| RUSSIAN PAVILION “VICTORY OVER THE FUTURE”
53rd INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2009
We should not be deceived by the diversity of Pavel Pepperstein's talent. He is capable of very subtle graphic work, inventive installations and even conceptualist erotica captured on film. Pepperstein writes novels – from the vast fantasy epic 'The Mythogenic Love of Castes' (with S. Anufriev) to the exquisite refinement of his detective novel 'The Swastika and the Pentagon' – and performs rap (he promises to do so for the 'Victory over the Future' exhibition). But for Pepperstein both fine art and literature are only instruments of investigative activity. It is no coincidence that the association of authors from the Young Conceptualists group he founded in the 1990s adopted the emphatically bureaucratic-scientific title 'Inspection Medical Hermeneutics'. The objects and methods of these investigations are also strikingly whimsical (although it is hard to call them a mere whim). Pepperstein is interested in everything – psychoanalysis (he is writing his own version of 'The Interpretation of Dreams') and Hollywood movies, the 'collective unconscious' of Soviet ideology and the philosophy of Moscow Conceptualism, the schizoanalysis of Deleuze-Guattari and Castaneda, Orthodoxy and Zen Buddhism, classical literature and contemporary youth culture. In a sense this sphere of interest replicates the preoccupations of Pepperstein's generation: essentially, the last representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia who now had access to what was until recently proscribed information, but had not yet made it their profession to possess it and become narrowly specialised intellectuals. But in Pepperstein's case he is not just artlessly sharing the tastes of his generation but exploring how these tastes evolved. He examines contemporary art, mass culture and philosophy to discover the sources of this 'mythogeny'. As if Pepperstein is inoculating himself with every possible intellectual 'virus', whether it is a passion for 'Lord of the Rings' or leftist discourse, for psychedelic culture or the nostalgia for socialism that recently appeared in our society. Apparently his aim is to develop a vaccine that in no way deprives the myths of their attraction, but makes them entirely unfit for mass consumption and therefore devoid of epidemic potential. Pepperstein is concerned with the virtuoso customisation or 'tuning' of mythologies, which in his interpretation assume the pleasantly quaint characteristics of a deeply private imaginary world. The utopian future seen in the landscapes the artist has recently drawn with abandon seem appealing just because this future is profoundly domesticated and elements of diverse, highly influential and menacing ideologies appear homely, familiar as souvenirs from distant lands displayed in someone's apartment. Not even your own, but maybe your parents' souvenirs that you often played with even before you knew where they came from. 'Medicinal Hermeneutics' has recreated the cult of childhood in contemporary art, and with Pepperstein this is all the more significant since his parents are children's author Irina Pivovarova and artist Viktor Pivovarov, and he himself is a friend of Ilya Kabakov, one of the founders of Moscow Conceptualism and a famous children's book illustrator. For Pepperstein Moscow Conceptualism and its complex philosophy was rather like a familiar toy from childhood. And he sees nothing wrong in perceiving everything with the same sense of trust and freedom. Even 'Black Square' and 'Red Wedge' acquire heads in his interpretation, rather like the playing cards in illustrations to 'Alice in Wonderland'. Such cards are hard to play in a game with rules – but you can play with the cards themselves. You can't insert humanised squares and triangles in a Suprematist composition but you can put them in an Italian Renaissance landscape. In your private childlike future there is no one to punish you if you do. Not everyone is admitted to this future. No need, either: by rights everyone should have a future entirely their own.