Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into The Future is the couple’s first major exhibition in UK. Although now Americans, Kabakovs’ art is based on reminiscence of their Soviet Union past. Not coincidentally it is held in the year that is marking 100 years since Russian October Revolution that dramatically changed the course of human history. Amongst a remarkable range of artistic media at the exhibition including painting, graphics, sculpture and pioneered by the couple so called “total installation”, one can immediately recall Social realism style that monopolized the art scene in USSR at that time, however at the second glance you discover that there is always a twist not only in juxtaposition of styles but in the context that often reflects on oppressive power, destruction and failure of Communist utopia. During Kabakov’s earlier career still in Soviet Union like many other artists he must learn how to live a double life as an artist. Officially he becomes a member of the respected Artist Union and works as an illustrator of children’s books which benefits his underground artistic activity where he allows to express himself but only within the walls of his Moscow apartment studio and amongst his secret peers. Later when he moves to America and his work becomes too political he decides to develop alter-egos. As expected the whole exhibition is an intense experience. The clutter of the communal apartment installations resembles the roughness and confusion of that difficult time. Although even after collapse of the repressive Soviet dictatorship, the change towards the freedom of expression isn’t dramatic. Any activity is still censored in the “democratic” post-soviet world. Most of Kabakov’s artworks’ texts are in alien to Western audience Cyrillic font, only people who lived through those turbulent times would be able to totally relate to the absurdity of his art. The attempt could be made walking through the dim and claustrophobically narrow fifty-meter long corridor that contains the grim memoires of his mother, which on a very personal level would take you through her tragic life during dramatic change spanning the 1917 Revolution through the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Since I was born and grew up during the Soviet time the show is a poignant reminder of the past time that we hope will never come back. Boris Groys has commented that Soviet civilization was the first modern civilization whose death we have witnessed, and there are more to come. Yet in one of the interviews Emilia Kabakov gives us a warning that the history tends to repeat… There are also some lyrical references throughout the show which express inexplicable nostalgia to the past. Due to the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, including growing unemployment and income inequality, there is deep yearning, especially amongst the older generations in modern Russia, to the time when the hope for socialist utopia was still alive.
Ironically, in his mixed media installation “Incident in the corridor near the kitchen” amongst a multitude of suspended in mid-air pots and pans, I have spotted enamel bowls, the same that I “smuggled in” from Kazakhstan and am using in my installations as a recollection of banality of this time… Tragicomic and “mind-bending” Kabakovs’ attempt to create a sense of another place succeeded and well worth a visit.