After returning from years of war coverage, Peter van Agtmael tries to piece together the memory, identity, race, class, and family, in a landscape which has become as surreal as the war he left behind.
Mika Sperling is a photo-based artist currently living and working in Hamburg, Germany. She was born in Norilsk, a mining city in Northern Siberia where her family lived for 20 years. In 1991, her family migrated to Germany. She received her Diploma from the University of Applied Science in Darmstadt in Communication Design in 2015 and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2018.
Her practice is based in photography, video and writing and engages ideas and concepts of family. Her work has been primarily biographical where she explores her own experience as one of eight children to understand the complexities of multiculturalism, identity and place. In her projects she is devoted to the roots of her family leading to stories about Russian Mennonites, her five older sisters and young parents. She often travels to far off places like that have biographical meanings for her family with no memories of her own but drawn from the collective memories of her siblings and parents. The urge for connection, preservation of traditions and the creation of new ones determine her daily life.
When she returned to her birthplace Norilsk in early 2018 to start her project of Personal History she soon found out to be pregnant with her first child. Suddenly her work and personal life merged together and would lead to a solo exhibition of the project Before You, Above the Circle at the Aggregate Space Gallery in Oakland, overlapping with her child’s birth. Shortly after her return to Germany she received the recommended fellowship in 2019, that currently enables her to work on a new project which in 2020 will be exhibited at the House of Photography Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, the Fotografie Forum Frankfurt and Foam Museum in Amsterdam.
Other exhibitions she has been part of in 2019 include the SFO Museum, SFMOMA (2017), Fort Mason Center for the Arts (2018), Diego Rivera Gallery (2017 & 2018), Smith Andersen North Gallery (2018) and Embark Gallery (2018) in San Francisco, California. Internationally she has had shows at Fondazione Fotografia Modena (2016) and Bitume Photofest (2015) in Gallipoli, Italy, Pelci in Latvia (2015) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (2015).
She has received numerous Awards and Grants over the past five years that include being nominated for the Joop Swart Masterclass, organized by World Press Photo (2015), One of 50 LensCulture Emerging Talents (2015), European Photography Award (2016), SFAI Fulbright Fellowship (2016), Fulbright Scholarship for MFA at SFAI (2016), DAAD Scholarship for MFA at SFAI (2017), Anne Bremer Memorial Library, 35th Artists‘ Book Contest Prize (2018), Clyde & Community Art Awards (2018), Photo Alliance Award for Service to the Community (2018), Paul Sack Building Award, 1st Place Color (2018), John Collier Award (2018), Critical Mass Finalist (2018), Headlands Graduate Fellowship, Finalist (2018) and the Olympus recommended Fellowship (2019).
From 2017–2019 she has been giving lectures and artist talks at the LeBoudoir 2.0 in Arles, France (2017) the Polar Art in Norilsk, Russia (2018) at Aggregate Space Gallery in Oakland, California (2018) and at the University of Applied Science in Darmstadt Germany (2019).