Valeriya Olkhova's porject

I began this project by researching the history of Benthams Penitentiary, in particular the treatment and change in behaviour or adaptation of the female prisoners. I was captivated by the way the prison was operated, in terms of psychological power and control of the prisoners.

My interpretation was to use flowers, as a symbolism of the femininity / biological body, but also because they were treated as treasures. As reminders of life outside the prison, I disassembled and reconstructed them to represent my research. I made three - two to represent outside layers, and one inside.

Two reconstructed flowers were identical, just like the prisoners who were identical to each with their uniform and similiar hair cut. I cut the roots of the flowers, and added thorns as symbolism of protective second skin. (a mask for others). Wire and stitching were also used, because the wire would have been taken out of the window bars to manipulate dress, but also as a hint of restriction and adaptation.

For the inside, like the internal world of dreams and nightmares, self-reflection and self-scrutiny, the opposite techniques were used.

I also started documenting the decay and change in colour, texture, through shadow photography. The mood is silent, romantic, slightly nostalgic and dark. Documentation like the constant surveillance, and shadow do emphasise the blue print of reality, confronted in the darkness of the prison cell.

Techniques have included devore, dip dye, organic dyes, layers, while also looking at the techniques I used in the construction of the flowers - hand stitching, manipulations, and hand knitting of leather/ plastic bin bags.

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