Myth feeds people's minds. Roland Barthes says, "...since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message: there are formal limits to myth, there are no 'substantial' ones."


A story that happened in the end of the XVI century in Russia became the starting point for this work. Tsarevich Dimitry, the last son of Ivan the Terrible, died from a self-inflicted stab wound during an epilepsy attack. The investigation commissioned, initiated by Boris Godunov (an actual governor of the country during that period and future tsar), concluded this, regarding Dimitry’s demise. But, not everyone agreed with this version of events. Some argued that Boris Godunov, who wished to take the throne, sent assassins to kill Dimitry. Others believed in the narrow possibility of the Tsarevich’s escape, which resulted in the appearance of the impostor “False-Dimitry”, when The Time of Troubles began in Russia.

Tsarevich Dimitry is a unique person in Russian history. Although practically nothing can be told about him as a concrete historical character, his mysterious death becomes his main achievement, and he passes from the physical to the symbolic world. Dimitry, as a historical character, has been used to create mythological stories for several centuries. I was intrigued by how the story can go on without the actions of the hero, and how his absence can play a major role and catalyse the further development of the story. It is absence that creates legends and turns them into myths over time.


This almost detective story of the XVI century gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the layers that separate the past from the present. I was impressed how transparent they are. It also made me think of how the image of the past can reform in our minds. Is it possible to imagine a true picture of the world while knowing that so much information is distributed to manipulate people’s minds for political purposes? Despite conscious efforts to perceive information objectively, brain generates myths that distort your logical thinking, making you conform to the ideas that are convenient for you. Consequently, myth becomes the very "reality," in which people sincerely believe.

© Julia Borissova, Dimitry. All pictures courtesy of the artist.

Julia Borissova is an Estonia-born, St Petersburg-based artist who works with photography, collage, installation and book making, to explore how history and memory are perceived through images. The book is her natural medium to contemplate real stories and blends documentary elements with imaginary things, trying to capture ephemeral, fragmentary and elusive memories. Her artists’ books include: Looking for Dimitry (2019), Nomad (2019), Nautilus (2018), Let Me Fall Again (2018), Dimitry (2016), J.B. about men floating in the air (2015), DOM (Document Object Model) (2014), The Farther Shore (2013) etc. Borissova’s books can be found in the collections of many major institutions, including Tate Modern Library (London), Art Museum of Estonia (Tallinn), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), National Library of Spain (Madrid), Reminders Photography Stronghold (Tokyo), Phoenix Art Museum (USA).

Borissova has frequently exhibited her photography and books around the world in group and solo shows.

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