19 June - 27 July 2008

Private view: Wednesday 18 June 2008, 7-9 pm


Victor Alimpiev | Diana Machulina | Elikuka | Fedor Pavlov‑Andreevich | Georgy Ostretsov | Rostan Tavasiev

Curated by Maria Baibakova

The new director of a cemetery in a Russian city has a meeting with his employees:
“Ok, we need to reduce costs. I’d like to hear some suggestions….”
“Well,” says one staff member tentatively, “If we can bury the bodies standing up, then we can save on space.”
“Good Idea. What else?”
“Well,” says another, “If we can bury bodies up to the waist and then paint them, we can save on gravestones.”
“Very good. What else?”
“Well… If the bodies could hold hands we would save on the fence…”

From a compilation of recent Russian jokes

Paradise Row proudly presents Laughterlife, a group show of new art from Russia, featuring Victor Alimpiev, Georgy Ostretsov, Elikuka, Diana Machulina, Fedor Pavlov‑Andreevich and Rostan Tavasiev.

The exhibition brings together works that exemplify the vein of absurdity and black humor that has been an enduring characteristic of Russian culture, from the early 19th century literary works of Gogol, to absurdists writings and theatre of the OBERIU group headed by Daniil Kharms, to the seminal narrative installation works of Ilya Kabakov, to the work of young artists in Russia today.

At core of this cultural tone lies a clear-eyed realism: an acceptance of the ways of the world, of the absurdity of life itself that, hilariously, is often compounded by the ridiculous and often painful outcomes generated by the dynamics of human societies, most classically of all, the vulnerability of the individual to massive forces well beyond his/her control, be they the power of global, marcoeconomic change, or the opaque machinations of repressive regimes that, to add insult to injury, often wear a poorly fitting mask of ideological intent.

Inevitably, the massive cultural, economic, and social changes metered out in Russia over the last two decades has provided fertile ground for the growth of new iterations in the cultural realm of absurd and the darkly humorous.

In Laughterlife we find: biting satire of the new political order in the works of Georgy Ostretsov, an elegy for a dead friend in a film by Victor Alimpiev, at once elegant and carnivalesque, a savage attack on the love of cats and inedible Soviet food by duo Elikuka, dark notes hidden in the midst of moments of joy in the paintings of Diana Machulina, the elevation of stuffed animals over the human as the staple subject for fine art in the work of Rostan Tavasiev and a simultaneously nostalgic and ironic treatment of the everyday objects and domestic rituals of Soviet times by Fedor Pavlov‑Andreevich.
Paradise Row would like to thank the following for their generosity which has made this exhibition possible:
Yana Peel | Andrei Tretyakov | deSlaSan