The extreme fascination with ‘glamour’ - ‘Glamúr’ in Russian, crystallizes when seen as the sharp contrast it poses to the institutional conformism and bleak standardization of socialism that held the Soviet Union in its tight grip until November 1989.
The tremors of the totalitarian regime experience - lived and/or inherited (by those born since) - underpin the excesses of the early 2000s, when the acute toxic combination of a sudden unimaginable wealth (for some) and previously unavailable vocabulary of visual, commercial, and financial ostentation went through the roof. Moscow’s elite could, would and did. Availability and endless possibility let a society let loose drop into willful chaos.
‘Glamour’ then appears as a form of ersatz-religion, a magic ideal to strive for, to be devoted to with pious fervor, angst and desire, injecting intensity and aim into the hollow of a formless society whose fundament had been destroyed overnight.
[…] In 2007, 428 articles were published in Russian media on the subject of glamour, including the internet this figure surpasses 1000. Noting this, Russian journalists decided to vote ‘glamour’ as ‘word of the year’. Talkshows, glossy magazines, gallery openings, ‘glamour’ persisted throughout. Even Vladimir Putin’s 2008 presidential campaign was based on the idea of ‘glamour’. Russian culture critic Olga Mesropowa noted ‘glamour’ as the ‘dominant aesthetic modality’ of the post sovjet society. [...]
— Noemi Smolik - Of Sexy Heroes and Paralysed Women
- Ten years on, Jewgenija Tschuikowa and Natalia Gershevskaya reflect on the currency of ‘glamour’ in Russia today with the exhibition … After Glamour, currently at KIT, Duesseldorf.
KIT- Kunst im Tunnel as a space lends itself perfectly to the subject as giant elliptic curved tunnel measuring 140mts in length, situated underground between two actual operating traffic tunnels carrying 55000 cars a day - separated from the exhibition by 1.20 mts of concrete blocks.
Artist and co-curator Jewgenija Tschuikowa’s own works in the exhibition have beauty products encased in cement - gently alluding to a common Mafia method to dispose of enemies; ‘Dolce Vita Red 48466’ is a goup of unicoloured canvases meditavely kissed over and over by the artist, and named after the dream-evoking names of the lipstick colour given by the exotic – Western – beauty brands.
Descending into the exhibition, the viewer is greeted first by the sound then the view of the installation ‘Cinema’ by Rostan Tavasiev, which has plush pink bunnies busy cycling away forever as instructed by a head-on video of a bunny telling them to keep cycling,…
“I saw the installation in 2006 and it never left my mind, it is so strong, these bunnies labouring away as told,… the continuity and senselessness, it reflects society under socialism just as much as ours today,” Tschuikowa explains “ The music is from the final scene of the Belmondo film ‘The Professional’ where he fights the corrupt institutions...
...when he is shot and falls, the nostalgic music sets in. Beautiful and harrowing just like the bunnies which are both cute and scary, the music represents the fall… the end of a dream. “
“The large photo-realistic, painstakingly painted nude painting by Viktor Kirillov-Dubinskiy is important in the exhibition as it opposes the notion of glamour with honest plain reality: un-polished, -shaven or otherwise beautified, the model looks straight at the viewer who can’t help but be confronted by her giant exposed vagina pointing straight at him.”
Elena Berg turns the tables of power and cleverly blurs the lines between victim and aggressor. Beauty products - designed for female beautification and objectification – become weapons of war. Thickly piled deep rows of black fake fingernails are raised like a wolf’s fur in attack - or like uncountable claws ready to sink in; the parallel piece of red fingernails all lined up in flat endless rows resemble the sea of a military line up of red army caps seen from a distance.
Here the individual becomes meaningless and human nature abstracted, perverted; and replaceable as part of ‘the machine’. The glossy fingernails then almost casually remind us how the heartfelt fight over power and money fought on the platform of beauty, gender and glamour is masterly played on both sides.
The exhibition opens with rabbits on a roll via a suggestive red carpet. It culminates in a red carpet triangle reaching up to the solar plexus of Olya Kroytor.
- Pinned to the wall in her performance ‘Isolation’, the red arrow hits Olya Kroytor's solar plexus – pointing, punching, piercing – the vulnerability of man. And woman; in Russia and everywhere else. The cards and stakes may be different, but the game is the same.
After Glamour KIT - Kunst Im Tunnel Video: After Glamour