Contemporary Art from the Former Soviet Union and Other Mythical Places

14. November bis 23. Dezember 2015

Eine Ausstellung des Nordwindfestivals und MOMENTUM in Kooperation mit der Stiftung Brandenburger Tor


13. November 2015 | 20.00 – 22.00
22. November 2015 | 16.30 – 18.00

The story of BALAGAN is strongly embedded in all the arts. The Russian word originally meant ‘fairground’ and by the 18th century it had become associated with the activities of the people who worked there: puppeteers, clowns and jesters who made fun of the established order. Outside the fairground, it appears in the coruscating satires of Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), the brooding, driven characters of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), the épatage of the Futurists and, after the revolution, in the theatre of Meyerhold, the Proletcult and Blue Blouses as well as in the absurdist performances and writings of Daniil Kharms (1905 – 1942). Since that time the word and the concept have continued to flourish in Russia and the former ‘East’, both openly and underground, as well as in colloquial usage into the present.

Legendary St. Petersburg artist, Vladeslav Mamyshev-Monroe (1969-2013) shakes things up in a different way by adopting different roles, one of them the tragic fate of the glamorous Hollywood film star, Marilyn Monroe, which, sadly, became more than part of his signature. For the first time in Germany, a mini-retrospective of his paintings, films, photographs and performances will be presented that includes his complete Pirate TV, broadcast from his apartment for 3 years during the late 1980s, where he was both script writer, director and actor. In Pirate TV, he played the role of a dysfunctional chat show host, interviewing visiting artists and curators and going to art exhibitions, as well as acting out the roles of his namesake Marylin, and many other notables from the world stage. Personal appearances as Sherlock Holmes, Jesus, Adolf Hitler, Lyubov Orlova, Eva Braun, Lolita, Maria Ivanova (‘a Soviet spy’), heroes and heroines from Russian folk tales and members of the current Russian government will also be shown in films, photographs, collages and paintings in which burlesque is juxtaposed with sympathy and humanity to create a unique hybrid that has become his enduring legacy as an artist.

The Blue Noses Group, an artistic duo from Siberia consisting of Alexander (Sasha) Shaburov and Vyacheslav (Slava) Mizin, was founded in 1999. Known for their satirical and often provocative works, that encompass photography, video, performance and installation, they always use low-tech methods of production in order to parody and critique different aspects of Russian society, art, politics, and religion. Their works are marked by a crude, dark humour, even to a level of autism, that has encouraged some to regard them as Holy Fools – contemporary equivalents of yurodivy – mendicants who, during medieval times, were believed to be both insane and touched by God. A selection of their videos and photo-panels will be shown in BALAGAN!!!

Arsen Savadov (b. 1962, Kyiv) first came to public attention in the mid-1990s when he published a series of fashion shoots of scantily clad models taken in cemeteries during funerals, with burials as the backdrop. The shocking and provocative juxtaposition of life and death, happiness and sorrow, power and weakness, transformed into an allegory of pretence and reality, has continued in his works until the present. During the economic restructuring of newly formed Ukraine, he moved to work in disused industrial plants, initially in the coal fields of Donetsk. His Donbass-Chocolate (1997) series of large photographs, one of which is exhibited in BALAGAN!!!, show in close detail the semi-naked, coal-dust-caked bodies of former miners, once the Stakhanovite hero-workers of the Soviet Union, now garbed, pathetically and vulnerably, by the wispy fronds of ballerinas’ tutus. Collective Red (1998), a subsequent series, moves from the mine to the abattoir where the once heroic story of the bullfighter and the minotaur is played out amongst the workers in a blood-spattered slaughterhouse. The ‘minotaur’ is, in fact, a naked male figure ‘wearing’ a real bull’s head confronted in ‘a moment of truth’ by the elegantly garbed matador.

Savadov’s latest photo series Commedia dell’Arte in Crimea (2012), a reference to both balagan and to Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’, sets the traditional story of Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine in the timeless spaces of the mansions, coasts, and forests of Crimea, brought up to date by reference to the current conflict with Russia. In this absurd, melancholic allegory of fratricidal strife, these figures seem frozen, unable to act, without conviction or future. Three large prints from the series will be shown in BALAGAN!!! and the whole series of 19 images will be projected.

Working in film, photography, painting and drawing, Moscow-based artist Olga Chernysheva (b. 1962, Moscow), outlines a multi-layered anthropology of post-Soviet society, while examining the role of the artist as an observer and chronicler with a singular mix of lyricism, humour, and melancholy. She is making a special work for the exhibition: a life-size drawing of a contemporary Moscow ‘Pierrot’.

These works by only a few of the artists in the show form the tip of an iceberg that comprises the whole BALAGAN!!! exhibition. As the title suggests, it focuses on contemporary mythologies that are transforming the past in order to create a more acceptable present and future. But acceptable for whom? From different generations, perspectives and places, these artists reach different diagnoses of what ails us by focussing on the causes and effects of balagan as they appear to them in nationhood, religion, gender, politics and environmental change in order to frame them in a critical context. While many people in the world have no alternative to a life in chaos, there is a great difference between balagan as a form of criticism and as a chronic state of reality. Unchecked, chaos too easily becomes a vehicle of oppression. Balagan reveals its shifting, exploitative nature.

Beitragsbild: AES+F, Inverso Mundus, People and Donkeys, 2015, HD Still; © AES+F 2015 Courtesy MAMM and Triumph Gallery

Headerbild: AES+F

Anlässlich des 250. Geburtstages von Jean Paul findet 2013 die erste große Einzelausstellung statt, die das Œuvre des deutschen Dichters umfänglich präsentiert.

„Balagan!!!” sagt man auf Russisch, um ein gottloses Durcheinander zu beschreiben – und das voller Begeisterung. Balagan bezeichnet aber auch die künstlerische Strategie, die herrschenden Zustände in ihr Gegenteil zu verkehren, um eine bessere Gegenwart und Zukunft zu skizzieren. Vom 14. November bis zum 23. Dezember wird in Berlin eine von David Elliott für das Festival NORDWIND kuratierte Ausstellung mit über 150 zeitgenössischen Arbeiten von 65 Künstlern aus 15 Ländern des ehemaligen Ostblocks zu sehen sein…

Max Liebermann Haus
Stiftung Brandenburger Tor
Pariser Platz 7, 10117 Berlin
Mon, Wed, Thu & Fri 10.00 – 18.00
Sat/Sun 11.00 – 18.00, Tues closed

Luckenwalderstrasse 3, 10963 Berlin
Mon, Wed, Thu, Sun 12.00 – 18.00
Fri/Sat 12.00 – 20.00, Tues closed

Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin
Mon, Wed, Thu, Sun 12.00 – 18.00
Fri/Sat 12.00 – 20.00, Tues closed

10,- / ermäßigt 7,-
bis 18 Jahre freier Eintritt
David Elliott
Bureau N
Johannes Ehmann