· Aug 21, 2020

Installation view, including suite of drawings by Anatoly Belov. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

In your dreams. Beyond your wildest dreams. Shadow of Dream*. It was all a dream.

When they are being dreamt, dreams are consuming. And then they are gone. Due to a loud neighbor. The sun peaking through undrawn blinds. A hunger pang. The alarm.

Some keep diaries of dreams. Others don’t dream, or at least don’t remember them. Still others do dream, but don’t admit it. Because they are fearful, ashamed, and/or aloof of what and/or who they saw. That which they have yet to attain. That which they can’t break free from.

Dreams are a solitary endeavor with an extensive supporting cast—friends, family, demons, angels, heroes, villains, bakers, swindlers, Gods, God, wimps, and warriors.

Dreams, and the strings and sentiments attached to them, are the point of departure for ( ), a one-day group exhibition curated by Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole at their rented apartment in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The exhibition borrowed its title from André Breton’s 1924 Surrealist Manifesto. The sixth floor flat has three rooms, a kitchen, a washroom, a water closet, and two balconies. It is situated on a block bookended by the Atlas nightclub and the pink entry gate to the orthodox St. Pokrovsky Women’s Monastery. Up until the week before the show started, the defining feature of the building’s entryway was a torched car, rusting red with shattered glass and twisted metal in its interior. Shame the car was towed four days prior as it was the ideal calling card… a burnt bouncer, of sorts.

( ) represented the first curatorial venture for Kadan since the six episodic exhibitions he staged at the Kmytiv Museum of Soviet Art, several of which I reviewed for THIS IS BADLAND, as part of the Ukrainian artistic collective De Ne De’s research and region-oriented activist efforts. For Poole, ( ) represented a personal curatorial coming-out to the Kyiv community after spending a solid portion of the last six years managing and creative directing interdisciplinary projects in Ukraine, usually in affiliation with the cultural foundation IZOLYATSIA and Open Group.

The show spilled out across the entirety of the apartment. According to the curatorial statement, almost thirty artists are represented. It seems an unfathomable quantity given the apartment’s not-so-expansive square footage, but, then again, that was part of the joy of the show—seeing a home with no ’do left undid.

There were loosely five pools of work present in ( )—works from each curator’s collection, works loaned by local artists, instruction-based works made by artists from abroad, video works by artists whose physical origin was irrelevant to their participation in the show, and sound works of the same ilk. In other words, a certain percentage of exhibited works were on hand and another was sought out.

Containment, and the distortionary psychological and physiological effects it causes, was a recurring theme in ( ), played out predominantly in the kitchen and the washroom.

Alina Kleytman, Tongue, 2020, detail view. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

The kitchen, which has been partially renovated, has beige wallpaper incorporating images of unbranded chocolate bars and coffee. One of the works therein was a video and photo installation by Kyiv-based Alina Kleytman, Tongue, scenes of which were shot at the kitchen table. Spliced with shots of the Kyiv-based artist undergoing a blood transfusion, Kleytman is seen drinking from a mug via a pudgy elongated tongue, painting toenails, and applying blue eyeshadow. The slurpy work is mad like MAD magazine, taking waking up and making up to the max and more. A lot is unsure, but one thing is for sure—no cat can catch Kleytman’s tongue.

The video component of Tongue was streamed via a charging MacBook Pro sitting on the kitchen table. When I arrived, the work was being served alongside spicy hummus and a baguette. There were drink pairings too, which were self-serve at the kitchen’s wooden countertop. Two of ( )’s standout works were situated amongst half-drunk bottles of white wine—New York-based Christian Hincapié’s Thin Air (2020) and the New York-based duo of Irina Jasnowski Pascual and Tyler Berrier’s The Brain’s Auditorium.

Installation view, including Irina Jasnowski Pascual and Tyler Berrier, The Brain’s Auditorium, 2020 and Christian Hincapie, Thin Air, 2020. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

Hincapié’s Thin Air takes the form of imagined predictions written on pieces of torn paper stuffed in empty wine bottles and five-liter Aqua Life water jugs: “Major earthquake in San Francisco before 2035,” “B&H Dairy Restaurant in the East Village of New York will remain open through 2040,” “eBay will cease to exist by 2030,” and “by 2040, there will be a female President in the USA, and she will be a Conservative,” to name a few. There is a spectrum to Hincapié’s mystic visions—localized losses to travesties implicating broad territories, collapses mourned by the Executive suite to intestinal intolerances which would upend agricultural tendencies. The bottles these visions live in are bone dry. Subsequently, the speculations aren’t hydrated or hydrating. By and large, they parch. Hincapié estranges expectations. It was up to the viewer whether to drop an ‘e’ and add an ‘l’ to estrange; will you expect to be estranged or will you be strangled by the estrangement?

Jasnowki Pascual and Berrier’s The Brain’s Auditorium, which initially aired on the Danish arts podcast Samtidskunst, was tucked behind a bouquet of flowers adjacent to the bottles. The sound art piece played through a radio tochka, a Soviet-era hardwired sound system. There was something decidedly Hitchcockian about the work—just the right amount of lilts, shrieks and drawls. A regime of the mind materialized when The Brain’s Auditorium emanates from that which was designed to amplify the voice of the State. Six minutes in, a woman’s voice whimpers about excessive heat. She is cooking in it. Her synapses are firing. Soon they will pop. Soon after they will shrivel. Then she will expire. And then her saga will start again.

Andrey Boyko and Nikita Kadan, , 2020, installation view. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

The works installed in the washroom further navigated ritualizations of restraint and release. Anchoring the room are the first in a new series of images created jointly by Kadan and fellow Kyiv-based artist Andrey Boyko. The series, Comedy (2020), sees Boyko photograph Kadan posing with a decorative copper bowl moulded with the fleshy face of a grinning man (who could be Leonid Brezhnev), cutting his breasts until they bleed, and applying lipstick. Kadan sits and stands in the bathtub above which the images are hung. The images, taped to the wall tiles, are in black and white. The blood is dark. Kadan’s eyes are as well. The rest is mostly grey. The body and the limits of what it can withstand both by choice and by subjection have long been a source of enquiry for Kadan in his personal practice. In Boyko and his Comedy, the enquiry comes home.

Installation view, including works by Anatoly Belov, Katerina Lisovenko, Nikita Kadan, David Chichkan, Vova Vorotniov, and Yuri Leiderman. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

Exiting the washroom and proceeding down the narrow hallway to the left, visitors entered into the first bedroom. The mattress had been removed, so the room appeared more like a study. On the room’s main wall hung two works by the Odessa-born, Berlin-based Yuri Leiderman. The first is a sketch from Leiderman’s Song “Comrade” (2015) project presented by the artist to Kadan. Song “Comrade” sees Leiderman parse the fraternal relationships in the titular song while painting atop photos associated with the chapter of his life when he was engaged in Moscow Conceptualism. The painting manner is rapacious; Leiderman scrubs and swamps the image, treating it as a sparring partner. In the sketch from the project on view in ( ), two circles of brown, tar-like paint cover a documentary image of an outdoor performance by the 1970s Moscow-based Collective Actions Group, whose leader, Andrei Monastyrski, Leiderman considers his teacher. The bigger of the two brown circles has flecks of pink. In the context of ( ), the sketch has a pronounced weight. Hanging heavily, the work is thick, poised, and unrepentant. When I encountered the sketch, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was seeing a baton being passed—Monastyrski to Leiderman, Leiderman to Kadan. Who’s next?

The second Leiderman, an oil on canvas titled The Attack of Jan Sobieski, recalls a decisive attack in the Battle of Vienna, which was waged on September 12th, 1683 and is seen by historians as a turning point in the fate of Europe. In this battle, the united forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth defeated the Ottomans. In The Attack of Jan Sobieski, Leiderman portrays Polish Hussars charging into the melee. The cavalrymen have wings, a decorative detail which does not have any pragmatic purpose. The hussars’ wings are crisp, white, and angelic in Leiderman’s abstract tableau. The hussars themselves, the horses they ride, and the turf they ride through is blurred. The 17th century was a long time ago. Only the anomaly, the wings, endure in an articulated form. Three hundred and thirty-seven years later, borders are still being built, budged, and killed over. But who wears the wings?

There was a cumulative spirit to the montage in the bedroom the Leidermans were hung. Alas, some of the works were overly accommodated, including two graphics by Kyiv-based artist Vova Vorotniov, whose relevance to the concept was thin. The drawings, sapless semi-aerial views of buildings and trees atop the likes of Adidas and Saucony logos, functioned mainly as a tag, rooting ( ) so that it could be claimed by the Kyiv populace who could access the show in-person. A more compelling tag could have been done by one of the taggers who spent quarantine claiming the shuttered city as a massive canvas.

Ajith Nedumangad, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

The attitude in the second bedroom took the demeanor of the first in a devilish direction, as conveyed by the grocery receipt summing 666 hryvnias tacked to the wall. Atop the varnished desk in the corner were five sculptures by the Kerala, India-based Ajith Nedumangad. Displayed in a row, the untitled sculptures ration and de-rationalize tools and sustenance. A knife’s blade is coated in tin foil; its point teeters into a braid. Tinfoil gnashes its teeth on a plate. A bronze sickle has a cupped handle holding bits of bread. Twenty fangs are lined out in a grid on a piece of bread. A pair of scissors are wrapped in tinfoil; only the end is bare. Nedumangad concentrates tension in tips. The points protect rather than serve.

On the shelf above the desk was a lead figure of a nineteenth century Hungarian freedom fighter. This was my birthday present to Poole last winter. The three-inch soldier, whose countenance bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, seemed to be doing well. His flag remained raised, so I got the impression that his commitment to his cause had not been quashed.

Aarati Akkapeddi, Untitled (Depth Maps), 2020, detail view. Courtesy Nikita Kadan and Clemens Poole

By the time I stepped out on the balcony beyond the shelf, the rain I arrived in had turned to sun. Looking out the window, the New York-based Aarati Akkapeddi’s untitled depth maps looked back. Taped to the windows, Akkapeddi’s maps use a machine learning model to read the depth of the artist’s personal family photos and other families’ photographs pulled from the STARS archive. The model has the effect of enshrouding brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and relatives once removed, blurring their edges and muting their figures. Seeing these images is peering through static, squinting at memories that can be scanned, but not processed due to insurmountable absences.

The redaction of Akkapeddi’s intimacy with those pictured makes the maps absorptive. In the absence of the definite, the habit worn by those pictured can be habituated by each viewer, tuned to circumstance. The veiled figures evoke and lift the legacy of the unknown and unnamed. An unknown and unnamed who, based on the installation, merged with the unbounded outside.

Seeing Akkapeddi’s unknown and unnamed return the seeing proved a fitting punctuation to Kadan and Poole’s ( ). Throughout the show, ego acted in abundance and anonymity. Figures are figments and fragments—contained, freed, frustrated, and connected. Dreams iterating, pulsating, and dissipating after dark, during the day, and in a daze.

Dreams wanting to use you. And dreams wanting to get used by you. ( ) ran for one day on March 30th in an apartment shared by NIKITA KADAN and CLEMENS POOLE, who were the show’s curators. The full list of participating artists can be found here.

NIKITA KADAN is represented by Galerie Transit (Mechelen, Belgium) and Galerie POGGI (Paris, France). His work will next be on view in Strach (Fear), a group exhibition he is co-curating at Galeria Arsenał (Białystok, Poland), running from August 21 through October 18, 2020.

CLEMENS POOLE will feature alongside KATYA BUCHATSKA in Aкти Bідчаю / The Desperate Tone is an Act, a joint exhibition accompanied by a publication that will be staged at Asortymentna Kimnata (Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine) in late August.

ALEX FISHER is a curator, art historian, and writer from Buffalo, New York based between Kyiv, Ukraine and Knislinge, Sweden. He serves as GUEST ROOMS Contributing Editor.


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