A video diptych by artist and photographer Polina Davydenko presents two video essays: Public Tinnitus and Potter Wasp, which tell the life stories of two characters: a woman, an economic migrant from Ukraine, and a man, a miner working in a coal mine in the Donetsk region. Their stories can be seen as a universal testimony about migration, poor working conditions or expressions of climate grief, and more narrowly as a record of the experience of many Ukrainian families before the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war began.
In the video Public Tinnitus, Polina Davydenko returns to her hometown of Dobropillja. Through the lyrics of a ballad, sung by a piece of coal found on a mining heap altering the natural horizon of the town, we can sense multiple subtle layers of meaning. We learn about the poor working conditions of the miners as well as the limited employment opportunities for the women living there, who find fulfillment mainly in taking care of their children. Against the backdrop of the stereotypical and, from a distance, somewhat bleak-looking reality of the inhabitants of Dobropillja, we also understand the broader global context of the impact of coal mining, which the author expresses through a metaphor. She likens the mechanism of the mining town to a beehive, where honey is taken from the bees and replaced with sugar.
Polina Davydenko asks why some stereotypes are so insurmountable. The ubiquitous coal mining that keeps the whole town alive is heard and seen, but no one pays attention to it. Like tinnitus, or whistling in the ears, which disappears and reappears depending on how much attention is paid to it.
The following video essay, Potter Wasp, in turn, talks about the plight of economic migrants and migrant women. It creates a plastic picture of a generation that has to face high demands on a daily basis with uncertain recognition for their efforts. The image of the old home is increasingly crumbling and a new one is hard to build. Polina Davydenko uses the motif of the solitary potter wasp as a metaphor for a person who has been forced to leave their own home and now struggles with feelings of rejection, uprootedness and inequality in the new environment. She thus likens the individualistic lifestyle of the potter wasp to that of human immigrant mothers, combining several low-paying jobs in the belief of building better conditions and support systems for their offspring.
Length : 5:50
Author : Polina Davydenko
Year : 2020
Vocals : Toyota Vangelis
Length : 8:55
Author : Polina Davydenko
Year : 2022
Voiceover : Simona Peková
Sound design : Jakub Mynář, Jonáš Svoboda
Music : Klara Wodehn
Costumes : Ester Turečková, Hana Kubešová
3D animation consultation : Michaela Werunská