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Tennis Game

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

September 18 - October 19, 2008

Playing the game will be Ilya Kabakov and Boris Groys. The audience will be able to observe the action on TV monitors. Admittedly, the players may not have reached the skill level of Boris Becker or Marat Safin, but the main thing, after all, is enjoying the process. Simultaneously, the viewers will be able to enjoy the results of another game, which will be written out on black school chalkboards. The dialogues of philosopher Boris Groys and artist Ilya Kabakov are presented as five rounds of a tennis match in which a question gets served and followed by a reciprocal blow.

It is easy to see in the concept of this installation an analogy with a Medieval disputation, which at that time was nothing but a unique kind of intellectual competition. In such a disputation-tournament, a preliminary topic was posed which was then discussed by the two partners. It was assumed that the two of them belonged to different "camps," to different traditions and the adventures of such a meeting were rich in sharp lunges, blows and their blocks.

In the tournament by the name "Tennis Game," a preliminary topic also exists. "Strangers in the Arctic," and just like in a classical positions by both of the "tennis players." The topic of the exhibit serving as the framework for this installation, the topic of an "outsider on foreign territory," is sufficiently close and comprehensible to both of the participants of the match, this topic has already been discussed by them rather often Ц we could hope that this time the battle would be uncompromising.

And where is the result of this "match," where is the victor? Here we can only quote the person who in our time resurrected the tradition of the Olympic games, who pronounced the following words: "It is more important to participate in these games than to win". This applies to the participants themselves. But what is the position of the viewer/reader in such a case? It is not nearly so obvious, and each one has to judge independently what has occurred before him on the court.

Ilya Kabakov was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union, in 1933 and studied at the VA Surikov Art Academy in Moscow. He was part of a group of Conceptual artists in Moscow who worked outside the official Soviet art system. In 1985 he received his first solo show exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern, with another show following at Dina Vierny Gallery, Paris. He moved to the West two years later taking up a six months residency at Kunstverein Graz, Austria. In 1988 Kabakov began working with his future wife Emilia. From this point onwards, all their work was collaborative, in different proportions according to the specific project involved. Today they are recognized as the most important Russian artists to have emerged in the late 20th century. Their installations speak as much about conditions in post-Stalinist Russia as they do about the human condition universally. Utopia is a major theme in their work.

Emilia Kabakov (nee Lekach) was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union, in 1945. She attended Moscow Music School, Music College in Irkutsk and Dnepropetrovsk in addition to studying Spanish language and literature at the Moscow University. She immigrated to Israel in 1973, and moved to New York in 1975, where she worked as a curator and art advisor. She worked for 7 years as an adviser to a private group of investors.

Their work has been shown in museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Pompidou Centre, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Documenta IX, at the 1997 Whitney Biennial and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg among others. In 1993 they represented Russia at the 45th Venice Biennale with their installation The Red Pavilion. The Kabakovs have also completed many important public commissions throughout Europe and have received a number of honours and awards, including the Oscar Kokoschka Preis, Vienna, in 2002 and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, in 1995.

The Kabakovs live and work in Long Island.

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