Exhibition at the Kunstverein Hannover: Loaves of bread made of stone, Minimal made of war scrap
At the Venice Biennale 2019, the world of Zhanna Kadyrova was still in order. The Ukrainian artist, born in 1981, presented her work “Market” in the Arsenale, an installation in the form of a small weekly market. Bananas and watermelons, but above all ham and sausages: everything was artfully formed from colorful tiles, marble, granite, cement and glass. The work also had a performative component. The appetizing objects could be purchased directly from the artist disguised as a market woman. A gram for a euro.
With this work, which is as appealing as it is subversive, Zhanna Kadyrova subverted two rule systems of the art world. Firstly, the taboo of artistic self-marketing and secondly, the mechanisms of pricing, which are difficult to understand – here broken down to simple kilo prices like at the butcher’s.
Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of the Biennale, chose the English phrase “May You Live In Interesting Times” as the motto of the show. Unfortunately, Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine exposed its double-edged sword all too quickly. Business as usual can no longer exist – not even for a successful artist like Zhanna Kadyrova.
In her exhibition “Daily Bread – A First Retrospective” at the Kunstverein Hannover, her biennial work should not be missing. She stands at the beginning of an increasingly disturbing course. It also contains older works in which the artist translates elements of everyday Soviet life, such as the tiles of an abandoned bus station, into bulky fashion objects. But Zhanna Kadyrova mainly brought current works that deal with the effects of the war. The artist avoids the bold or clumsy accusatory. Instead, she uses traditional genres such as the readymade to convey her messages in an abstract form.
There are about two fragments of asphalt taken from the road surface of the destroyed city of Irpin, which now hang on the wall like cracked informel pictures. The Russian grenades that had penetrated the road are not visible, but the craters they left behind can be seen.
Under the sarcastic title “Harmless War”, Zhanna Kadyrova presents an entire repertoire of basic geometric forms in the Kunstverein’s elongated skylight hall. The sculptural elegance of the spheres, cubes, cones and pyramids painted matt white, borrowed from Minimal Art, cannot hide the fact that they were welded together from car roofs, street signs and other metal surfaces. The traces of grenades and other projectiles can be read in it. The purity of the ideal form meets the rawness of the military.
Zhanna Kadyrova, who now lives in Kyiv again, fled to a small village in western Ukraine shortly after the Russian attack. A 20-minute film shows her listening to villagers tell her about their dreams from the night before the Russian attack. The group of works “Palianytsia” was also created in the village, with which Zhanna Kadyrova ties in with her market stalls.
Together with the villagers, the artist picked up boulders on a riverbank and had them cut open like fresh loaves of bread and had their surfaces polished. She is presenting the bread sculptures in Hanover on a white tablecloth. Anyone who wants to buy them pays one euro per gram, as in Venice. The proceeds go to humanitarian causes in Ukraine.
Christoph Platz-Gallus, who, after having worked for the Sculpture Projects in Münster and the Documenta, most recently worked at the Steirischer Herbst art festival in Graz, makes his successful debut as the new director of the Kunstverein with this show, which is also well worth seeing. The exhibition was organized together with the PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv. It will be shown there in the summer. It is to be hoped that the Ukrainian situation will allow this.
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