Soviet Everyday Objects. Corpus Delicti

Diploma exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, 2009

In Russian the word “Object” is called “Vešč”, which etymologically speaking derives from the verb “veščat”(to speak). Vešč Objet Gegenstand was also the name of a magazine published by El Lissitzky and Ilja Ehrenburg. The term Object is at the same time the center of the work “Corpus Delicti” with a particular depth towards the Soviet. This interest is not only conditioned biographically since the actual Focus of these objects consists in the fact that their context does no longer exist. Their original function has been lost, though their iconography can still be read, it is no longer completely understood. In a certain way the term “Soviet Object” was already a paradox from the start: on one hand, the ideological, spiritual and the speculative were of highest importance in the USSR. On the other hand, the materialism, which formed the basis of the communist theory, demanded for a way of thinking within the categories of the physical.

Creating part of the Project is a “found” collection of Soviet artifacts from the Russian dissident Ella Opalnaja, which, through its autonomy, becomes an element of the whole. It forms an exhibition within the exhibition. The same objects are shown twice. Once by Ella Opalnaja, once by Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair. The shape of the used display cases result from different variations of a wedge-shaped modular construction with a 14 degree angle, which can be applied both vertically and horizontally. Their raw material consists of Viennese furniture of the 1950s. Three assemblages hang on the walls, mounted in the spaces between them are three Soviet plant vases from the 1980s each containing a Chlorophytum (green lily).

Throughout the entire installation references to the Russian Constructivism are clear. These are not only readable in the stylistic idiom, which became the general vocabulary of contemporary art, but are also present in still current questions (like e.g. the discrepancy between autonomous work of art and applied art and/or the relationship between function and form of an Object).

The emphasis of the artistic discourse lies thus in the attempt to extend the field of activity of the artist to curatorial work, exhibition design, architecture, culturology and ethnography. The position of the artist, the collector and the curator are placed in a relationship next to each other. Working with found objects re-activates the collective memory. The connection between memory, transmission and aesthetics, and also between the present and a reminding past, are all determining elements of the environment.

Translation: Victoria ROWLEY

June 9 – June 26, 2009
Academy of fine Arts Vienna
Boecklinstraße 1, 1020 Vienna


Report – Magazine for Arts and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe
Print Issue 2009