For the long term curatorial project “Virtual vs Real“, curator Pilar Parcerisas has selected the Conceptual Russian artist Yuri Albert. In the following conversation, she presents Albert’s work “Mom, Look, Here is an Artist!” whose pics are published along with the interview.
Pilar Parcerisas is an art critic, art historian, essayist and exhibition curator based in Barcelona. Click here for Pilar Parcerisas’ CV.
Erica Tomalini: Could you please introduce Yuri Albert to our visitors?
Pilar Parcerisas: Yuri Albert belongs to a new generation of conceptual artists in Moscow. He started his career at the beginning of the 80s in Moscow; now he lives in Cologne. At the beginning, he experimented with texts on canvas trying to think about the influences of Western conceptual artists on his work. He met Komar and Melamid in Moscow and this was the first influence on his work. But at the same time he was also influenced by Art and Language and Ilya Kabakov. But, nevertheless, he kept writing that he was not Ilya Kabakov, he was not into Art and Language, he was not this kind of artist. Indeed, Conceptual art in Moscow was very different from Western Conceptual art in Europe or in the United States. In the case of Yuri Albert, he tries to talk about art and artists and he also tries to talk about the terms related to the art world and to art institutions (exhibitions, galleries, museums). He was inspired by the vignettes of comics or illustrated magazines he read when he was a child pubilished during the Stalin era. And this kind of vignettes or illustrated images reflected Western art, the one that you could find in magazines, not in academies.
ET: What work did you choose for this project and why?
PP: I chose the performance “Mom, Look, Here is an Artist!” because this title expresses his wish, a dream that comes from his childhood: Western art was prohibited in the academies when he was a child (because of the Stalin era). I think “Mom, Look” is very representative of all his work. It was a performance that at the end became an installation. It was in May 1990, when Yuri Albert went to the Tsaritsyno Park in Moscow in order to do some studies after a break of fifteen years. When he was inside the park some people were around: children, people and friends took photographs. He was not alone, he had a very bad feeling about this situation, and finally, he packed up all his devices and went out of the park. One year later, he collected these photographs taken by his friends and he painted ten canvases about this situation and about these photographs. He said that only the memories of the wish to be an artist are the motivation for this work. He has worked also about the letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo. He exhibited these handmade letters on the wall and at the same time he put a band over the eyes of the people visiting the exhibition, as if to make them blind, and then they had to follow the images only with a voice, an audio-guide, and try to imagine these images. He is working in the same line as Joseph Kosuth, who once said that “art speaks only about art.” Another installation that I like very much was an empty space where he projected a film without any image. In the specific moment when the film is at the beginning or when the film is at the end, without any image, you (the audience) are expecting something: at the beginning or at the end – the credits are at the end – apart from this, nothing was on the screen. At the same time the voice of the artist was reading Salons, critique d’art written by Denis Diderot.
ET: How did you get in contact with Yuri Albert?
PP: I was invited last November to Moscow by the National Centre for Contemporary Arts for a research project on Conceptualism in Moscow. I was studying in Spain about Spanish Conceptualism (it was my dissertation). Now, I try to compare these two kinds of Conceptualism, because in Spain this art was produced under the dictatorship of Franco and in Moscow the first generation of conceptual artists was working during the Stalin era or at the end of it (the second generation of Russian conceptual artists, as in the case of Yuri Albert, was working in the 80s). Both kinds of Conceptualism (the Spanish and the Russian) are produced in conditions of repression, in conditions of political extreme; but at the same time, we can compare a few things that they have in common.