Wednesday, 2 February 2011

contemporary Russian video art

Went recently to the third in a series of exhibitions entitled 'The History of Russian Video Art' at MMOMA. The first of these was held in 2007, and has only just got up to the current period.

All the usual suspects - Blue Noses (above) AES+F, Iced Over Architects, Victor Alimpiev, Olga Chernysheva - were there, and then both some seemingly banal work and some really unexpected and interesting pieces. In the first group came rather a lot of water-based work, including the BlueSoup Group (who look more interesting on their website) and Dimitry Gutov. His Thaw (2006) is a literal interpretation of the gradual shift out of the Soviet period's 'cultural freeze', presented as a man stumbling about in melting snow, supported by a wonderfully grumpy poem about getting into a fight.

Despite a generally literal translation between art presented here and its meaning, I really liked a couple of slightly surreal, laugh-out-loud works. One  involved a series of minature model house interiors into were projected tiny animated  people, doing silly things. The other showing a blue, cloudy sky into which you could make two people appear by working old-fashioned hand pumps. If you pushed long enough they inflated like ballons, grinned and floated away. Embarassingly I don't know who the artists were for either of these pieces, so any help here appreciated.

The whole thing has clearly been a huge research project, curated by Antonio Geusa, with the aim of finding and reclaiming video art in the Russian context. As the MMOMA website says: "Video appeared at the same time when contemporary art emerged from the semi-clandestinity of the underground and was shown in the first independent contemporary art spaces." The first recognised work was only in 1985 (Andrey Monastyrsky’s Conversation with a Lamp, in case you wanted to know). The very shortness of video's art's history here together with, as Geusa says, the need 'to shout' outside of a the previously rigid control of art, helps to explain something about both the literalness and the maudlin, gaudy belly-laughing humour.

The show finished on January 30, 2011 and was at the  Moscow Museum of Modern Art at 17 Yermolaevsky Lane.

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