Daya Cahen

Birth of a Nation

This exhibition presents film and photography shot by Daya Cahen at Cadet School No. 9 in Moscow. The cadet training – the only one of its kind in the world – teaches girls aged 11-17 how to become the ideal Russian patriot and the ideal Russian woman. We see girls doing their hair, cooking, ironing, marching and learning to use weapons.

While the great Russian nation is glorified in song, the contradiction between militaristic indoctrination and childlike innocence is impossible to ignore. In addition to the film, Cahen presents a series of portraits of the girls which deals with the girlish sensitive aesthetic of their appearance and their confrontational military presence at the same time.

Birth of a Nation is an important document providing insight into Putin’s contemporary Russia that propagates heroism and patriotism. In a subtle yet penetrating way, Cahen conveys the consequences for the future of a country, where young women are called upon (again) to serve the collective.

An exhibition initiated by Claudia Küssel – curator, and coproduced with FOTODOK, LABOR and the Lumen Photography Foundation.

All images Birth of a Nation, 2012 © Daya Cahen