Power games: Calvert 22 examines post-Soviet architecture through art
Calvert 22, the UK’s only not-for-profit institution solely dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art originating from Russia and Eastern Europe, has just introduced its latest offering; the multi-layered and fascinating ’Power and Architecture’ series, curated by programme manager Will Strong and creative director Ekow Eshun.
Architecture, argues the team, is a means to capture the zeitgeist and a society’s power, influence and status. Stalin’s seven Vysotki buildings (also known as the Seven Sisters) in Moscow and Astana’s gleaming Bayterek Tower are key examples, both looming over citizens of the Soviet Union, symbolically representing their ruler’s grand ambitions. This programme sets out to explore how the built environment in the Russian and Eastern European regions can be similarly used as an influential device, figuratively, psychologically and practically, both as a prominent feature of a city’s skyline and for the residents who live within.
The programme of events will commence with a conference around the theme and related talks, directly followed by a four-part exhibition, and to conclude with a set of workshops. The exhibition series will open with ’Utopia and Modernity’, a show reflecting on the modernist vision of a socialist city and presenting several artists’ interpretations of a future utopia. Artist Anton Ginzburg, for example, delves into a quest for perfection and its potentially devastating impact.
This show is followed by ’Dead space and ruins’, which showcases the work of three photographers who have documented the architectural remnants of the Soviet vision. Meanwhile, Vahram Aghasyan’s photographic series Ghost City will act as a tribute to the disused and decaying buildings scattered across the landscape.
The third instalment, ’Citizen activated space – Museum of Skateboarding’ is a brand new commission by Calvert 22. The piece by Kirill Savchenkov will explore the skateboarding subculture, not only as a sport but also as a useful tool through which to explore the post-Soviet suburbs of Russia. Savchenkov’s installation illustrates how through this assessment, a different meaning can be given to a city’s architectural interventions.
The quartet’s final chapter, ’The afterlives of Modernity – shared values and routines’ will investigate the notion of utopian public spaces and the quest to discover a new national identity. Monumental Propaganda, a visual research series by Donald Weber explores the sites where monuments had once previously stood but where only empty pedestals remain today.