Sredstvo Kool (Medium Cool):
Contemporary Video Work from Russia
Including Works from AES+F, Sergey Bratkov, Blue Soup, Aristarkh Chernyshev, Chto Delat, Taisiya Krugovykh, Teresa Creative Union, sasha pirogova, and Anastasia Vepreva.
Young Projects is pleased to present Sredstvo Kool (Medium Cool): Contemporary Artworks from Russia.
The exhibition presents twelve contemporary video works — all of which being shown for the first time in Los Angeles — that represent an array of artists living in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.
When taken as a whole, these works present an overview of some of the ideas and feelings shared by many of today’s Post-Soviet-era artists, including revolution, provocation, performance, actionism, militant feminism, anti-commercialism, historical memory and much more.
In the words of curator Boris Groys, who has labeled many of these artists as ‘post-conceptual realists’, this current generation has been marked by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, which has engendered a fervent skepticism of Russian nationalism, the ‘status-quo’ of Western Capitalism, and the rising tide of Soviet nostalgia. As a result, one often finds reappraisals of Soviet histories embedded in their work, whether directly or indirectly. “Indeed,” he writes, “such a reappraisal seems unavoidable because contemporary Russian culture is a haunted place—haunted by specters of its communist past.”
Stylistically, these artists employ an array of techniques to convey their subject matter—from the highly aestheticized, CG imagery of AES+F to the more confrontational, performative, style of Chto Delat. For the former, digital technologies allow the artists to create fantastical visual spaces that not only convey ‘a post-apocalyptic vision of a world where the mythologies of all cultures can be intermingled with the myths of contemporary media culture’ but one that directly engages art-historical painting traditions. But for most of the others in the exhibition, the sheer urgency of the performative is often more germane to the message they want to convey. Many of these artists have roots to Moscow actionism, the phenomenon of the early 90’s, which stood in close relation to the social and economic processes of the El’zin and post-El’zin periods. Actionism was a contextual reaction to the climate of the new Russian capitalism and commercialization: A ‘high time’ for ‘radicalisms’ of all kinds. And yet at the same time, much like the growth of video in the US in the 1980s, the explosion of dance-club-culture ushered in a fervent anti-commercial, DiY punk-aesthetic, where “slickness” was to be avoided at all cost.
The collective Chto Delat, for instance, which is made up of philosophers and poets, often creates situations and scenarios where individual members voice their attitudes theories and mores in a situationist environment (whether it’s a theater or street performance). The result is a kind of Zizek-style theoretical-collage that digs into an extraordinary array of ideas born out of the collective imagination. Or as Chto Delat writes: “Our work is about new experiments with collective authorship; the emancipatory and educational function of art; the spirit of collectivism; building a new type of relationship between movement and aesthetics, and so on. “
Other artists in the show, such as Teresa Creative Union, Krugovykh, and Vepreva, employ similar strategies, but often through the lens of feminist theory. They too use the vocabulary of didactic and/or performative actions (i.e. public lectures, classrooms, and even puppet shows) to challenge conservative, nationalist, religious, neoliberalist, and reformist ‘norms,” but often do so with a personal point of view.
To quote writer Veronique Leblanc, “On the whole the artworks [of this generation] make up an inventory of symbolic actions, in varying degrees of strangeness, which manifest themselves as performative rituals. They convey an eclectic array of ideological affiliations and beliefs, all of which function to conceal various forms of violence… that is informed by the ongoing catastrophe to which we have become accustomed to via the media.”
Artworks in the Exhibition
Single channel HD video stereo sound 16:9
Single channel 3d stereoscopic HD video. 2 min loop
The inspiration for this work stems from the idea that in the not too distant past things seemed much more transparent, clear and familiar; the landscape was easily discernible, with its surface, terrain and topography, highlights and shadows conceivable and predictable. It has now given way to shrouding clouds of glistening sludge, dust and silt, raised by forces unseen for reasons unknown. All that is left is to peer through the outlines and shapes of these murky clouds for interpretation and clues.
Silk print 70 x 100 cm
Ed 12 +3Ap
Lobby 2 (single flatscreen)
The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger 2014
Single channel version of a 4-channel video HD 16:9 stereo sound 56:46 min.
The film performance The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger was created with participation of the graduates of the “School of Engaged Art” the collective established in Saint Petersburg in 2013. It is divided into twelve episodes (showing on 4 screens), each progressing as a kind of ‘maturation’ or emotional growth. In the first episode the participants are asked to log on to different social media networks, as clips from news sites, YouTube and Twitter-feeds appear on the screens. In the second, they attempt to define their temporal and spatial coordinates in socio-political terms. (A woman in her twenties says “I was sixteen months from the approval of the anti-gay legislation, and a million steps away from my lover’s embrace.”) And in the third episode they begin to “listen” to one another and the ‘body politic’ at large.
The immutability of politics, the dashed hopes and futile expectations of which the actors speak, are also manifested in their movements and gestures, which convey a sense of the collective social body, laden with emotions. Depression appears to be the common thread, along with fear and frustration. (One woman is ‘fucking scared’ to live as a lesbian, while another likens the split in society to a civil war… Another man claims that his nonconformist tongue is his conflict, while and others criticize citizen-led initiatives and government repression.) Formally, Chto Delat uses a closed space to evoke the claustrophobia that has paralyzed the country's public space with fear. They have also chosen to convey their text via the WWII-era “songspiel,” or social musical, used by Bertold Brecht, where actors play out critical political issues of the day through call and response.
The Last Riot 2005-2007
Last Riot The project consists of an HD video installation (3- and 1-channel versions), series of stills from the video, series of pictures, series of drawings, series of sculptures | 3 channel HD video. 16:9 aspect ratio (x3). Stereo Sound. RUNTIME
The first part of the Liminal Space Trilogy, the Last Riot presents a post-apocalyptic vision of a world inhabited by children and adolescents, where the mythologies of all cultures are intermingled with the myths of contemporary media-culture. The visual ethos is rife with allusions to art history, from Baroque Painting to Romantisism, combined with contemporary visual culture in the form of advertising, film, and video games. AES+F describe their inspiration as an attempt to capture the “new world” of today, where real wars look like [video] games found on www.americasarmy.com. Here prison torture appears more like the sadistic exercises of modern-day Valkyries and technologies transform the artificial environment in to a fantasy landscape of a new epoch. This world possesses inhabitants who are devoid of gender and appear more like angels. But the heroes of this new epoch only have one identity, that of participants in the ‘last riot.’ There’s no longer any difference between victim and aggressor, male and female. Each fights both self and the other in a celebration of the end of ideology, history and ethics.
Middle Area (Projection)
Single-channel HD video, 16:9 aspect, stereo sound 8 min 4 sec
In the video-performance, Pirogova works in a very special location: the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin’s Treptow Park, which was completed in 1949. Designed by the Soviet sculptor Yevgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich, the sculptural ensembles and friezes arrayed throughout the memorial park strictly follow the conventions of Social Realism. For Pirogova, being a hero often refers to the past and is usually condensed in the granite memory of statues such as these – but it’s also the most important quality of the present, the present of Motherland. In the video performance Motherland, the performer tries to adopt the details, poses, gestures, and materiality of the monument – trying through physical appropriation to learn heroism, strength or how to weep the future with honor. The looped video refers to an infinite number of such attempts.
Day of Victory (2016)
Single-channel HD video. 16:9 aspect ratio. Stereo sound.
The video artist and activist Taisiya Krugovykh belongs to a young, political, and socially engaged generation of artists that uses the freedom of the Internet to create and distribute actions, and is thus part of an international network. She lives in Moscow and works in the circle revolving around the artist groups Voina and Pussy Riot.
Middle Area (4 Flatscreens)
Dystopia # 1, 2017. Video, full HD, 6'40", photogrammetry and 3D processing
Dystopia # 2, 2018. Video, full HD, 7'09", photogrammetry and 3D processing
Dystopia # 3, 2018. Video, full HD, 6'40", photogrammetry and 3D processing
The fundamentals of consumption are rapidly changing. Owning things—either property or things—is making increasingly less sense, becomes a burden and takes the owner hostage. Accumulating possessions has become too costly to store and ultimately becomes a ‘briefcase-without-a-handle,’ or what is called a “toxic asset.” According to post-consumerism, the escape from this situation is in consumption relieved of a material good and, again, the options abound: rentals, subscriptions, networks for shared use of things or housing without transfer of property titles. This breeds a sensation of “perpetual temporari-ness”—as if this all is just about to end and you will be able to simply enjoy the flow of life. Yet, this temporariness has firmly rooted itself in our lives. We now need to learn to live with it or try and drastically change something, falling into the pit of temporariness again.
Large Backroom (to the right when facing from the gallery entrance)
Palace Square 100 years after. A lecture “4 seasons of Zombie” (2107)
Single channel video, HD, 16:9 aspect, stereo sound. 36 min 20 sec
Presenter: Oxana Timofeeva (Author of Zombie-Communism Manifesto). Concept & directing: Dmitry Vilensky. Choreography: Nina Gasteva
In 1920 – three years after revolution – the new Bolshevik government commissioned Nikolay Evreinov to make a theatrical public event to celebrate 3 years of October revolution. Evreinov then created a symbolic narrative of the historical process which culminated in the armed fight at the Palace Square. This performative event was photographed and then became emblematic picture of real October Revolution. The main subject of the October Revolution was a proletariat. 100 years after this event we are more and more confused over who is the driving force of change and transformation in our world. Who could “storm” (even symbolically) the institutions of power? We suggest that it would helpful to use the metaphor of the Zombie – a mass media symbol who desperately represent the repressed power of all excluded. Therefore, on one peaceful Sunday evening, 100 years after the Revolution, the film narrator (Oxana Timofeeva) strolls through the Palace Square in Saint Petersburg to encounter different events which trigger her imagination and longing for change.
Small Backroom (to the left when facing from the gallery entrance)
Teresa Creative Union of Artists and Sex-workers ( Vika Begalska, Alexander Vilkin, Marina Denisova, Diana Portlen, Sergey Potapov, Karina 'Katwoman' Dulina, Baretta)
Army Boots Crave Tenderness (2015)
Single channel HD video, stereo sound, 16:9 aspect. 25:23
October 3, 2015 the Luda Gallery (St. Petersburg) hosted a night featuring a performance by the group Teresa. They describe “Army Boots” thusly: “…The scene unfolds in an unknown country amidst military operations. Being part of a peace-support mission, setting free captives, soothing war dogs and thawing ice-covered warpaths with their passionate hearts sex-heroines solve the problems set before them with dignity’.
We, the militant Radfem Gang Named after Valerie-Andrea Dworkin-Solanas 2016
Single channel video, stereo sound. 16:9 aspect. 10 min 45 sec
A young activist, inspired by the ideas of militant feminism, has an idea to organize anonymous militant gang. She begins to produce visual, propaganda materials - a universal video content to involve new participants. Following the revolutionary precepts, she attempts to form a protest community, but when she goes beyond the world of her illusions - she meets with an inevitable failure and finds herself completely alone.
Back Hallway (flatscreen)
Single channel 720 video, stereo sound, 16:9 aspect ratio. 220 min
Single channel HD video, stereo sound, 16:9 aspect 0:58