The City of Conquerors

1 Nov–1 Dec 2009
Victoria Gallery, Samara

The first exhibition by the V–A–C Foundation presents works by young artists that explore the city as a space of sudden inhibitions.

The City of Conquerors has come about due to a group of self-organised young artists from Moscow, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Samara. The project is curated by Ilya Budraitskis, art critic and historian.

After the arrival of the conqueror (the new sovereign of the subjugated city), the communal life of the citizens has been totally transformed. Now they have to learn to accept their fate, that of a conquered people. The conqueror acts as a new and absolute sovereign who creates his own laws, establishes a new state of affairs, one still alien to those who have not yet fully accepted their new and unfamiliar position. While citizens remain in the city after the arrival of the conqueror, but the city no longer belongs to them. Any movement around it requires authorization, any all activity needs permission. The city is awash with prohibitions, written or unwritten, and each resident must now learn a hidden logic. Sinking into the mud of a permanent state of emergency, the city vanishes as a community and a sum of its residents, turning into an abstraction and a jumble of unrecognizable forms.

Our exhibition first and foremost serves as a testimony documenting a new condition; it is a loose collection of artifacts of a city left to the whims of a conqueror. Cracks in tiles, false documents, and random murals, rejections of appeals to organize political meetings, bags full of buckwheat, and other items and signs encountered in the streets by artists. The City of Conquerors is addressed to those who have been defeated — the silent majority, in which one may try, nonetheless, to find barely visible signs of emerging hope. A hope that is based upon a plain and truly historical fact that one day the conqueror and the defeated will change places.

— Ilya Budraitskis, project curator