Anna Jermolaewa Good Times, Bad Times
28.02 – 10.05.2015 Anna Jermolaewa Good Times, Bad Times
curator: Christiane Erharter
cooperation: Magdalena Komornicka
Anna Jermolaewa is considered one of Austria’s most outstanding contemporary artists. As a media artist, she works mainly with photography, video and installation. Her main interests are the analysis of society’s functional structures, as well as social relations and the circumstances of everyday life. With her works, she puts a focus on the basic conditions and requirements of human existence.
Good Times, Bad Times is the title of the first solo exhibition of the artist in Poland. It is borrowed from a series of unpretentious photographs from 2007 that capture an urban everyday life situation: on a grey facade pigeons use the arrows of a wall clock to sit on. Through the serial arrangement of the photographs, it turns out that a quarter to three is a better time for them to rest there than five minutes to five. The title at the same time refers to the German soap opera Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten that has been broadcast from Monday to Friday in the early evening programme on the private TV channel RTL since 1992.
The exhibition features artworks that were created over the last fifteen years and brings into focus new and very personal productions by the artist. Besides projects about the current oppositional movement in Russia, political works that deal with her personal history are also shown. The video film Aleksandra Wysokinska/20 Jahre danach (2009) about the Polish woman who helped the artist’s escape is a touching portrait that will be presented for the first time in Poland. In May 1989, Anna Jermolaewa was forced to leave the USSR for political reasons – she was co‐founder of the first oppositional party, the Democratic Union, and co‐publisher of their party newspaper.
It is with the ups and downs of life, its setbacks and small successes, that the video installation Shopping with Family (2013) also deals. As a preparation for cancer treatment, the artist accompanied by her family is buying a wig. Jermolaewa changes her appearance while trying on all kind of wigs and receives feedback from her family. The slapstick mode of this gender performance lets us forget its tragic component – the artist’s sickness.
The multi-media installation Methods of Social Resistance on Russian Examples (2012) shows the impressive plurality of creative methods of resistance that are used against the Russian authorities. With the installation Untitled (Gulag) (2012), the artist takes us on a journey to the past. We follow her into the middle of nowhere researching her family history, as some of its members were dispossessed and deported to the camp region of Perm. Maria Alyokhina, a political activist of the punk band Pussy Riot, served her sentence in this region until she was set free in December 2013 in the course of an amnesty prior to the Olympic Games in Sochi. “The Gulag is a timeless concept”, says Jermolaewa.
In some of the artworks that were created over the last twenty years, animals play a crucial role, as in Untitled (Hermitage Cats) (2013) which has cats as protagonists. In a 1745 verdict, Russia’s Tsarina Elisabeth ordered an abundance of cats from Kazan to protect the State Hermitage. After more than 250 years, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg still employs an army of cats who live there as service workers.
Very often, banal and trivial scenes that Jermolaewa observes in her own life and the everyday become the point of departure for her projects, as in Step Aside (2008) and Trying to Survive (2000). “These scenes serve as metaphors for social and political processes”, the artist puts it.
Jermolaewa also presents three new works that were created for the exhibition at Zachęta. Once again, there is a feature on animals as workers: in this case, the role of goats when it comes to the production of argan oil in Morocco. Remaining two works deal with the conformity experiments developed by Solomon Eliot Asch, an American Gestalt psychologist of Polish origin, and the Soviet psychologist Valeria Mukhina, who analyzes the impact of suggestion on human choices.
Anna Jermolaewa, born in 1970 in St. Petersburg, has been living and working in Vienna since 1989.
Good Times, Bad Times
28.02 – 10.05.2015
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.
partners of the exhibition: Austriackie Forum Kultury, ERSTE Stiftung
sponsor of the opening ceremony Freixenet
media patronage: The Warsaw Voice, Stolica