Tensioning Balance: Requiem For a New Year

Exhibition review by Rachel Claire Hill
Rachel Claire Hill / 2014

An archetypal embodiment of pagan symbolism, the fir tree is the central motif and the fulcrum around which the exhibition turns. Displayed in a ground based circular construction, an evergreen ironically crystallised in the synthetic polymer, evocative of the funeral wreath in general and of the memorial under Minsk Victory Square in specific.
Explicitly acknowledging the pagan provenance of the New Year ritual and its integration as an essential form of regulation maintaining the status quo. The New Year ritual is here recognised as a feast of fools, an officially ordained moment of anarchy, which facilitates the daily obedience of the masses, a stabilising factor, normalising codes of behaviour.
Objects are metamorphosed from a quotidian existence into their antithesis resulting in the mobilizing subversive potential. Totems of hope and safety, a couple of fire extinguishers, with reciprocal pipes fused into a closed system, have been subverted into bodies of explosive potential. The building pressure of these confined contents must reach a critical mass, with the inevitability of explosion/collapse.
Insignificant plastic figures wrestling each other dwarfed former Titans of strength finely balanced but easily toppled. Directly above looms the weighty chains threatening/promising further enslavement shadows cast on the walls. With the New World collection, objects continue to shift into their diametric opposition. Initially, a Soviet endorsed literary publication with a history of political vacillations, New World is now a liberal text. The appropriated text has the Orwellian 1984 boldly emblazoned across every cover, producing a synthesis of former Soviet agenda and a meditation on dictatorship. (Also, the title makes a quick link with Huxley’s Brave New World.) “Future” is sardonically written on the wall.
Through scavenging the discarded fragments of fir trees, in the simple film “Requiem for a New Year” the artist resuscitates and facilitates the renewal of the evergreen. The act of gathering becomes an act of reclamation, manifesting arts potential to function as an alternative platform upon which counter-narratives can be articulated. Transcending the oppressive chains and points of pressure, ultimately through an uncompromising critique of the current political system, the exhibition also visualises the liberating and rehabilitating potential of a critically engaged artist/community.

Documentation of the exhibition: Requiem for a New Year at «Ў» Gallery (Minsk, Belarus), 2014