The Weisman is a local favorite of mine. They are currently hosting a photography exhibit of the history, landscape, culture and inhabitants of what most people think of as Siberia. There are two large gallery spaces with close to 100 photographs dating from the late 1800’s to the current time.
Photography is one of my favorite art forms and I especially love learning about people, places and history through this medium. I must admit that another big plus of this particular exhibit was the informative write-ups that accompanied nearly every picture. It can be challenging to interpret any art and sometimes a well written paragraph makes all the difference. A photograph of a person in a flowing shirt swinging a naked child by the legs overhead is a specific example. It was helpful to be told, in the accompanying write-up, about the religion(s) that flourished in Siberia after the loosening of political constraints that came with the falling of the wall. It was a surprising baptism ritual, but at least I wasn’t left clueless.
While I imagine cold, snow and desolation when I think of Siberia, I never developed mental images of the vast resources it also holds. I also now realize the obvious; there were native Siberians that lived in this frosty region before others decided to tap into those resources. Native Siberians that had to be dealt with by being moved aside and retaught a new culture. I didn’t have pictures of the gulags that housed those who were used for years to tap into these resources. Nor the small cities that developed specifically to mine and refine the metals found there.
As the Weisman’s website states, “Despite the fact that Siberia’s largest city, Novosibirsk, is one of Minneapolis/St. Paul’s sister cities, most Minnesotans, like most Americans, know little about Russia’s elusive Siberian territories.” On a personal side note, the photographs of the small towns looked very much like Minnesota in the winter. Snow everywhere.
If you have ever wondered what Siberian life was and is like, pay the Weisman a visit before the closing of this exhibit on May 18, 2014.
I walked the mall with Paul after leaving the Weisman to see if Northrop Auditorium was open and, if so, check on the status of the revitalization. It wasn’t open, but the walk was interesting none the less. It was a reminder of the time I spent there as a student, walking the windswept snowy paths to classes in the winter and laying in the grass in the summer, pretending to study. A couple of 180 degree spins produced these rather bleak pictures of the mall in midwinter.