| RUSSIAN PAVILION “VICTORY OVER THE FUTURE”
53rd INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2009
Irina Korina is one of the most striking and paradoxical artists to continue an art form developed by Ilya Kabakov – both his genre of the 'total installation' and his painstaking examination of the everyday environment, both visual and semantic, that surrounds the inhabitants of today's Russia. Trained as a theatre designer, Korina has a wonderful command of space. The art that brought her fame in the early years of this century represented spaces that totally swallow up the spectator, as if he is sinking into his own subconscious. Even the legacy of Soviet aesthetics and ideology appear in this young artist's work as an image of childhood memories, not so much of the past as presentiments of a future still to come. 'Back into the Future' is the name given to one of the artist's best-known installations: a cramped labyrinthine space with windows through which the visitor glimpses a mosaic with giant cosmonaut figures, stylised like the monumental art of the Brezhnev period.
Although in recent times Korina's installations seem turned inside-out – the artist is not so much interested in space that engulfs the viewer as surfaces that may protect or camouflage, but also deceive. Irina Korina is concerned with her own version of the sociology of design – not as presented in glossy magazines, but the kind people devise for themselves. Her exploration of the post-Soviet setting is as meticulous as Kabakov's survey of Soviet communal apartments, but the approach is far more sympathetic, without deliberate condescension or scorn but on the contrary seeking to share familiar ideas about comfort, homeliness and the aesthetics of 'fine living'. Wholesale markets selling building and decorating wares were the artist's source of inspiration, and the favoured materials – self-adhesive sheets with an imitation wood, brick, marble or malachite finish and multi-coloured plastic tablecloths with the most unexpected patterns – are those Korina uses in her installation for the pavilion. Moreover, unlike the corresponding pragmatic and functional aesthetics of internationally sold goods (IKEA, for example) that presuppose the consumer makes rational use of resources in their natural state, the materials Korina selects seem beyond the consumer's wildest dreams. Not content with feigning humble wooden panels, self-adhesive sheets imitate palatial malachite and marble and plastic tablecloths fake rich brocade. In this sense they are successors to the Soviet aesthetics that soared above the mundane and everyday, successors also to the rhetorical splendour that demanded metro stations decorated like palaces. Possessed by this dream of a beauty to which ordinary citizens accustomed to suppressing their desires could never aspire, exterior surfaces rebelled – no longer content to simply cover walls and tables, now they assumed whimsical new forms. For example the pompous tragicomic fountains evoking the more famous original covered in gilt and coloured smalt at VDNKh (the Exhibition of Economic Achievements), the embodiment of an impending Communist paradise and a product of the Stalinist era. In Irina Korina's installations for the 'Victory over the Future' exhibition you can see that even in kitsch household materials there was a subconscious continuation of the Soviet vision, where everyone would live in palatial luxury under communism: a utopia that became history many years ago.