A group exhibition whose participants explore various aspects of the fantastic, supernatural and horrific in culture and everyday life.
The featured artists—Mika Plutitskaya (b. 1983), Nadezhda Bakhshieva (b. 1994) and Anna Pospelova (b. 1986), Slava Nesterov (b. 1989), Ruslan Polanin (b. 1988), and Mikhail Maximov (b. 1974) work with dark folklore. They are all intrigued by various aspects of the fantastic, supernatural and horrific, as manifested in history, local mythology, Soviet folklore, and digital reality.
All photos: Daniil Annenkov
Art has always expressed human fears: since ancient times, artists have striven to capture the indescribable, to bring to the light everything that is hidden in darkness. Although it may seem at first glance that sculptures of wood spirits have nothing to do with modern nightmares, the Sorcerers project helps to focus our perception.
In the installation Birch √0, composer Anna Pospelova and musical theatre director and media artist Nadezhda Bakhshieva draw parallels between the birch as a primary element of the Russian cultural landscape and the binary system used in digital technology. In the space of the installation, two worlds collide—the imitation of digital reality and the archaic.
Two projects by the artist Slava Nesterov, displayed at the exhibition, assemble his own unique fantasy world out of a variation on themes of Slavic, Uralic and Scandinavian legendariums. The Torot graphic series refers stylistically to illustrations by Ivan Bilibin and works by the Japanese artist Hokusai. Depictions of unknown beings and fictional plants, motifs of Permian bronze casts, and modern horror aesthetics all fit into an enchanted story. Wooden objects from the Eight Songs series remind of the Permian animal style and the wooden church sculpture from the same region, but they depict previously unseen characters reproducing the cyclicity of the world creation, an eternal mythological circle, the transition of beings from one state to another.
Mika Plutitskaya takes her themes from Soviet and post-Soviet culture: films, TV series, illustrated books, random photos and documents of the era. Her project, The Girl Nothing Happens To, is named after the first book by Kir Bulychov about Alisa Seleznyova (1965), the heroine of Pavel Arsenov’s film Guest from the Future. The artist accidentally discovered the resemblance of her passport photo from 1996 to the film’s Alisa and created a cycle of one hundred small watercolours—as she calls it, a “group self-portrait, ” poising at the intersection of documentation and invention, materiality and horror, biography and science fiction.
Cabinet of Curiosities by Ruslan Polanin is the exhibition’s only example of taming the horrific. In it, the artist introduces his own term, un-hygge, which he explains as “the domestication of the horrific, ” a hybrid of Scandinavian cosiness, hygge, and Freud’s concept of the uncanny, Das Unheimliche. Polanin attempts to devise an alchemic formula which will cause the fear arising in certain social and historical situations to have a healing, therapeutic effect. When ritual figures of demons and spirits or pagan altars acquire decorative function, they still remain monsters and appeal to the depths of the unconscious, but they do so much more gently than occult forces usually do.
In his project New Game Is Over, the artist Mikhail Maximov invites the public to engage with a machine that generates emotions and desires. Using this machine, the player takes on the role of a demiurge, capable of creating, preserving and destroying self-sustainable systems. The player has the power to select which event chains to release, imbuing items with new, unusual qualities, surrendering to emotions, mastering them, or even destroying the game itself. Combining Brueghelian demonology, a futuristic dystopia and the circus aesthetics of the early 20th century, the artist creates an original universe, which, come to think of it, is not actually all that far from reality.
Anna Ilchenko, Andrey Parshikov
Nadezhda Bakhshieva and Anna Pospelovа, Mikhail Maximov, Slava Nesterov, Mika Plutitskaya, Ruslan Polanin
Stacy Dementyeva, Alexandra Chistova
Andrey Belov, Artem Kanifatov, Maksim Lapshin, Pavel Luzhin, Mikhail Sarkisyants
Daria Krivtsova, Ekaterina Sofronova
Accessibility and inclusion curators
Sasha Anikushin, Vlad Kolesnikov, Oxana Osadchaya