Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two more Kabakov installations

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, "The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away
(The Garbage Man)", 1988. Photo from artnet.

"The Garbage Man (The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away)"

Unlike the Kabakov installation I showed on Tuesday, this one can be entered. Three rooms that allude a kommunalka are filled with junk that has been collected by the imaginary owner of the apartment. Everything is neatly labelled and organized on tables, in cabinets, and on charts that cover the walls.

What would otherwise be considered waste is turned into art that can make us reflect on just how much junk we leave behind. And the stuffiness and dusty feeling underneath naked light bulbs becomes a nightmare where we never get rid of all that junk.

We become touched by the love this person has put into his tedious archival work, and by the memories that can be attached to details from our own past.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, "Treatment with Memories", 1997. Photo from artnet.

"Treatment With Memories"

I saw this installation in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, and have thought of it many times since.

Walking through a corridor with fainted "hospital green" colored walls, I reached a barren room where simple iron beds were turned towards one projector each, showing images from the absent clients' early lives. Supposedly as treatment against dementia.

But there were no other signs of human life in the room, just an eerie notion that death had already arrived, and that the images that flickered in the light from the projectors would continue as eternal loops.

"The Garbage Man" can be visited at The National Museum in Oslo until January 15, 2012

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ilya Kabakov, "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment"

Ilya Kabakov, "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment", 1985.
Photo from Kunstkritikk.

Ilya Kabakov creates installations that tell stories from the lives of fictional characters. "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment" consists of two rooms: The hallway in a communal Soviet apartment, and the room from which the story's protagonist has taken off into space through the ceiling and the roof, using the catapult he has made by attaching a seat to bed springs and rubber bands.

Ilya Kabakov, "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment", 1985.
Photo from Cold War Art.

The walls in his very simple room have propaganda posters plastered all over. There are also sketches of his contraption and his expected orbit, and he has made a model of his town and apartment building, from which a metal string indicates his flight into space.

Ilya Kabakov, "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment", 1985.
Photo from comixcube.

In the grimly lit hallway outside his room, yellowing pages tell the following story:

The lovely inhabitant of this room, as becomes clear from the story his neighbors tells, was obsessed by a dream of a lonely flight into space, and in all probability, he realized this dream of his, his "grand project".

The entire cosmos, according to the thoughts of the inhabitant of this room, was permeated by streams of energy leading upward somewhere. His project was conceived in an effort to hook up with these streams and fly away with them.
A catapult, hung from the corners of the room, would give this new "astronaut", who was sealed in a plastic sac, his initial velocity and further up, at a height of 40-50 meters, he would land in a stream of energy through which the Earth was passing at that moment as it moved along its orbit.
Everything takes place late at night, when all the other inhabitants of the communal apartment are sound asleep. One can imagine their horror, fright, bewilderment. The local police are summoned, an investigation begins, and the tenants search everywhere, in the yard, on the street, but he is nowhere to be found.

 "The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment" is part of the exhibition Take Me to Your Leader! at Bergen Art Museum (until May 8, 2011).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Virginia Woolf, "To the Lighthouse"

It has been a while.
Lately, I have spent more time talking about art than writing about it. - And then I drove into the snowy mountains, parked my car, went further up and away on a snowmobile, and skied for a week, far offline...

When I got back to town yesterday, there was no snow left; the pavements were dry, and there was a hint of spring in the light evening air. But when I woke up this morning, it was snowing again.

Sometimes - often in the mornings - I read random passages from To the Lighthouse, - just because Virginia Woolf wrote so beautifully. Filling myself up with her prose makes a good start to any day, and today I happened to come across this poetic description of spring:

The spring without a leaf to toss, bare and bright like a virgin fierce in her chastity, scornful in her purity, was laid out on fields wide-eyed and watchful and entirely careless of what was done or thought by the beholders. [...]

As summer neared, as the evenings lengthened, there came to the wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool, imaginations of the strangest kind - of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of cliff, sea, cloud, and sky brought purposely together to assemble outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within. In those mirrors, the minds of men, in those pools of uneasy water, in which clouds for ever turn and shadows form, dreams persisted, and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation which every gull, flower, tree, man and woman, and the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if questioned at once to withdraw) that good triumphs, happiness prevails, order rules; or to resist the extraordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search of some absolute good, some crystal of intensity, remote from the known pleasures and familiar virtues, something alien to the processes of domestic life, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the sand, which would render the possessor secure. Moreover, softened and acquiescent, the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloak about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows and flights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a knowledge of the sorrows of mankind.