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H5N1. sweet sleep


Alexei Kostroma

November 23 - December 16, 2006



H5N1 sweet sleep


Feather and floccus Ц a brand of Alexei Kostroma Ц is an initial point of artist's philosophy (named as "Organic way") and the most common material in all the projects and installations created by this artist. In the 1990th Alexei Kostroma started feathering process: one after another appeared feathered egg of megalithic size, midday shooting canon of Peter and Paul Fortress, Bronze Horseman, St. Peter yacht, Volga automobile, purse that looks like the gigantic gullet... One should also mention the project of feathering the "top" and paradigmatic creations of the world arts: from the classics to modernism, from the social realism to postmodernism Ц "Mona Lisa", "Black square", Coca-Cola can, "The Eye" of Rene Magritte, "Chair" of Joseph Kosuth, Stalin plaster head, "Steel Rabbit" of Jeff Koons.

Nowadays Kostroma lives and works in Berlin and is rarely participating in selected exhibitions in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Current project at M. Guelman Gallery is partly the short retrospection and the bottom line for violent decade. But at the same time "H5N1. sweet sleep" is a project which allows reaching a wide variety of subjects of contemporary live Ц in the critical and ironical way at the same time. The conception of the exhibition was born two years ago in the "Der spigel" magazine Kostroma saw the photographs of the birds beheaded (those images created a scandal in the German society). Some birds that were infected or could be infected by H5N1 were annihilated in the gas chambers, others were beheaded.

The destiny of poor birds and the images of cut off heads was an impulse for the artist to create the story with Donald Duck starring Ц this Disney hero travesty who's puzzled about sudden loss of his head. White and fluffy idiot vis-à-vis naturalistic still-life pictures in Gustav Courbet style and the portraits of the birds' heads which are the initial point of the story. The prosaicism of the project consists in obvious intersection of images that exist in the parallel worlds and sometimes come across on the pages of the glossy magazines.
Kostroma wouldn't be himself without outlining other ideas of the subject development. Behind the H5N1 artist distinguishes not only the scandal burned by mass media. In the 1990th feather and floccus in post Soviet Russia were as metaphor of the play, freedom and lightness Ц carnival ambiance with the spontaneous participation of the viewers guided all the actions of the Kostroma. But it is not that what we may see today. Yes, it is still soft-white-light-fluffy but in the H5N1 project this harmless material symbolizes fear, challenge and danger. Artist documentarily illustrates the birds killing house where white background dramatically turns to cynical glossy wrapping and becoming its opposition. Trick is not entertaining anymore and it doesn't seem to be amusing.

Kostroma has learnt to see the "human, too human" component behind the Nature's forms and biorhythms. This component didn't hesitate to reveal itself Ц not in the character of the "humanized duck" Ц funny Donald Ц but in the ancient Bible myths of excision of heads (Holofernes and Iohann), and in contemporary Russian history with cut-off heads of our soldiers in Chechnya.
History is not repeating itself, it is continuing marking similar occurrence differently and the humanity doesn't learn anything form it. Artist is pretty far from the direct comparison Ц moreover that he treats the Holofernes story as H5N1 glossy burlesque. The essence of the project is in the obvious changing of meaning of the texture. When in the installation we see a handbag decorated with the egg shell like it is crocodile leather, and there's this disgusting lock of tangled hair poking out of the bag, we do feel uncomfortable, Ц and this is a completely different mixture of emotions and associations which is comparable to the perception of the book Sulamith at Kiefer's.

This reference to Kiefer is no coincidence: it is obvious that the engagement of the categories of national consciousness, myth and memory into the work made the artist imply in some way the same methods.

Kostroma art works only exteriorly remind hysterical gestures of ecologists or activists of animal protection. Artist doesn't use direct and obvious gestures. Kostroma works with art memory and thus resembles Meret Oppenhaim's surrealistic objects who dressed up the tea cup into the roe deer fur. Texture itself performs the subject essence, it works like a detonator of meanings which are much more powerful then we may see, got pinched by the simple formula Ц H5N1.

Gleb Ershov


***
Biography

1962 born in Kostroma, lives and works in Berlin
and St. Petersburg

1982-1989 studies at the Academy of Arts (Repin Institute), Department of Painting, Leningrad (USSR)

since 1986 has been undertaking exhibiting activity

1989 becomes a member of the Union of Artists of Russia

1991 founds the "Tut-I-Tam" group, begins to develop his concept of "inventorying". Numerates natural objects. Introduces the notion of "introspective action" into the St. Petersburg art scene

1992 makes water self-destructing installations, begins to develop the idea of "feathering"

1994 makes a series of wide-scale actions "The Feathering of Names Symbols". Intensively uses chicken feathhers, begins theoretical and laboratory investigations in the "organic trend"

1995 begins to collect individual strands of hair

1997 develops the theory of "The Spiralwise Development of Color"

1998-1999 studies the structure of the traces of raindrops.
Makes up a scale of rain

1998-2000 works on the project "A Glance at the Sun". Watches the sun and studies the laws of color development reflected on the retina of the eye

2000-2002 expands his special vision of the pictorial space, connected with the figure and time on the basis of experiments and theoretic investigations of color. Develops the idea of "Figurative-numerical painting"

2005 becomes a member of the Union of Artists of Germany

Solo Exhibitions (selected) since 1996:

2006
H5N1. sweet sleep. M.Guelman Gallery, Moscow
RED. ћein Kampf. 2005-2006. Photoinstallation.
The Sixth International Photography Month in Moscow: Photobiennale 2006, Moskow (DE)
2004
Feel Yourself. Installation.
Gallery Art Digital (GAD), Berlin (DE)
2002
The Fractal Geometry of Leaves. Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis Museum, Amsterdam (NL)
2002
Smoke, Feather and Batterflies. State Russian Museum.
Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg (RU)
2001
A Life 2000 Meters Long. Hair Chronicle, State Museum of Military History, St. Petersburg (RU)
2000
The Organic Way: A Glance at the Sun, Harry Blom Gallery, Brussels (BE)
1999
Inventorying of Yellow Rain, Gallery Navicula Artis, Pushkinskaja 10, St. Petersburg (RU)
1999
The Organic Way: Penguin Spiral, video installation, State Russian Museum, Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg (RU)
1998
Pinguingang, video installation, Galerie im Kornhaus, Kirchheim (DE)
1996
Feathering and Organica, Kuenstlertreff-Reihe 22 Gallery, Stuttgart (DE)

Group Exhibitions (selected) since 1996:

2006
BERLIN:TENDENZEN. La Capella. Barcelona
2005
Collage of the 20th Century. State Russian Museum.
St. Petersburg (RU)
2005
Der freie Wille. Arena Berlin. M.A.I.S.VI. Berlin (DE)
2004
White Wood. Installation.
Schloss and Gut Liebenberg, Liebenberg (DE)
2004
Na kurort! Russische Kunst heute.
Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden (DE)
2003
Neutral Zone Flowers. Gallery in Parlament, Berlin (DE)
2003
Co: ma Ц a Diary of a Life
Alexanderplatz-Bunker, Berlin (DE)
2003
The Return of the Mir Iskusstva. State Museum of the City History, Rumjantzovskij Dvoretz, St. Petersburg (RU)
2003
From Photograph to Picture. Gallery Sandmann,
Berlin (DE)
2003
Direxions. Inside Ц Outside, Espoo Art Museum,
Galleria Otso, Espoo (FI)
2003
Direxions. Inside Ц Outside. State Russian Museum, Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg (RU)
2002
Feathering Aggression, Liverpool Biennial, Basement IX, Liverpool (UK)
2002
Crystallization. Birth of a Snowflake, Rauma Biennale Balticum, Lönnström Art Museum, Rauma (FI)
2001
The International Theatre Olympiad III, Moscow (RU)
1999
Art Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne (DE)
Organica: The Non-Objective World of Nature in the Russian Avant-Garde of the 20th Century, Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne (DE)
1996
Metaphern des Entrucktseins: Aktuelle Kunst aus Sankt Petersburg, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (DE)

Grants:
2001
Institut Pro Arte and Ford Foundation, St. Petersburg (RU)
1998
Soros Center for Contemporary Arts, St. Petersburg (RU)

Works in public collections:

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg (RU)
State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg,
St. Petersburg (RU)
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (NL)



20.11.2006
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