Texts for exhibitions
Natasha Pankina for poject “Great Perspectives”.
In his new project “Great Perspectives” Egor Plotnikov deconstructs the patterns of interactions between a viewer and a landscape, wondering if they need each other at all.
While a natural scenery hardly requires any interactions with one who looks at it, existing in no dependence from the viewer, the landscape painting, when it appears in the museum halls, becomes an object, which from it’s inception is supposed to be seen by someone. On the other hand, either a natural scenery or a painting exist for the viewer only when one observes them or can picture them in one’s mind, recall them.
Plotnikov paints from life and he frequently addresses the places which surrounded him when he was growing up. All the pictured places have their very exact geographical references, and, being a realist painter, Plotnikov aspires to be very accurate visualising the scenery. Nevertheless his works still manage to keep both simplicity and omnitude of the subject matter. His homely, knowingly undramatic landscapes inevitably cause one to feel nostalgic.
What Plotnikov depicts in his paintings is usually a glimpse, something seen on the way and then tenderly and thoroughly remembered. The artist persistently takes the viewer to the metaphor of a road: the road that has no end and no beginning, which symbolises a process, a time to think, but is not meant to help reaching the goal one desires.
Plotnikov’s sculptures, not the museum visitors, are the most important viewers for him. These white, depersonalised figures in wistful postures are focused on their own musings, either in introspection or while observing the landscapes in front of them. In the meantime the real flesh and blood viewer feels pushed aside to the audience space, being detached from the paintings, but not from the feeling of empathy aroused by them. In this project Plotnikov finally makes his sculptures absolutely consistent and self reliant, yet it still seems that even if the white figure does not “look” at the landscape, it still “thinks” about it, visualises it.
Russian and German philosopher Fyodor Stepun rather romantically describes Russian landscape as “a shapelessness radiating to eternity, a vast expanse, distance with no perspective”. Vladimir Dal’s “Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language” defines a vast expanse as “relative, not absolute emptiness”. Never the less it does not seem that such landscape lacks structure or sense, it definitely does not seem amorphic, at least not to a person who conceives it or recalls it. A landscape is not just a set for a storyline, it frequently is a character, and even the seeming emptiness of it imprints in the back of one’s mind creating a space for reflection.
Natasha Pankina for project “Subtractions”.
Egor Plotnikov continues his research on the interactions between the viewer and a pictural landscape in his new exhibition “Subtractions”. The whole project is built around one visual manoeuvre – white bars and and geometric figures subduct a random part of a landscape, leaving the audience with a desire to “rebuild” the missing part in one’s imagination.
Plotnikov’s landscapes inevitably evoke a prickling nostalgic feeling. Despite the fact that each and every one of them has very certain geographic references, one constantly seems to remember some very personal place, delicately stored somewhere deep in the memory. This illusion of recognition may initiate the assumption that “rebuilding” the hidden part of the image is easy, which is, in fact, quite tricky.
For example, a neuronal network sees an image as a number of elements, points, which are combined according to some logic or system. In this case the points of certain colours in a certain confluence form an ordered set.
A set as a combination of elements (points) is a key concept in mathematics. Two sets are equal if and only if they have precisely the same elements.
Let us assume that there is some ordered set, which a neural network has learned to define as an image of a tree. If so, a missing part of the image can be rebuilt by the network based on it’s library of similar images. Contemporary technologies can do this in a very convincing manner. But the probability of a neuronal network “guessing” the exact image is very low. Nevertheless the human consciousness can easily be convinced not only about the fact that neuronal network “guessed” right, but also about storing the very same image in it’s own memory.
The discretization of the display is aimed to visualize a certain plight between sleeping and waking up, which is called hypnagogia. It is widely thought that in this state humans can consciously comprehend the images of unconscious, including memories and pseudomemories, but are not able to tell the difference between them. Sometimes they “download” into consciousness as if it was a computer game, leaving some images without a texture, but due to the cognitive aspects of a human brain, this does not get in the way of perceiving the image in whole.
Despite all these games with perceptibility, the project does not aim to make the viewer be a part of some party competition “guess what’s been left out in a photo”, it aims to build a dialogue. The problem that the artist is challenging here simply does not have the only one correct answer. Moreover, one can even quit searching for an answer: white geometric figures in the landscape are a very conclusive simulacrum of emptiness and freedom at the same time.
Natasha Pankina for project “The minute before the awakening”.
Part of this exterior is made of non-places, and parts of the non-places are made of images.Marc Augé
We must emphasize once again that play does not exclude seriousness.Johan Huizinga
Introducing Egor Plotnikov’s body of work, we should start with the definition of a ‘non-place’ – a term coined by French anthropologist Marc Augé, whose supermodernity’s terminology has been greatly expanded since the publication of his essay Non-Places in 1995. Here we will define non-places as specific ‘alienated’ places without any existential implications.
n the one hand, the mere existence of non-places accentuates the reality itself and it may seem that techniques used in realistic art are perfectly appropriate to illustrate this. On the other hand, the realistic landscapes displayed within the context of the exhibition take the audience into the alternative reality.
sually non-places, being cognitively deficient spaces, suggest a limited ability to interact with them. Egor Plotnikov usually focuses his full attention on these seemingly inconsiderable sceneries and offers the audience to do the same.
ut in the The Minute Before Awakening artist sidetracks viewers’ attention away from the outer world, and the viewers zoom in on themselves pulled in another reality or identify themselves with a character, who will be living on behalf of them in the alternative reality, the reality of everything insignificant.
The viewer’s role is to be an observer and being observed at the same time: the viewers are compelled to identify themselves with one of the sculptures and then, in a new identity, the viewers navigate the exhibition and project themselves into the spaces created by the artist.
The main sculpture Sleeper refers not only to actually sleeping at a museum (although many people dream to spend a night at it) but to cognitive impairment typical for the relationship between people and non-places and often – between inexperienced viewers and a museum.
It’s as if the narrative of the exhibition is being downloaded together with the sleeping consciousness of a character (a viewer): fragmented memories caused by a familiar sight are coming up to the surface. The memories are giving very personal meaning to typical landscapes and to the museum, forgotten at the moment of emotional experience of the memories, and are transforming the non-place to a place, but only on the viewer’s mind.
The viewer wakes up only when an exit sign ahead his character lights on.
Daria Kamyshnikova for project “Insignificant”
Moscow Museum of Modern Art and School of Contemporary Art “Free Workshops” present Egor Plotnikov’s Insignificant exhibition within the program of support for young art MMOMA. The project contains an installation, based on paintings, frames and papier-mâché sculptures.
The Insignificant project by Egor Plotnikov continues the theme of interaction of the artwork and the space of the exhibition hall, launched by the artist in his projects “Great Stroll” and “Random Landscapes. Self-portrait”, which have been exhibited in Moscow in recent years. Using the apparent discrepancy between paintings and frames, Plotnikov creates tension, forcing the viewer to perceive a museum wall as an important part of the artwork.
The theme of interaction between art and the gallery space has been engrossing the minds of artists for more than a hundred years. Works by modernists became a catalyst for the creation of a new type of the exhibition space, White Cube, and immediately started a violent confrontation with it, creating tension between the artwork and the space or vice versa, transforming the gallery into a part of the painting plane. Yves Klein in the Void exhibition (1958) reduced the interaction to an absurdity, replacing the artwork with the gallery space itself. Further development of art finally transformed the exhibition into the message, and thus, made the gallery space and moreover the space of a museum of modern art sacred.
The Insignificant exhibition encourages the viewer to think about what Art is. Does it imply artworks, exhibited in the museum halls, or do museum walls themselves, carrying the artworks, give them additional meanings? Plotnikov puts small, fragmented, unrelated landscape paintings in large vintage frames. Thus, the artist makes the wall an accomplice of his artistic message, encourages the viewer to revalue the existing schemes of visual contact with the art.