While Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to justify his war in Ukraine during this morning’s Victory Day speech, dissident artist Andrei Molodkin is trying to make sure the anniversary of Russia’s victory in World War II is remembered differently.
Today, Molodkin, a former Soviet soldier who became a conceptual artist, opened the doors of his secluded experimental art space in southwestern France to showcase politically charged art and an alternative to the Russian narrative of the war in Ukraine.
“This brutal war is a great catastrophe, a shock to everyone. It touches our family and we understand that everything is starting to change, “Molodkin told Artnet News. “But no one, no cultural institution can think about it. This is a political war and artists who can convey ideas the way Picasso did Guernica it can change the world. ”
Molodkin’s foundry, as it is called, is located in Maubourguet, on a 14,800-square-foot site that was originally an iron foundry opened in 1870 to produce weapons and military equipment. Molodkin discovered the abandoned site, which reminded him of an old communist factory, more than a decade ago and bought it for 80,000 euros (then the equivalent of $ 69,600).
With the support of private donors, the Foundry has been a production center for projects over the years, including Erik Bulatov’s projects. Forward (2016), which is today in the collection of Tate and Andres Serrano Whipping (2015), a series of photographs exploring the history and violence of torture. Other artists who have worked at the Foundry include Russian artist Petr Davidtchenko, Madrid art collective Democracia and dissident Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky.
Now, Molodkin uses the space to exhibit public art that is usually excluded from the mainstream system. Dissident artists, as well as scientists, musicians and other creatives who are “not accepted by the power structure” are welcome, he said.
On the occasion of the first public opening, Molodkin joins forces with Laibach, an avant-garde group formed in the former Yugoslav town of Trbovlje, to perform under the name Danger: we are forging the future.
Molodkin was born in 1966 in the northern Russian city of Boui. He graduated in architecture and industrial design from the Stroganov Institute in Moscow in 1992. During his military service, in which he transported missiles across Siberia, Molodkin was imprisoned to “correct” him so that art would not distract him from his duties. .
“There is a tradition in Russia that you don’t consider yourself a contemporary artist if you haven’t been in prison,” said Molodkin, who is known for creating art from blood and crude oil. “Many of my friends simply do not have the opportunity to realize their projects because of the censorship they face,” he said. “It’s very difficult. They have to either move out of the country, go underground or stay in jail.”
When presented at the Russian pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, he was banned from speaking to reporters because his work, made from crude oil, was a direct critique of the Chechen war, which estimated killing 60,000 people over the decades.
Molodkin hopes that by opening the foundry’s doors to the public, anti-Putin voices will be heard at a time when Russians have been silenced both at home and abroad.
“When people annul Russian culture, they behave exactly like the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union,” he said. “The culture of cancellation is currently the most dangerous, fascist idea on our planet. It has become a great instrument for every power, “he said, adding that it was important to separate the ruling regime from its people.
Molodkin’s own work to be seen is a “factual description” of Putin’s painting, created with the blood of Ukrainians, the artist said. The work was previously shown in London to protest the invasion.
Some of the other works on display at the Foundry are artists who say they face their own political problems at home. South African-born artist Kendall Geers called Foundry a “parallel art world” in which it seems possible to “still experience true freedom of expression”.
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