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Chichkan develops shocking themes not from a desire to shock, but from a desire to make one laugh Ц he does not encroach on the sacred, but wanders in the twilight zone of unconscious household clichés, moulded from a durable alloy of moral hypocrisy, visual habits, cultural traditions and idiocy.
In the project "Household Surrealism" we are presented with concrete clichés which claim beauty in its most kitsch form. We see an unimaginable feast of kitsch, which has no qualms about being itself and realising its frank, to the point of indecency, desire to please.
In kitsch the reality of impossible desires, with which Ilya Chichkan works in the project "Household Surrealism", speaks through unbelievable beauty.
Surrealism is constructed as a system of ruptures, says Rosalind Krauss in the classic work "The Photographic Conditions of Surrealism". When Ilya Chichkan calls yet another misalliance with low aesthetics "household surrealism", he reveals the sphere of kitsch (stunning in its idiocy and entertainment) as a structure of ruptures. Its invisible part is in the minds of the viewers, in the shadow and haze of clichéd perception. The ruptures are between the perception of kitsch and contemporary art, their different reception by the consumers of one or the other. It is the distance between the naive symbolism of the glossy, of wealth or of heroism Ц and the undisguised ugliness which privatized it; it is the insurmountable cracks in the collective aesthetic unconscious. The aesthetic and ironic (as opposed to direct and sincere) perception of kitsch constructs for itself an imagined naive viewer, who is capable of doing for us something that we can no longer do Ц of deriving pleasure. Through his mediation as an agent of our aesthetic pleasure he implants into the process of viewing another structural rupture. And we like how he does it.
In projects Chichkan has frequently presented a sense of the closeness of ideology and psychosis. And he is definitely attracted to hairy faces. The viewer remembers his monkeys in generals' uniforms. Intelligent kind eyes, wrinkled faces, covered with long hair Ц the army, so to speak, with a human face. Now here are the hairy faces of young women. His "Household Surrealism" more and more resembles a hallucination, only exceedingly funny Ц in Chichkan's work even fears and the psychotic dimension of everyday life are transformed into some sort of hairy funny garbage. I was delighted by the remark of a middle-aged housewife, who saw the project in the light of making a fetish out of smooth bodies and women's practices of hair removal, which advertising turns into an obsession. The woman was genuinely offended by the artist. That is, Chichkan deeply touches the phobias which are expelled from household consciousness and are recognised as the insulting projections of what a person usually hides both from himself and others.
Apart from the bearded young women on skins (thanks to Wim Delvoye), in Ilya Chichkan's project there are a number of strange pop-culture objects, most likely bought in pedestrian subways. Chichkan exaggerates their already existent artificial plasticity, and meaningless trinkets in the hands of the artist become emblems of themselves, of their artificiality and monstrousness. The reference of a thing to its artificial, constructed nature is a gesture discovered by the Avant-garde. But now, this gesture is understood differently: the inversion of the Avant-garde and of kitsch is showing the middle finger to the art theoretician Clement Greenberg, who wrote "The Avant-garde and Kitsch". And of course, is more the proof of the rigidity of the contemporary outlook than of the expansion of its boundaries.
Chichkan's work as a performer is related to the character of an idiot depicting meaningful activity. This strategy works as an amplifier of taste, of the solidity and of the meanings of the reality which begins to reveal its own idiocy. At first we notice the latter in some outer activity, and later in ourselves Ц it is a very subversive strategy in relation to our common sense. Chichkan's love of idiocy seems so sincere that it causes concern Ц how can one make art with such a pervious boundary between the character strategy and the wholehearted fusion with the domain of the cliché?
But serious ideological repression rises behind any idiocy (including the aesthetic one) of which Chichkan is invariably a mediator.
Household consciousness is no less ideological and the ideological mechanics of the everyday are no less repressive for consciousness than the ideology of the authorities. Actually, the ideology of everyday life is in fact the authority of that collectivity, which defines the aesthetic habits and idiocy of everyday life.
Translation: Pavel Glebov