great place to store material on the way to the summer cottage.