A Revolutionary Museum After Ideology
20th of May 2015
Seminar room 5022, Hämeentie 135 C

An ascent into the past and an appealing to history is symptomatic of today’s Russian politics, that literally obsessed with the reenactment: it recreates a “Soviet imperial”, a “pre-revolutionary imperial”, an “orthodox”, a “patriarchal”. Such political constructivism resembles an artistic work: a fancy-dress characters that belongs in the historical museum — a cossacks, an orthodox priests, a black-hundreders, a caricature stalinists — are suddenly stepped into the streets of the cities of the 21st century. At the same time, authority do efforts to erase the historical memory of the revolution, which no longer fits into the official conservative state ideology. The political opposition is also disclaims its historical connection with the revolutionary tradition (that once triumphed in Russia) – and loses a battle both of the past and the future. When the historical exhibitions dedicated to tsarist dynasties are gathering the crowds, whereas a former soviet revolutionary museums – these former ideological altars that have been legitimized a “violence of oppressed” – to the kind of a non-places, potentially parcels of land or properties for sale.

The recent transition in post-Soviet society from the political apathy of the last years to aggressive intolerance and nationalist mobilization of 2014 — coupled with the suppression of political freedoms and the shrinking of space for civil expression — rises anew the question for artists about their role in society. How to re-politicize art in these new conditions? If the answer to the political apathy of 2000s was a radical actionism that still provokes and stirs up the society, then the answer to the today’s uncritical “reenactments” of the past may be an art that analytically revises a historical memory of the revolution and become a “bridge” between the revolutionary tradition and the society. Would the simple presentation of alternative historical narrative be enough to consider that a reply? What strategies of the reflection of history the art have to be armed with? How can art speak not barely on political past, but on past — politically?

During this talk of the CuMMA Discourse Series we will speak of the project A Revolutionary Museum After Ideology, that was made in the framework of Manifesta 10 Public program curated by Joanna Warsza, of its background, of the political and ethical discussions that surrounded the preparation of the project, and also of why an artist needs an awareness of the methods of historical studies and how this methods could be instrumentalized in artistic work.

Ilya Orlov
Ilya Orlov is a St. Petersburg based artist and historian. He authored historical research focused on revolutionary mourning rituals in 1917, and a MA-dissertation on aesthetics of nature and issues of landscape in curatorial studies. Orlov’s recent artistic work turns to analysis of cultural, social and political issues of post-Soviet reality and politics of commemoration. He has exhibited at the State Museum of Political History, St.Petersburg; the National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA), Moscow. He also participated in the 4th Moscow Biennale; in the Manifesta 10 Public Program, St.Petersburg.