Facing the Monument: Facing the Future

11 March 2015 | By Bazarov

'Bolt' and the problem of Soviet ballet, 1931

16 February 2015 | By Ivan Sollertinsky

Some Thoughts on the Ballets Russes Abroad

16 December 2014 | By Isabel Stockholm

Last Orders for the Grand Duchy

11 December 2014 | By Bazarov

Rozanova and Malevich – Racing Towards Abstraction?

15 October 2014 | By Mollie Arbuthnot

Walter Spies, Moscow 1895 – Indonesia 1942

13 August 2014 | By Bazarov

The Genius of Erte

28 April 2014 | By Rachel Hajek

Solidarity, people!

24 March 2014 | By Renée-Claude Landry

Guest Blog | Pulsating Crystals

17 February 2014 | By Robert Chandler Chandler

Guest Blog | Stenbergs' Faces

03 February 2014 | By Paul Rennie

Shostakovich: A Russian Composer?

05 December 2013 | By Bazarov

Travelling with intourist

31 July 2013 | By Richard Barling

Exhibition review | Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Happiest Man

18 April 2013 | By Richard Barling

Presented by Sprovieri Gallery London and Ambika P3, 27 March – 21 April 2013

In London we confront dream and reality in a single, vast and depressing setting, the gloomy basement that is the University of Westminster’s P3 exhibition space. A single room, poorly furnished yet homely, huddles within a theatre auditorium. Through the window we view, as if in reality, propaganda films of alternately brisk and sentimental images from the farm, the music hall and the river boat. We are quickly embraced by these visions of progress and prosperity, we become the happiest man. Leaving the room we see the images for what they are, projected on a distant screen beyond the rows of empty seats, a celluloid Utopia, unreachable in practice.

Back in Eindhoven the red carpet leads us to Ilya Kabakov’s defining installation, a small room plastered with propaganda posters into which we can peer, through a broken wall, just like the astonished neighbours in one of the associated drawings. A contraption of springs and cords hangs beneath the jagged hole in the ceiling through which the hero of the narrative, in private emulation of Yuri Gagarin and the cosmonauts of the Soviet space programme (and there is perhaps also a reference here to the Christian Ascension), has propelled himself beyond the confines of reality into a new and perhaps brighter personal Utopia. Is he dead or alive? We do not know and we may guess that the artist does not know either. Now an immigrant himself, there is surely a degree of personal identification here between artist and narrative. The jaundiced yet nostalgic review of Soviet reality in the Kabakovs’ works shown here, the details of collective living as well as the magnificent but unrealised public projects, seems to be the view of artists who have rejected reality for a new Utopia in North America, but cannot quite let go of the socialist dream. Boris Groys writes of Ilya Kabakov’s ‘enlightened, sceptical attitude’, an artist for whom art is ‘about the chance to change existing circumstances or at least to escape them.’ To exchange one Utopia for another in fact.