Stella Art Foundation presents the installation Unknown Reasoning Powers by the classic artists of the Moscow Conceptualist School, Igor Makarevich and Elena Elagina. The work was first shown in 2010-2011 at the Contrepoint Russe exhibition, held at the Musée du Louvre (Paris), and has never previously been displayed in Moscow.
The thematic base for the installation is a note by the prominent Russian scientist and philosopher, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, made at a time when he was developing the project of Nikolai Fedorov, the founder of Russian Cosmism, for the “resurrection” of previous generations and simultaneously working on construction an interplanetary space ship. On the evening of 31 May 1928 Tsiolkovsky saw a cloud figure in the sky, which he deciphered as the union of three Latin letters, phonetically equivalent to the Russian word “rai”, meaning “paradise”.
The work by Makarevich and Elagina consists of four staircases against a wall (the stairs are understood to lead to the sky), between which the above-mentioned letters glow in pink neon; more than 100 pairs of assorted footwear are placed at the foot of the staircases.
In the words of the artists, the installation is a continuation of the utopian theme developed in their most recent projects (The Common Cause, The Russian Idea, Mushrooms of the Avant-Garde): “Our work concerns the inevitability of illusion and the high price, which must be paid as a result. The staircase has been a symbol of ascent into the sky and the penetration of another space since biblical times. The piles of abandoned footwear are meant to raise a doubt in the viewer — is this the aftermath of a miracle or of a tragedy?”
Since the ideas of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky developed to a large extent under the influence of the foundational work by Nikolai Fedorov, The Philosophy of the Common Cause, the exhibition by Makarevich and Elagina at Stella Art Foundation also includes sketches and photographs of their installation, entitled The Common Cause, which was shown at the Perm State Art Gallery as part of a larger project, The Philosophy of the Common Cause.
Igor Makarevich (born in 1943 in Trialeti, Georgia) is a painter, graphic artist, monumental artist photographer, author of objects and installations, and actionist. Elena Elagina (born in 1949 in Moscow) is a painter, graphic artist, sculptor, author of objects and installations, and actionist. The two artists have worked together since the 1990s.
Makarevich and Elagina are the authors of several major exhibition projects (Closed Fish Exhibition, Within the Limits of the Beautiful, Pagan, etc.), which have united the themes and devices of each artist in a harmonious fashion, and offered an original development of the installation genre, which was of central importance to radical Russian art from the end of the 1980s and through the 1990s.
Major recent retrospectives have included Within the Limits of the Beautiful (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 2005) and In situ (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2009). Works by the two artists have been shown at exhibitions including: Berlin — Moskau / Moskva — Berlin 1950–2000 (Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; State Historical Museum, Moscow, 2003-2004); Die totale Aufklärung — Moskauer Konzeptkunst (Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt-am-Main; Fundación Juan March, Madrid); La 53 Biennale di Venezia (Venice, 2009); Contrepoint Russe (Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010); 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (Artplay Design Center, 2011); and The Philosophy of the Common Cause (Perm State Art Gallery, Perm, 2012).