News from an island, Stefania Smolkina

Every life is lived somewhere between truth and fiction. And as Bernard Stiegler puts it: “Life is always a cinema”

A woman is stuck on a small island in the ocean. She neither understands, nor speaks any foreign language. Her holiday that just started is increasingly concerned with the situation on the island, which is changing more and more due to spreading pandemic. While tourist attractions and shops close, suddenly her return back home becomes impossible. The  return flight is canceled, the next one that she books gets canceled too. She records all her experiences and worries in Russian in voice messages in Instagram. Each message begins with the same announcement: “News from the island, news from the island …”, like a lost radio station, sends its signals to other parts of the world.


The news from the island is received in Germany, in a student dorm, room 313, and disperses in space. In a depersonalized architecture, space enhances the feeling of alienation and distance. Through panel buildings from the GDR era, streams of students from all over the world flow without leaving any evidence or trace. You can only realize how diverse the dorm inhabitants are through small details of every day routines like cooking smells and noises. People cook, do the laundry, use different strategies to survive the isolation.


The woman on the island tells her news while a woman from Wuhan teaches herself German in her student dorm in Leipzig. She goes through many emotional phone calls with her home country every day. Speaking (with her family) and learning a foreign language fill and shape her everyday life, which has not changed significantly after the recommended sheltering in place.


Different stories and fates move between different layers of glass – screens of devises, mirror, window glass, camera lens – and link together to a form of a film.

Photos by: Stefania Smolkina, Olga Ormanova | special thanks: Irina Sarrar

4 thoughts on “News from an island, Stefania Smolkina

  1. Dear Stefania, thank you for the first post!
    I also like the digital collage. I suppose students should learn this media and technique today in art academies (joking, but it’s really actual, understandable and applied art at the moment)

    Could you tell a little about soft you used?
    And what resources was for the different layers: your photos?

  2. Dear Stefania,
    It’s so great that you joined our project. Welcome to this digital community.
    This short story that you dive into (without any introduction or whatsoever) feels tense, although not much is physically happening. It kind of mirrors the situation during the lockdown: no movement, but much dynamics. Движение без передвижения, can’t translate it into English.
    Could be a beginning of a screenlife.

What do you think about this?