Toeing the line between film and photography, Hart Lëshkina’s latest project is an emotional performance

Titled Show Me How To Feel, the duo – Tati and Erik – have created a photographic exploration into the meaning of identity.

Date
30 September 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

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In many cases, the medium of photography often presents itself in a very similar manner to film. Whether it’s through casting, set design, elaborate displays of props or masks, or a transformative moment that takes us back to the early 1800s, a photograph has the power to take us places. Hart Lëshkina – a photographic duo of Tati and Erik based in Los Angeles – has centred its most recent project around all that is cinematic. Titled Show Me How To Feel, the work is a photographic exploration of the self and identity, set on a Hollywood soundstage with a group of young actors at the centre.

At the moment, the duo both admit how they now exist in a “completely different world” to when we last heard from them – one that means they’ve been working hard to navigate the current pandemic. “We have been very fortunate and don’t take for granted our own circumstances,” Tati tells It’s Nice That, who, alongside Erik, spends the day working, making art, helping others and “escaping” in nature. “Intimacy, exchange and dialogue is an inherent part of the creation of our work; it has been interesting to try and learn other ways to make connections and communicate with others when there is this necessary distance between us and others.”

Although we can no longer physically interact with the ease that we used to, there have been some benefits to working in the digital sphere, which much of their recent work takes grace in. Hart Lëshkina has seen things move a bit slower, whereby the “nuanced conversations” have become even more important than ever before. “Because of this distance and space, we feel we have more time to think and explore ideas both within our art practice and our commercial work,” says Erik. “While this time holds much uncertainty, we are trying our best to be present with it and use it to the best of our advantage; if anything, this distance has made things seem even more precious and delicate than before.”

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Hart Lëshkina: Show Me How to Feel (Copyright © Hart Lëshkina, 2020)

An offshoot of this more focused, time-conscious working process has lent itself greatly towards Show Me How To Feel. Having started the project at the end of 2019 – a time just before the pandemic took hold – the initial move was to explore an idea for a short film and, from that research, Show Me How To Feel was conceived. “We wanted to take elements of film production and, through various constructed scenes, attempt to create an environment and opportunity to push one’s capacity of emotional displays, actions and reactions,” says Tati, continuing to explain how they wanted to find that sweet moment where one can lose themselves wholeheartedly in the performance, going “beyond the pre-assumed facets of character and their own identity.” This meant that the actors were to “lose themselves”, revealing a new layer about themselves in the process.

In their last project titled Out of You, the duo worked on an exploration of the self, exploring the complexities of adolescence as it followed a young, female protagonist. Show Me How To Feel is a development of this, as it’s centred around the nature of identity. Shot entirely in landscape 35mm format, on an empty Hollywood soundstage, the group of young actors were asked to perform in a range of different situations that examine themes of “group dynamics, power exchange ritual and initiation,” says Erik. “We wanted each scene to have the tension between the real and the performed.” The result of which is an apt blend of the cinematic and the photographic; everything is very conceptually led and driven by the actor’s pure sense of emotion. This can be seen in the playful embraces of the subjects, the studio-lit backdrop, and movements or gestures that are not too dissimilar to that which you’d find in a school’s drama class.

The project is imperatively energetic, but the real context behind it all still remains slightly obscured – an intentional move by its creators in order to keep the audience’s imagination running free. “It alludes to the scenarios that are not depicted, and allows the viewer to project on to the image and make their own connections and associations of what situations or potential circumstances are coinciding just beyond,” concludes Tati. Above all, Hart Lëshkina believes that if they were to fully reveal the message then it would become a “rational depiction” and this, most importantly, “prevents the mind from wondering”.

Show Me How to Feel was made possible through a partnership with WePresent.

GalleryHart Lëshkina: Show Me How to Feel (Copyright © Hart Lëshkina, 2020)

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Hart Lëshkina: Show Me How to Feel (Copyright © Hart Lëshkina, 2020)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and continued to work with us on a freelance basis. From November 2019 she joined the team again, working with us as a Staff Writer on Mondays and Tuesdays until August 2020.

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