The grotesque and avant-garde within the exhibition «I don’t know whether the Earth is spinning or not…»

13 января 2021

Читать на русском

I don’t know whether the Earth is spinning or not… is a digital exhibition that brings together emerging artists, writers, and poets from over nine countries. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Velimir Khlebnikov’s 1909 poem of the same title, which illustrates the poet’s radical rejection of normative conventions and his deep mistrust of his own grasp on reality.

Works confront the estrangement, disassociation, and vulnerability brought about by our challenging and dark times by interweaving satire, irony, the comical, the uncanny, and the grotesque into multi-media forms. The bespoke digital platform was conceptualized as a reimagined urban landscape, distorting famed Moscow landmarks.


Sinister circumstances, global and local, have forced the participating artists, writers, and poets to construct novel ways of operating, resisting, and thriving within their current precarious realities. The artists, writers, and poets reveal their fears, anxieties, desires, hopes, and everyday truths with a profound desire to be seen.

The curators, Lizaveta Matveeva and Francesca Altamura, and Art Point Magazine invited three international arts professionals to select their favorite works from the digital exhibition, those including independent curators, educators, and critics. «I don’t know whether the Earth is spinning or not…» is a digital exhibition as a part of one of the Main Projects of the VII Moscow International Biennale for Young Art.

Alexander Burenkov is independent curator of exhibitions and educational projects, art critic, and teacher, based in Moscow, Russia

«Master Key», Sasha Zubritskaya

Sasha Zubritskaya «Master Key», 2019. Exhibition view: Navicula Artis, St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo: Oleg Savunov

Sasha Zubritskaya is a member of both the self-organized feminist library Feminfoteka and Sever-7, an art collective which makes zines, works with graphics, objects, video installations, and who exhibited «Master Key» a year ago in St. Petersburg, which I was lucky enough to see in person, not virtually. In objects, printed graphics, and photographs taken by Zubritskaya, numerous enigmatic characters loom back and forth: a spring and a strawberry, a fontanel and a light, a spider and a knot. The artist constructs an intricate visual rebus, with references, riddles, and a cast from a silent play, by re-assembling fables and reality, and collecting various images from her environment, such as a plastic box with lighters, a huge hourglass, a fountain behind fences. Taking these situations out of everyday life, the artist transforms them into physical volumes filled with voids of meaning, and the online experience provides additional poetic layers to interactions with its key elements.

«SUMMIT», Dagnini

Dagnini, «SUMMIT», 2020. Performance loop, video, sound, color. Screengrab from Website development: Zarema Khalilova. Courtesy the artist

Dagnini perceives her body as a canvas for the performative. She catalogues stereotypes generated from pop cultural references and it’s online manifestations in post-Soviet Russia. SUMMIT (2020) is a carnivalesque constellation of identities. It’s furious never-ending search resonates with the country’s experience of finding its own identity and the destiny of the «lost generation» which grew up in the 1990s (to which the artist herself belongs). For this generation, lost ideals of the Soviet past coexist with imperial architecture, gopnik worldviews, and digital experimentation. Reality splits into fragments due to the lack of public consensus on the historical traumas of the past. The layering of network and physical realities leads to apathy in front of infomedia, the main defense against which is memes, and the assimilation of which becomes the only true life strategy for survival.

«Vorozheya», Anna Afonina, Anastasia Korotkova, Maria Romanova, and Valeria Gray

Anna Afonina, Maria Romanova, Valeria Ghrai, and Anastasia Korotkova «Vorozheya», 2020 (still). Interactive online project. Courtesy the artistsAnna Afonina, Valeria Ghrai, Anastasia Korotkova, and Maria Romanova, «Vorozheya», 2020 (still). Interactive online project. Courtesy the artistsAnna Afonina, Maria Romanova, Valeria Ghrai, and Anastasia Korotkova «Vorozheya», 2020 (still). Interactive online project. Courtesy the artists

The interactive online project Vorozheya (2020) by Anna Afonina, Valeria Gray, Anastasia Korotkova, and Maria Romanova, offers an escape from the frustrating reality to the archetypal spaces of a Soviet sanatorium, a resort canteen, and a public beach. Traveling through space turns into the waves of memory as soon as quarantine allows all of us to travel inward and find calmness and serenity in a false retrospective nostalgia for a time in which we haven’t even lived. An abyss separates us from the era of peremptory belief in the Internet as a utopian space for the realization of our innermost desires, where we can and should immediately escape. 2020 forced us to abandon illusions, if we ever had any, especially with the convenience of working from home. Accelerated integration into the digital economy no longer leaves us with a choice. The protest slogan of the 1960s «the beach beneath the street» is too idealistic for times when the only place of escape has been localized online, and if the beach exists today, it is buried in the infrastructure of Silicon Valley and internet of things,which ensures us with a continuous supply of our reality.

Helena Lugo is an independent curator and Artistic Director of Palmera Ardiendo based in México City, México

«Transcend and Die», Matt Copson

Matt Copson, «Transcend and Die», 2018/20 (still). Hand-painted 2K animation, sound, color; 4:33 min. Courtesy the artist and High Art, Paris

A story involving talking animals as anthropomorphized forces of nature usually conveys some sort of lesson. Matt Copson’s tragic, ironic and almost unease fantasy, does not convey a moral to its story, but does act as a reminder of the absurdities entangled in the complex relationship between immanence and transcendence. Starred by an annoying-metaphysical-blue bird and a headless bleeding maned wolf, this animation is a quest for leaving a mark entangled in repetition, love, and decay. Such an elusive perspective on the world, in the shape of a false fable, ultimately humors us while laying bear our deepest desires.

«Master Key», Sasha Zubritskaya

In 1924, German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg created the Atlas Mnemosyne: an unfinished, multi-layered, and endlessly open cartography that created different interpretations when indeterminate images were assembled together. Warburg succeeded to do this in an analogue world. In the same vein, Sasha Zubritskaya creates a system which works as a network of moving images, objects, photographs, drawings, .gifs, and patterns trapped in a labyrinth of sorts. The possibilities embedded in this digital mini-verse create a series of correspondences, affinities, and interpretations among symbols, words, peculiar figures and awkward situations that leave us shifting in our seats. Her intricate digital garden filled with riddles, eggs, cats, plot twists and strawberry juice makes us wander through this environment as familiar yet unknown territory.

«Vorozheya», Anna Afonina, Maria Romanova, Valeria Ghrai, and Anastasia Korotkova

Set in a dystopian, taciturn, post-apocalyptic and strangely funny «choose your own adventure» game, Vorozheya (2020) is a digital palimpsest that combines layers of a previous net-based world with random representations of objects and characters in quite a naïve and childish manner. Sad cats, hamburguers, Mariah Carey and a fake sun create a huge meme composed of recollections and fragments of a world we constantly represent yet can’t grasp. With no particular narrative, depicting a very acid world seen through a late 1990’s or early-2000’s screen, this fake pixelated world is now more real than ever.

Ibrahim Cissé is an independent curator and educator based in London, UK.

Curatorial Statement and Project I don’t know whether the earth is spinning or not…

I reckon this is a cheeky one. I picked another text based work, which is not art per se, yes… I did. But it helps me to think about my first encounter with Russian literature and interest in Russia to begin with. I was about 13 or 14 when I was introduced to Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov (1958). I was shook! Growing up in France, from Gambian parents who migrated before my birth, I have rejected most of the French culture I learned about at school, being very critical about the space that the society did not create for semi-foreigners like me. What was so glorious about it, if I was to stand in the dirt? French literature was alienating, at least, the novels I was aware of at the time. Dostoevsky opened a door into the human psyche, and showed me the power of words like nobody else before him. The characters he depicted became my friends, I held them close to me, secretly. Reading about Velimir Khlebnikov and revolutionary movements from the past century through the curatorial statement of the project and seeing the work of the participants brings me back to that feeling. All of us have a part to play, it is messy and full of drama and at the end we just die. But the thrill man, just give in. On that note, I would recommend everyone to delve into Vijay Masharani’s exquisite piece datura thugi essay before parting ways with the exhibition. Big up the curators, and yes the Earth is spinning! Let’s roll.

«DRAMA», Evgeny Granilshchikov

Evgeny Granilshchikov «DRAMA», 2019 (still). Single-channel video, sound, color; 22:37 min. Courtesy the artist

I laughed, several times. This work feels like walking too deep into a foreign wood until you realise that it is way past the time to go back home, yet, having no sense of direction to retrace your steps, nobody around, the sun is setting down on you, no signal, no torch… Here panic would be obvious but becomes the most irrational thing to do.

[Not a valid template]

Granilshchikov and the Russian youths featured in this experimental short film dance through the different states and stages of depression. I laughed because I have been there, more than once, «that’s part of our whole generational problem,» says one of the multiple narrators. The non-story unfolds slowly and frames the chaos against and within the ways of the city. Depression comes and goes, but never really leaves, one only becomes better at handling it, two-stepping through webs of concrete. Is the Earth spinning or nah? Can anyone hear me? «Answering emails is difficult, difficult» I laughed at that one Evgeny, very hard.

Poems for Food, Galina Rymbu

«…window draft, with the smells of somebody’s soup,
pie pomp. time pumped with rage.
the have-snots.

how do you say potato,
eat potato, eight potato in pot,
blue potato, red potato,
white potato, clods
of soil, holes of hope in the ground,
black tubers,
country matters.

pan fried,
with the skin still on,
crude sunflower-oil moon,
potato moon rovers,
the astronaut helmets of baby onions,
uneven craters left by my tongue.

coarse factory salt,
iodized, crystals.
salt to lick.
to suck salt.
finger the salt,
there’s no salt.

the potatoes are out,
there’s no bread.

if there’s no bread,
it’s the end» (excerpt).

Raw. I see myself as a poet first, as such I read every poem with great attention. I see the poetic in everything. This offering really resonated with me. My guts felt that. Not a day goes without a reflection on food, feeling increasingly alienated by the city. Not a day spent without a prayer sent in gratitude for the food I eat, ghosts of hunger haunting me and my close ones. At the end of the day you cannot really explain the world’s ills without looking at the heart of the matter or hearing empty stomachs rumble to death, ready to die or to kill. It’s 2020 and most of us, irrespective of location, are still trained to enter the world seeking domination, not quite content with abundance. Yet, poverty is looked at as a disease, it is easy to forget how people are being put and held into these dependent positions and stigmas. Unlike my note on the poem, the text is not moralist but very playful, very tasty to stick with the semantic on display.

It costs nothing to ask everyone around you if they have eaten before you have and to move accordingly, make it a habit: «that’s what my paradise is like. / you don’t sleep there, don’t get sick, and don’t fart, / you don’t hiccup, hunger, or suffer. everybody takes part.»

ART Point magazine would like to thank the exhibition curators Lizaveta Matveeva and Francesca Altamura for their help in preparing the material. The exhibition is available at - ваш проводник по лабиринту книг