In the seminal video Workout, Kanis looks at the phenomenon of exercise in public space—specifically aerobics exercises in parks around Moscow today—as a broader lens for thinking about generational change. She leads a local group of participants through a work-shopped sequence of aerobics and marching. Each participant moves steadily and confidently in unison. Suited in western sports gear and found in a municipal garden in Moscow, the elderly locals follow suit as the briskly paced instructor leads the way. The sexual overtones of Kanis’ presence as an instructor pervade the video. While seemingly innocent in the taking of her exercise class, the opening of the instructor’s legs and the angle of the camera strongly suggests objectification and sexualisation of women in sport. Kanis’ performance work is a sophisticated tool in locating and deconstructing structures of generational difference, transitions of political regime, social remnants of the past and gender placement in society.
Polina Kanis (b. 1985 Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg Russia) is a leading video practitioner of the post-soviet generation. Kanis is a graduate of the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia (2006) and the Rodchenko Art School (2011). Her choreographed situations are symbolic of her time and incorporate a removed sense of nostalgia with a keen sense of timeliness. Her social staging reinvents rituals while investigating power dynamics of the individual in formed groups. In her approach, she exposes broken structures by using routine, rhythm and repetition. Her pedagogical training and ability to work with various groups leads her to be the catalyst of each action.