Grisha Bruskin’s exhibition “Change of Scenery” is closed ahead of schedule at the State Tretyakov Gallery: according to the official version of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the personal exhibition of the famous Moscow artist, which opened on March 22 and was to last until July 24, closed “for technical reasons”. At the same time, information about the project was removed from the museum’s website, as if there was no exhibition at all. The artist himself claims that he knows no more about what happened than Artgid, which linked the closure to an order from the Russian Ministry of Culture. This closure is significant – just five years ago, Grisha Bruskin was the title artist in the Russian pavilion in Venice.
“Change of scenery” was the name of Grisha Bruskin’s installation made in 2017 for the Russian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Today, the Russian pavilion in Giardini is empty and closed: on February 27, artists Alexander Sukharev and Kirill Savchenkov, who were to represent Russia at the current 59th Venice Biennale, refused to participate, saying that art has no place in the current political circumstances. the decision was supported by the curator, the administration of the pavilion of the Russian Federation and the management of the biennale. But in 2017, the Russian pavilion was full of spectators, eager for spectacular spectacles: it showed a beautiful multimedia show with an augmented reality sculpture by Recycle, a dance video performance by Sasha Pirogova and a shadow theater installation “Change of scenery” by Grisha Bruskin nobile of the Schusev tower.
Ascending the stairs, the spectator found himself in dark rooms with branded Bruskin figurines casting eerie shadows or drowning in monstrous video projections, and these white hieroglyphic figurines played an eternal performance on the theme of “Crowd and Power.” Hieroglyphs were compiled into a kind of dictionary by mythologists of totalitarianism, symbols of violence and subordination – this dictionary, as always with Bruskin, was based on the language of the world’s visual culture, high and low, from Sumer and Akkad to Soviet park sculpture and visual aids on civil defense. The prologue to the performance was a composition with a monstrous idol in the form of a mechanical double-headed eagle towering over the ocean of the masses, myriads of faceless men raising their hands in greeting – it looks like a fascist or Roth Front, but this universal gesture is borrowed from Bor. the same as the eagle is taken not from the Russian coat of arms, but from the deep symbolic layers of imperial imagery. In general, the language of Bruskin’s art tries to avoid unambiguous interpretations, although its basic lexical unit, starting with the early “spaces”, “monuments” and “monuments”, is an iconic figure with an attribute – emblem, symbol, hieroglyph. The inscriptions “made in USA” on MANPADS and mortars of militant soldiers from the main act “Change of Scenery”, dedicated to new fears, threats and ways of manipulating the masses, were even more eye-catching.
Of course, Grisha Bruskin, who lived a good half of his life in America, where he left on the wave of his commercial success at the legendary “Moscow Sotheby’s” in 1988, would have every right to criticize the US military and NATO if “Change of Scenery” was exhibited in the US pavilion: the rules of good manners at the Venice Biennale, made according to the old-fashioned principle of the World’s Fair – with national pavilions and eternal interethnic competition, prescribe to be critical not of the neighboring country, but of one’s own homeland. But in the context of the Russian pavilion in 2017, this “made in USA” on MANPADS and mortars did not look so elegant. A year earlier, the rector of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, Semyon Mikhailovsky, was appointed commissioner of the Russian pavilion in Venice. 2019: in this work, Russia was portrayed as the last stronghold of civilization and culture in the face of world barbarism – in Sokurov’s video installation it was marked with a poster with found footage, footage of Igilov (banned in Russia) atrocities in Syria. That’s what “made in the USA” from “Change of Scenery” by Bruskin told the Russian project of 2017 the correct political tone, coinciding with the official line of the party and the government.
The Venetian “Change of Scenery” became an exhibition core for the exhibition of the same name in Novaya Tretyakovka on the Crimean Wall: complemented by paintings from the 1980s, sculpture from the project “Archaeologist’s Collection” (2001-2003), a huge wallpaper “Alefbet” (2006) and a new video installation, it was not a retrospective of Grisha Bruskin, but once again reminiscent of his ancient role. The role of the artist of the Book, Text, witness of History, chronicler and archaeologist, compiling his lexicon-bestiary of imperial ideologies and myths. In the 1980s and 1990s, the main subject of this archaeological interest was Soviet civilization, but in the 2000s, when Soviet civilization seemed to become a thing of the past, historical concreteness began to give way to historiosophical abstractions in the ecclesiastical spirit of “what was, what and will be. During the years of perestroika, Bruskin’s deconstruction of Soviet myth became politically relevant: in 1988, after the success of the Fundamental Lexicon, one part of which was bought from the exhibition “Artist and Modernity” by Milos Foreman, and another became the champion of the first Moscow auction Sotheby’s, the artist even began to write for social artists, although he had no direct relation to social art – neither in terms of conceptual strategies, nor in terms of belonging to the circle of Moscow conceptualists. Today, when Soviet civilization has risen from the dead, social art has once again become a dangerous ideological stigma. The double-headed eagle and the crowd in a single Borg rush are perceived unequivocally – and even the rescue “made in the USA” on MANPADS and mortars is no longer an indulgence.
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