Mourning via installation. The exhibition Abandoned by the Fishers of Men by Xenia Kudrina
Text: Egor Sofronov
Photographer: Victor Moon
«Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men» (Mark 1:17) — such was the name given to the first apostles in the Synoptic Gospels: the fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee who abandoned their nets to throw in their lot with the revelation of struggle and creativity. Having renounced a worldly way of life, they acquired the holy charisma of persuasiveness and the inspiration of a divine mission. Central to the motifs of being chosen and transformed was the gesture and act of leaving behind. All attachments to the world, to one’s kin, and even mourning for dying parents were to be left behind, or, to put it more strongly, be severed, in order that those who had taken this decision might approach the living source of truth, and experience first-hand transformation in His image. All ties, even to those closest and most important to us, must be cut in the end. Any place, even that which is most reverently intertwined with becoming and formative aspects, is ultimately destined to perish and crumble away, all in line with the irreversible and universal entropy of matter. And if something does remain, it is decay. Mortality is predetermined as the cleaver of all residues, leaving nary a trace but a ceaseless wiping away of the remnants. Genuine art is nothing if not an openness towards challenging and accepting this as an impossibility.

The father of Xenia Kudrina, an artist who was born in Lensk in Yakutia, was a fisherman. Her exhibition in ISSMAG gallery, an independent chamber space housed in a small garage, does not include the man-made objects that are the author’s latest works (save for one miniature map enclosed in her grandmother's weather diary). Rather, she curates her own memories, taking them out to be remembered anew, to be submitted to forgetting, and to be internalised correctly. To bring out or export: phrases now used in common parlance to refer to the mental load of stress and to the logistics of supply chains (of containers, parcels, and installations).
Abandonment anticipates the other, the excessive, and numbers greater than one. It always comes with a forewarning: and so the fishermen, having become fishers of men, leave behind not only their trade, names, rootedness and homeland – for the sake of fighting for a perfectly ordered world on the far side of death and falsehood – but also forsake themselves, and those who would go on to follow them in their turn. They leave them alone and inconsolable, but sure that their own transformation into fishers of the elusive is to be their consolation. Abandoned by catchers, they are left to remain catchers themselves, and their quarry is a still greater loss. One not available for purchase.

He was a provincial artist, a landscape painter in the manner of the Parisian school – something between Cézanne's Post-Impressionism and Matisse’s Fauvism, as far as these were preserved in the imagination of the late Soviet provincial intelligentsia who had internally made the emigration to world culture, amid all their art history albums and tripods for plein air amateur photography. The valley of the River Lena and a semi-rural appearance merged coloristically with the desire for free transformation. He was not recognised by museums on the national level, and left behind him works little deserving of immortalisation down the ages. Non-recognition, oblivion and the de-aestheticisation of the remnants – such is the universal expectation: How can mediocrity be re-designated, and the personal gain universal resonance? Is this even necessary? Be that as it may, the same awaits us all, and all our attempts at anything otherwise are futile in the face of the dissolution of decay. The strength of Kudrina's latest work lies in how it stages this futurelessness.
The exhibition takes place within the framework of the series of solo shows Camera Solitaria organized by the curator Svetlana Baskova at ISSMAG gallery, using one wall in a small space to present the work of artists. The curatorial restriction, which deals either with imprisonment in spatial constraint, or with the modernist plane, prompts from restraint to look for ways of creative ingenuity, loudness, overcoming. A wall as the repository of family history: the artist’s father’s bricolage of bookshelves, paintings, fishing gear, communist propaganda leaflets and exotic masks have been meticulously reassembled in their original arrangement in the Moscow gallery. Baskova points out this re-assemblage’s connections with mapping, a graphic principle that has become characteristic of the artist’s work over the past four years since her graduation from Baskova’s BAZA Institute, where conceptual fitting out with reductive procedures is programmatic to the educational process.

A neologism left behind by another fatherly figure here is the “history-made”. This was the term that Anatoly Osmolovsky, after Duchamp's ready-made, used to denote the time capsules of real socialism, like those Ian Ginzburg compiled from the interiors and object materiality of the later USSR, appropriating Ilya Kabakov’s total installations for mnemonic poetics at a time in which the devastation of real capitalism had become apparent. At the dawn of the 2010s, the mid-century modernism of wooden furniture, so overused by the “new bores” among Stas Shuripa’s adherents, acquired a localisation at the hands of Ginzburg in the writers’ villages and other habituses of cultural workers found within a 101-kilometre radius of Red Square. With Kudrina, it takes on a non-capital extraction too: adapted in hybrid form for Yakutia in the town of Lensk, founded in 1962, and now exported from a distant semi-colony.

To create something new, one has to abandon the claims to superiority of presentism and, on the contrary, recycle what has already been created, through immersion in the past. To become a citizen of the world, a universal spirit, one must renounce universalist homogeneity and accept one’s rootedness, limitations and prehistory. We refer here to being foresworn to restlessness far from the homeland, to the decreed abandonment of loved ones left unburied, to leaving the past without looking back. Being an important experience for those who hail from places far from the metropolitan centre, especially the more ethnically and culturally unique regions, this demands expression in the space of contemporary culture.