Moscow, You are not our Capital

By Katalin Timár

In the work of Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair, relationality could be one of the most fundamental terms of describing her mode of operation, which is complemented by another key aspect of her artistic activity. This is a characteristic that Kathi Hofer called eclecticism in the context of Shapiro-Obermair's work, but in order to avoid any unnecessary associations to an exclusively formal approach, I would rather identify it as promiscuity, despite of the excessive sexual connotation of this term. This promiscuous strategy allows Shapiro-Obermair to maintain a resistance to received ideas when it comes to some central dogmas of art and art history, such as authorship, the possible facets of the multiple in the face of the uniqueness of the art object, the artwork's relationship to its spectators, the purity of the definition of the artist, to name a few. With her carefully staged installations and “arrangements,” and from an anti-formalist position, Shapiro-Obermair reconsiders the transcendency of art by indirectly arguing with Greenberg's self-contradictory ideas about modernism and abstraction.


“Moscow, you are not our Capital” epitomizes Shapiro-Obermair's interests in working with various layers and aspects of cultural history. The work is underwritten with her private micro-history since it contains photographic representations of certain emblematic locations in her geographical trajectory. This endeavour is translated into an aesthetic experience by Shapiro-Obermair's juxtaposition and variation of recurring elements, such as snapshots of seemingly ordinary urban locations (from Nuremberg and Berlin) with photographs of modernist-minimalistic objects, and hand-made drawings of repetitive, geometrical forms, looking like computer-generated prints. All these elements are carefully arranged and staged for the spectators who are invited by Shapiro-Obermair to establish their own relationship to her objects and to the ideas they are meant to evoke; some of which – as the title suggests – refer to the personal consequences of geographical dislocation that is, in the case of the artist, is devoid of any sentimental nostalgia.

Summer 2010