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"Harmsiada: Andrey Chezhin, Curated by Tatiana Salzirn from Moscow"
2002-03-08 until 2002-04-27
Giedre Bartelt Galerie
Berlin, , DE Germany

The title Harmsiada comes from the name of two photographic series by Andrey Chezhin (b. 1960) who in turn had named them after the early 20th-century Russian avant-garde poet Daniil Harms*. Harms, a master of black humor and the absurd, lived in St. Petersburg (also the city of the photographer). From the time of Gogol, who was one of Harms' inspirations, St. Petersburg has been known as a city of dreamlike visions and surrealistic metamorphoses.

Fear in life and art is an existential notion as are natural results of the forced transformation from being Russian into being Soviet. In Harmsiada series, this evolution is depicted as the transmogrification of a person into a 'thumb-tack' or a human face into an alien object. However, Harmsiada encompasses more than the poetry of Harms or Chezhin's created portraits. In a broader sense it becomes the process of transformation of societies and its people, the world of wonder and its role in art of the 20th-century. A person's life, according to Harms (and some postmodernists), gradually turns into mere existence. In accordance with this idea, the first works in the show introduce Malevich and the theme of revolution (from the 1990 series Red Square). The culmination, photographs from Modernism and Tack series (1990-2000), display Chezhin's 'verdict' on modern art.

This exhibition includes works from the artist's major photography series, l990-2000. They are displayed chronologically so that viewers can see both how they correspond to the change in a social structure and nature of its characters during that decade, how the artist exposes the transformation of the Soviet Man. During these ten years Russians lived in a farce-like rhythm, reaping the sociopolitical results of the nation's 20th-century milestones: the establishment of Communism and its collapse.

The chronological arrangement of photographic series also illustrates the growth of formal aspects of Chezhin work, both in terms of artistic language and technical ideas. In addition, their juxtaposition in the same exhibition space shows the correlation in form and content between works in different series. Nonsensical and alogical elements of Harms' stories and poetry as consequences of mechanical unification of Soviet life, Chezhin photographically depicts the consequences of Obeing Soviet by the transformation of human faces into Otacks, deprived of any individuality. As Chezhin himself puts it: Every totalitarian system first erases everything that exists from the surface and then forces a new ideology.

*   Daniil Harms (1905 - 1942), russian poet, artist of the avantgard time, a founder and leader of OBERIU' movement (1927-1931), master of absurdity and black humour. 1931 was repressed by Soviet power for his poetry, arrested and put into prison; 1932 was exiled to the town of Kursk. August 1941 was arrested second time and sent to Siberia (disappeared without justice and inquiry). February 1942 perished in Gulag.

Tatiana Salzirn

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