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Galerie Volker Diehl

Niebuhrstr. 2
10629 Berlin
Tel.: 030 2248 7922


Di-Fr 11.00-18.00 Uhr
Sa 11.00-14.00 Uhr

Cactus seller and others Olga Chernysheva

28.01.2017 - 22.03.2017

"... in her installation Cactus Seller (2009), a series of black-and-white photographic light boxes are mounted on a steel frame that winds its way through the gallery space.

Set [...] in the Moscow Zoo Museum, Chernysheva reveals the different stages that the museum has gone through, from its palatial pre-revolutionary origins to the functionalism of the communist era and subsequently minor neo-capitalist entrepreneurism.

Cactus Seller is a further inquiry into isolation but in this instance the individual concerned, the cactus seller, is engrossed in purposeful work, that of the study, nurture and ultimately sale of cacti. He remains alone, however, and bathetically linked to nonhuman life, something that in its very nature has developed a skin intended to repel humans. Chernysheva’s concern with the solitary condition of the worker is enhanced by the image of one of the Museum’s cloakroom attendants sitting at her desk. Another example of minor officialdom that still permeats Moscow, a remnant from the Soviet era when a steady job of work was an accepted fact of life. The photographs of the Museum hark back to this same era, one before the flashy customer-friendly over-designed displays that epitomize museums in the West became the norm. In the midst of this other natural history, surrounded by the contents of the Museum’s collection – stuffed animals and birds, skeletons – the cactus seller tends his mini-cacti in a futile attempt to make ends meet. Chernysheva’s project is principally to make an account of the lives of ordinary Russian people as they adapt to the huge changes their society is undergoing.

For Russians the promise of Perestroika has not been realized. They remain in a limbo in which their aspirations and sense of enablement are remote from the practical opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis.

They are not alone in this: throughout so called developed society, a sense of powerlessness over individual destiny and lack of control over one’s life is common. Because of this, Chernysheva’s work, while rooted in Russia, concerns itself with issues and feelings that are common to many in other parts of the urbanised world. Essentially Chernysheva is a Realist and it is germane to speculate about her connection with earlier forms of Socialist Realism in Russia and ist ideological imperatives.

But Chernysheva is no ideologue, she is a chronicler of the everyday.“

David Thorp

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