Exhibition The City in Personal Time, devoted to urban development and the city environment. The artists participating in the exhibition address the basic parameters of modernity such as human life in a megalopolis and people’s search for their place within the complicated and even turbulent political and social world order. All the artists take a keen interest in the current transformation of the urban environment and the consequences that these changes have for individuals and society as a whole. Thanks to their keen sensitivity to what is taking place in the world around them, artists are able to personalize time and the city in their work and propose different scenarios of experiencing and interpreting them. By creating artworks and bringing them to exhibition spaces, contemporary artists declare war on oblivion that threatens every object during its endless journey through thousands of spaces and situations arising in everyday life. The threat of oblivion is not new: in one way or another, every generation of artists has experienced anxieties about the possibility of imperceptibly dissolving in world history. Nevertheless, the problem of disappearing from the space of general attention and thus from the history of events is becoming particularly acute today in the age of the overproduction of images and information (especially in megalopolises). The present exhibition searches for original ways of escaping from this situation as well as presenting artists’ real and imaginary stories of everyday city life.
Kirill Basalaev / Ilmira Bolotyan / Zina Isupova / Dmitry Lookianov / Andrey Syaylev / Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov
Kirill Basalaev works with materials that constitute the city’s “skin” and “backbone” – in particular, concrete and plaster. Although they may seem stifling and lifeless, these concrete structures bear human traces in actual fact. This is precisely why they attract Basalaev’s attention in his project Urban Compositions. As the viewer goes from one work to the next and examines their texture in detail, a question inevitably comes to mind. What is a city’s historical image that one should try to pass down to future generations? The glossy polished façades of buildings or façades that have been worn down by time and bear the visible traces of human life?
Ilmira Bolotyan’s series of paintings Metrorealism is a study of the social fabric of present-day Moscow. In her abstract lyric portraits of passengers of the Moscow Metro – a key transport artery pulsating within the megalopolis – Bolotyan tries to identify with her subjects and discover herself in them. For her, the practice of making a photograph and the subsequent portrait is an attempt to become aware of and analyze her correlation with and her separateness from the lives of thousands of other metro passengers that pass before our eyes in the stream of life and then disappear forever.
In her series Underground Resistance, Zina Isupova treats the underground space of the city that is hidden from the eyes of outsiders. Projecting models of cross-sections of bunkers and caches, Isupova establishes a series of associations that are closely linked in the mass consciousness with post-apocalyptic or anti-utopian worlds. Isupova takes an interest in the profound changes of the world and society as a result of wars and global catastrophes, which have also transformed the position of the artist in this traumatic configuration. She clearly believes that the modern world has been in a state of emergency for a long time already and, as a result, sees the future of man and art in an anxious light.
In his photo project Instant Tomorrow, Dmitry Lookianov treats the potential future technocratic world order that would totally strip people of their individuality. In our information age, different people (contemporary artists, movie directors and science fiction writers) have begun to depict mankind’s future in a single key: a society transformed by the Internet, which has become an instrument of the total universalization of human existence and a free space with horizontal links. Lookianov enters into a special dialogue with this new reality, also trying to uncover the aesthetic transformations that Russian life could undergo in such a situation. His characters live in generic sterile flats, their existence is quiet and peaceful, their everyday life dissolves in boredom and predictability, and the future has apparently already set in.
Andrey Syaylev’s art is not only closely linked to experiments with plastic techniques and textures but also goes a lot further. Combining fragments of building façades and scraps of images of sundry everyday objects, Syaylev reflects about abstraction in its relation to the reality of the material world and about society’s loss of a unified worldview and the latter’s disintegration into heterogeneous fragments. He takes a somewhat different approach in his series of paintings Train that depict a sight familiar to anyone that has ever waited on a train platform. We are referring to the outward appearance or, more precisely, the surfaces, weathered by time and the Russian climate, of passing old freight cars that have stood on a sidetrack and had already seemed to be defunct. However, one ultimately gets the impression that a certain image of Russia and its recent history begins to emerge from under the layers of rust and peeling paint.
Although nature is a universe that is essentially separated from man, it participates in his life and thus in the space of the city, where it often takes the form of a “nature corner”. In his project Positions in the Corner, Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov focuses on such “nature corners”, recreating or fragmenting recollections about the “nature corner” in his school with its different animals and aquariums, cages, and terrariums. In this way, he considers and represents nature as a universal language that, on the one hand, requires classification and, on the other, increasingly disintegrates into individual fragments, in each of which the world could start and end as a single whole.