Exhibition: May 13th – June 28th 2017
Curated by Silvia Burini, Giuseppe Barbieri, Anna Frants, Elena Gubanova
Artists: Lucia Veronesi (IT), Alvise Bittente (IT), Valentina Povarova (RU), Irina Nakhova (RU+USA), William Latham (UK), Alexandra Dementieva (Belg), Peter Patchen (USA), German Vinogradov (RU), Alexander Terebenin (RU), Alexei Kostroma (DE), Vitaly Pushnitsky (RU), Ludmila Belova (RU), Ivan Govorkov (RU), Elena Gubanova (RU), Carla Gannis (USA), Anna Frants (RU+USA), Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai (RU), Natalia Lyakh (FR), Boris Kazakov (RU).
Back in 1964, in a book that immediately prompted vigorous debate (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man), Marshall McLuhan concluded the chapter “Hybrid Energy: Les Liaisons Dangereuses” with a singular, if not provocative, definition of hybridity. He observed how the direct encounter between two media, and their subsequent hybridisation, is a dynamic that sparks an authentic moment of truth and revelation, from which a new form cannot but emerge. Over fifty years later, we can now frame McLuhan’s emphasis in the broader context of what we have known since the late ’80s as the pictorial or visual turn. Many other scholars, from David Freedberg to Tom Mitchell and Gottfried Boehm, have added important contributions of their own. In the essay Four fundamental concepts of image science (2007), Mitchell in particular notes that every pictorial turn is a remarkable opportunity for artists and their audience. It “reappears numerous times in the history of culture, usually at moments when some new technology of reproduction, or some set of images associated with new social, political, or aesthetic movements has arrived on the scene. The dilation of the instruments of expression, the explosion of combinatorial possibilities and an ever-denser interweaving of mutual borrowings opens up new opportunities and new forms, resulting in new subjects and new forms of consumption.”
In this vein, the exhibition “Hybris. Hybrids and Monsters in Contemporary Art” surveys and sequences a series of works and groups of works by 19 artists from 7 countries, from different cultural contexts and historical periods. (The oldest works date back at least 40 years.) Linking all of them is a shared quest to explore one of the most challenging themes cutting across our contemporary world: the complex relationship between identity and alterity. Beginning with the Biennale organised by Jean Clair, “Identity and alterity: figures of the body 1895–1995”, later artistic explorations set out their objectives more precisely. Thus, representing the body gave way, in a post-human perspective, to manipulating it. The intercultural debate turned into the need for an encounter – indeed, a clash – with that which is not part of human civilisation: the inanimate, the inorganic, the animal, the monster, and pervasive and invasive technologies. In just a decade or so, the body became a surface bearing layers of changing information codes (from genetics to informatics), acquiring a mutating morphology that blended and blurred them.
The exhibition’s three parts – “Hybrid spaces”, “I–the other, the hybrid, the monster” and “Metamorphoses and metaphors” – at least hint at the complexity of this problem, and visitors will see that they fit together into a single discourse. The terms used suggest very clearly that the artists’ individual paths (even though these are people from different generations) and the signs they produced are a mix of different times and even far-off eras. Ultimately, the obsession with monsters/hybrids has pervaded our civilisation ever since it first appeared.
Inevitably, the artists include a strong Russian contingent. In its general thinking on the relationship between identity and alterity, the West has paid scant attention to the explorations by Russian artists. Yet one of the goals – and perhaps the merits – of this survey, despite its modest size, is precisely its appreciation of a journey with such deep, distant roots.
Silvia Burini, Giuseppe Barbieri
Artists and Works
Video-investigation of everyday things, their reflections, distortions, transformations. “Lamps swinging in the wind, throwing red eyes in a puddle… foam cocktail structure… magic movement of car’s internal mechanism displayed in showroom… surface’s secrets. No special effects: a closer shot. It is not a fictional world. There is a diversion of the world. The motion combines organic and nonorganic worlds. Movement forms are deformed by sound. The association is between the contrast image-sound. We are taken away by the time, the speed and the rhythm”. V. Mazin
‘Listen to the beating heart through a simple ice cube.
Supported by CYLAND MediaArtLab
The triptych form originated in the early Christian art, and it was a popular format for religious paintings in the Middle Ages. The middle part contained the main subject, and the wings were a compositional complement, though they too could be viewed as a separate work.
In the early XX century, a threefold polyptych inspired Kazimir Malevich. Originally, his “Black Square” was called “Tetragon”, and it was a component of the triptych, together with “Black Circle” and “Black Cross”. Alexandre Benois noted: “Undoubtedly, this is indeed the icon which Messieurs Futurists prefer to Madonnas and impudent Venuses”.
A hundred years after the advent of “Black Square”, Alexander Terebenin has created a minimalist and abstract triptych, using the pictorial geometry of vanishing scenery. The squares, rectangles, crosses, “spied on” by a camera, are written into the three-part format. Traces of life of the previous generations turn into secret signs and sacral symbols.
Untitled landscape #5 faces the catastrophe, like the rest of the video series. The violent transformation wipes out any illusion of safety. Houses, gardens, basins, swimming pools: everything that was made to protect human life gives up, suffering its own opposite. Infiltrations, rocks and floodings creep into the furnished rooms. Revolting creatures replace the statues in the garden. The polished marble of the sculptures is covered by shapeless rocks. Uncontrollable plants come out of the ground and crumble the bottom of the swimming pool. A tranquil telescope turns into a bullet, the glance is a punch that beheads all it sees. A barbarian power invades, disintegrates, mocks. The eyes can only look through layers of incisions, the sky has turned into a shutter of cuts that falls on its own image. If knowledge and experience want to remain reliable, they will necessarily have to take the view of the catastrophe.
Supported by CYLAND MediaArtLab
The project “Studio. Waiting” is a large-format canvas with an attached device that allows to see the story anew and to refresh the image without the intrusion of one art form into another. This is an attempt visually to demonstrate both independence and coexistence of the traditional form — painting — and the newest means of augmented reality. The project investigates game theory (including a game with an absent character) in its contemporary, virtual-psychological aspect. The picture is separated from the device; nothing is projected onto it. It serves just as a switch-on point, a pretext to expand the boundaries imposed by the bored glance of a visitor to the exhibition. The painting and the program live and work together, much like people coexist on networks. This peculiar symbiosis allows to bring technology to a discussion of the same questions that are posed by classical art.
The series of pictures “Geometry of Classics” is conceived by the authors as part of the investigation of patterns of plastic configuration of images in the classic art.
A projection of topological space of the unilateral surface of “Moebius Strip” on famous paintings of the Renaissance demonstrates that many compositions of the old masters are structured in accordance with its crisp geometry. By creating a plastic hybrid of painting and topology, the artists suggest that the viewer return to the ancient view of the world, in which mathematics and art were capable of describing the entire Universe.
“Time and space are the Moebius Strip;
The human body is the Moebius Strip;
The entire life is the expectation of properties of Moebius Strip.
Everything is present in the ‘non-presence’;
Everything exists in the ‘nonexistence’.”
Supported by CYLAND MediaArtLab
Conceptually referencing a computer grid and visually reflecting the infrastructure of a building without walls, Anna Frants builds an open framework room. Comprised of raw polypropylene cubes, the exposed framework houses objects, videos, and movements. The interior (unlived-in lived-in) space is empty for viewers to navigate the visuals, sounds, words, and virtual actions of the exterior matrix and formulate their own story. Birds chirp, recorded faces communicate, playful toys whiz and whirl, the seas ebb and flow — each with brand names that they are sold as or known by as characters in Frants’ theatrically staged work and beyond. At first glance reminiscent of “The End” or “Mad Max”, this multimedia environment is less а scene from a dismal future and more an intimate setting presented for a poetic contemplation of the sense of self. The installation is flexible, varying from site to site and country to country, with local materials utilized each time.
Carla Gannis’s A Subject Self-Defined, a collection of large-format looped moving images, takes its title from Joseph Kosuth’s 1966 neon sculpture that spells out and is eponymously titled “A Subject Self-Defined.” Kosuth belonged to a group of artists involved in stripping down the art object, reducing it to ideas and information that were detached from personal meaning. Fifty-one years later, in the age of networked identity and digital dematerialization, Gannis is perplexed by subjecthood and self-definition in relationship to the “personal” when performed publicly.
(observation post = voting booth = bunker)
The rapidly deployed booth is constructed out of a thick protective quilted jacket.
Each booth has two pairs of sleeves to choose from:
a) if so desired, an observer could try to reach the hands of another observer from a different booth or b) use the sleeves as a strait jacket. Each post is equipped with a voice servicing the observer:
Periodically, the voices whisper a program of international monitoring:
peace… pax… pace… мир… paix… Frieden… etc.
Supported by CYLAND MediaArtLab
It’s 1915. Modernism, that has been reigning in art at the border of XIX and XX centuries, reaches its apogee. Pioneers of abstractionism are consciously solving the problem of the crisis of artistic image. The desire to reproduce the unreproducible and to reflect a higher reality was, in fact, what brought forth images of Suprematism. The abstract art, which has been trying to cleanse itself from all visual allusions and to rid itself of any illustrativity in relation to the reality, presents to the world Malevich’s Black Square – “The Grand Nothing”.
The black monolith is externalization. It is the process by means of which the “internal OBJECT” gets projected at a certain object in the outside world. It is a different person that becomes this object. Furthermore, upon superimposition, the projection brings forth something that is doubled by a mutual action of each protagonist. And what if this “something” is our internal monster or a new creation – a hybrid to which one needs to get accustomed and which needs to be tamed.
In the installation “Pastorale”, copies of the porcelain girl-shepherdess produced by a 3D printer are arranged on the screen that reproduces the video that imitates a flowery meadow.
The sound is a compilation of the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully and the prattle of “electronic birds”.
If a traditionally understood pastorale is the peaceful bucolic scene lit by the bright sunlight, the digital pastorale is a digitized world behind the looking-glass that represents that which is absent in reality, that which is the reflection’s reflection. Instead of the sunshine flooding idyllic landscapes, the digital spaces glimmer with a cold moon silver – the reflected light of the Sun.
The pastoral music of Lully appeases the spectator who sees a multitude of absolutely identical “shepherdesses” dancing on the grass that is breaking up into pixels. The birds’ prattle creates the atmosphere of a joyful sunny day and invites us into this new digital world which dazzles us with its beauty, goodwill and absence of boarders.
Year of creation: 1987-1988;
the original is the 35-mm film.
Location of the original is unknown. There is a VHS copy.
Running time: 25 minutes 29 seconds.
First independent movie shot on the 35-mm film.
The screenplay was written as a self-deprecating story that traced the origins of the BICAPO mystery play, with which I have been involved since 1984. The plot calls for the cross-breeding of a man (the director of a metallurgical factory serves as a sperm donor) and an ape resulting in the creation of a biorobot with enhanced physical endurance for the manual transport of heavy things at a metallurgical factory. While transporting metal ingots, the hero-biorobot starts listening to the sounds of metal, escapes from the factory and starts creating his own music using new metal music instruments that he invents, and when he performs in mystery plays for the public, he interconnects all the primary elements – fire, water, air, earth and metal. The society rudely intrudes into the hero’s new life and brings him back to his former work at the factory. The hero breaks down under the workload and dies. He is thrown out to the scrap yard where he used to gather the material for creation of his instruments.
Supported by CYLAND MediaArtLab
Simulated wings are immersed in tubs filled with black paint and they flap, bringing to mind birds soiled by oil spills at sea. The work refers to the subject of Icarus: the aspiration towards beautiful ideas followed by a fall into the depths of crap. On the other hand, the wings function as the giant brushes of an artist. The customary artisanal world of a creator can also be interpreted as an endless immersion in light and darkness.
24” x 24” x 29” (Variable)
Mixed Media: E-waste, 3D Print, Theremin
In work Vigilance, from the Campfire Tales series, Patchen mounts a deer head covered in code on a circuit board that incorporates 3-D printing and e-waste. The piece references the human trophy-taking impulse as it combines the natural and digital worlds ultimately calling into question our own behavior, consumption and its impact on the planet. Reflecting the wariness of an endangered animal, the antlers/television antenna is a functioning theremin that fills the space with static at varying pitches when the viewer is near. The binary code, a snippet of the Stux virus, textures the beast while its meter/eye measures the environment in vain.
Engineers: Aleksey Grachev, Sergey Komarov
The entire object is an enlarged copy of the household flytrap. The sticky sweet ribbon, in the artists’ ironic version, is a metaphor of life. People “stuck on” power, ideas and principles, sensual lust, love, time and space – the way flies get stuck at the honey-rosin bait.
Having come close, the viewer falls within the area of coverage of sensors. The entire construction comes into motion and starts vibrating and humming as if an insect had alit on it. The resonant and heart-rending sounds of a panicked desire of breaking loose leaves no hope for a happy end. In this grotesque form, the authors remind the viewer once again of the pernicious nature of human passions, dogmatic ideas and desires.
“…As an artist, I am attracted not to the empiric existence, psychology, morals, societal issues, but by the sense of transcendental that is behind all that. A power is also the hatred of everything profane in
…I think that, through the works, one gets the feeling of belonging to the supreme invariable origins.
If this pans out – the artist is happy. This is probably the reason one is working to begin with.
Artworks as a whole are a metaphysical object. This provides instants of happiness and of overcoming of the anonymity in the world.
…The name of Malevich is charismatic for me – and the longer I live, the stronger it becomes. The flame
does not go away…
… Prime structure. It is born in the painting and cannot be explained by words. I am possessed by the color… It gets born, attracts the form… Some kind of vibration emerges from within, and it is, in fact, purely plastic, of the color-shape nature.
…Colors and shapes are the protagonists in my works. One could dedicate entire cycles of paintings to the joy one derives from a single color – from its capacities. The important thing, the thing that moves it all, is energy. The energy that fills life in all its shapes and manifestations…”
Eugene Yufit was finishing gluing together his film Silver Heads when we ran into each other in the editing room on the Kryukov Canal and he said that I could take away those clippings of the film positive that ended up on the editing-room floor. So I brought to Moscow a trunk-full of film footage. I did some reviewing, selecting, adding and additional drawing, which resulted in a short spin-off film.
The work stands on the axis between the myth of basilisk, “king of serpents”, whose gaze turned everything to stone, and the play “Arden of Faversham” by an anonymous Elizabethan author, in which the protagonist Alice and her lover paid Clarke, a painter who was an expert in mixing venom into oil painting, to create a portrait that would be hung in her husband’s room and kill him at first glance. Art gives a different meaning and other points of view to a basilisk that petrifies with a gaze, and perhaps by looking and staring at art in excess we are risking poisoning it.
Introspective action, 05.17 – 11.05.1992
Historic building of the Russian Academy of Arts – Russian Ethnographic Museum, St. Petersburg
Chief participants of the project: Aleksey Kostroma, Ivan Govorkov, Elena Gubanova
On May 17, 1992, the group of artists TUT-I-TAM (HERE-AND-THERE), former students and graduates of the Leningrad Academy of Arts Alexei Kostroma, Ivan Govorkov, Elena Gubanova and their friends, organized the action “GARDEN OF MALEVICH”. The chief idea was about sowing the seeds of new art in the very heart of an orthodox art institution under the conditions of new time of a nascent democracy in Russia.
Timeline of the events:
May of 1992
dug up a black square in the round courtyard of the Academy of Arts in Leningrad.
Sowed carrot seeds.
November of 1992
Unearthed the carrots.
Walked over the Palace Bridge with 3-meter sculptures of the carrot from the Hermitage to the Rostral Columns, having crossed the Neva as a symbolic Rubicon of time. This action was a remake of the futurist manifestation of Morgunov-Malevich on February 8, 2014, in Moscow.
The final action was the eating of the gathered carrots at the exhibition-installation at the Russian Ethnographic Museum as an act of destruction of the Black Square itself.
“To open ground in the round courtyard of the orthodox Academy of Arts with the Black Square of suprematism, to plant it with seeds and wait until the form, which germinates in a plane, is born and gets eaten in real life”.
Ivan Govorkov, 1992.
The introvert nature of Black Square, its inaccessibility for the uninitiated, which, it its turn, serves as a constant irritant and a disturber of peace and, after the consumption of its fruit, turns into a quite accessible and ordinary image. In reality, what’s happening is a qualitative and quantitative change of the square that illustratively demonstrates parallels of the creative and biological processes whose approximation we dare to declare here. In 1915, in Petrograd, in the first quarter of the XX century, the great Master published with his black square the final result of his multiyear digestion of Russian and Western Art. But does the final result in art exist? And isn’t the final result just a new beginning?
Alexei Kostroma, 1992.
The CYLAND Audio Archive (CAA) explores possibilities of exhibiting, the archival posterity in and possibilities of Sound Art as a medium. CAA has created a platform to allow free, publicly accessible listening for Sound Art online as well as producing tangible records of Sound Art in limited editions. The published editions of Sound Art records are made of contemporary polycarbonate – a durable and historically established means of storing sound works in context to the digital files of these works available online. CAA’s goal is to create an archive of contemporary noise early experimentalists to present day sound pioneers alongside art comprised of other tech based mediums.
Sound Artists: Nick Edwards, Peter Vogel, Hans Tammen, Dmitry ::vtol:: Morozov, Kurvenschreiber, Art Electronix, Pete Um, Jonáš Gruska, Yoshio Machida, Anthony Bisset, Vasily Stepanov, Sashas Ulz, George Bagdasarov, Max Kuiper, Thorsten Soltau, Mark Hannesson, Akira Rabelais, Todd Barton, Zimoun, Alexei Grachev, Bred Blondie, A. Nigh Herndon, Glia/Bugaev, Ilia Belorukov, Lena Filatova
Download HYBRIS catalog (PDF)
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