Curated by Elena Sorokina
Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 8 october 2010 - 2 January 2011
This exhibition presents four artists and collectives who regularly employ theatrical situations in their videos and films. Some works explicitly revive filmed theater or dance, while others utilize the technique of "performance trouvé" — scenes discovered by the camera in a documentary situation and used as a constitutive element of the film. A blend of theatrical devices and formal reflexivity carried out in diverse ways characterizes the work of the show, all produced from mid 2000 on. If the 90s celebrated violent self-expression in radical performances reacting to new freedoms and their illusions, today many artists employ reflective strategies marked by formal experimentation, often incorporating references to the styles or events of the Soviet past.
In her videos, Olga Chernysheva frames accidental performances filmed in documentary situations with a reflective/poetic structure, often reminiscent of genre films. The artist reflects on the archetypical imagery of collective performances from the Soviet visual canon, such as demonstrations or popular public celebrations. Her camera, however, is interested in the failures of their artifices today, registering and revealing the mutations of the new and old symbolic orders.
In Victor Alimpliev's elaborate films play on a tension between their titles and the rigorously constructed visual scenes, always meticulously directed and acted by professional performers. Carrying subtle allusions to classical iconography, these titles, such as "To Trample Down an Arable Land" or "Weak Rot Front", are translated into a drama of the collective movements of the performers' bodies. Made in constant interaction with the camera, the slightest movement or gesture of the performers has a dramatized appeal based on a persistent tension of collaboration and coordination.
In their films, the FFC Group stages improbable encounters and impossible dialogues — between ballet dancers and unemployed people or between two generations debating the use of the communist heritage today. Very often the origin of their videos are workshops whose participants become actors and performers. These forms of staging for the camera allows the group to inquiry into the contemporary resonance of certain Soviet myths.
The Chto Delat Group creates pieces of theater for the camera, emphasizing the artifice of play production. Their theatrical videos follow quite faithfully the Brechtian model of epic plays, while the camera reveals details of the stage construction. The choice of Brechtian aesthetics isn't accidental, but is dictated by the Group's artistic position. In their interpretation, the past or present events they evoke in their films are neither dramas nor tragedies, but rather "Lehrstücke" — didactic pieces to be analyzed and learned from.
Rather then following a specific theme, this exhibition unfolds along two broadly defined leitmotivs. One focuses on the artists' self-conscious engagement with the specific elements — stories, films, imagery — from the Soviet realist canon, exploring its conflicts and correspondences and making the spectator experience old debates and events as new encounters. The other takes up art’s current fascination with theater's transformative power and its ability to speak about the present, sometimes described as "the present as fiction" or "l'artifice du present ".
The exhibition will change over time following a specific timeline and involves the projection of different groupings of films selected.
Nikolay Oleynikov, 2010