Sasha Pirogova

26.05.2016 — 18.06.2016, Central Manege

Sasha Pirogova’s main subject and focus is motion and its capacities. Her works explore the territory between a theatrical play and a ritual, between performativity and dance, which transforms rational movements into metaphors.

The art of the 20th century was obsessed with representing motion. What infuses the shifting planes of futurism, photography and its opposite, abstraction, is the agitated pursuit to grasp what it feels like for a static object in a dynamic information environment.

Sasha Pirogova is one of the new generation of artists who admit a priori that the total codification of movement using tools documenting reality is already complete, and the task of an artist today is to construct a new sequence of visual codes to be relatively free from interpretations by default. An artist suggests the “insubstantial” and “ephemeral” nature of movement in the 21st century: it bears a potentially infinite plasticity, a capacity to adapt to whatever artistic purpose there might be.
Sasha Pirogova’s new personal project has three focal points, which originally drove the creation of the works, namely, text, place, and process.

Text: The Queue. Fragments of the eponymous novel by Vladimir Sorokin portraying the times of the scarce supplies of food and goods in the mid-1980s are accompanying the ritual motion within an infinite loop. It is a kind of the Tibetan Book of the Dead about people stuck in endless fuss over getting this or that. The flow of redundant chatter within the collective mind of the doomed is structured by the artist as a march with elements of tango. What is desired is void, and what is real is fragile, unstable. The Queue by Sasha Pirogova is a loop leaving no way to consciously get out and break up. The text, though belonging to a particular epoch, is cleared from references to the historical circumstances. At the same time, the work features real objects dating back to the 1980s and acquired recently. Interpretations may construe The Queue both as criticism of mass consumption and a metaphor of collective martyrdom where most mundane things come to be the symbols of passions.

Place: Rundling. The video was shot during the Bükü residency program (Büro für kulturelle Übersetzungen, Leipzig). The residential complex Rundling was built in the late 1920s. That was an urbanist experiment inspired by functionalism or, as it is referred to in Germany, the New Objectivity, the semi-official style of the Weimar Republic. The block resembling a labyrinth in the plane was influenced by the elaborations of the architects of Bauhaus in Dessau. Both Rundling and Dessau inspire the feeling of the predictable — against the context of the history of Russian and Soviet avant-garde — but still surprising short-livedness of the functionalist influence on the epoch. As soon as in 1933, after Hitler rose to power (or, in the USSR, in 1932 following the resolution On the Restructuring of Literary and Artistic Organizations), the work of greatest theorists and practitioners of visual environment comes but to a halt to continue, at best, in exile, abroad. To some extent, Sasha Pirogova, a physicist by training, gets back to what she had learned: she approaches Rundling as an illustration of the motion of particles in quantum mechanics. Moreover, it is also a self-portrait of an individual who waivers exact positions in time, space and history. Besides, her work pays homage to the scenic architecture of the district, a monument to the utopian ideas of the 1920s, in which its life-building potential is appearing at moments and then again disappearing from the public conscience, just like the main character of the video.

Process: The Agon. The poststructuralist notion that both organic and inorganic life consists of various kinds of machines is illustrated by four episodes shot in a functional factory. The artist classifies them as “politics”, “religion”, “art”, and “media”, though stopping short of insisting on clear divisions and the designations themselves. Thus, the circular motion with handshakes can be art (if art is addressed as a reserved indirect communication) and politics (if you approach politicians as primarily subjects of certain agreements). Outside the scope of the video lies sports, which makes the basis of the work: without it, the physiological parables would have been merely a document or a theatrical. Arts, politics, religion, and the media appear as exercises for the healthy and fit, just like different sports events. As to The Agon, this activity is total and symbolic at the same time. The performers are ceaselessly parts of the algorithm governed by a red signal marking the end of operation. The setting is a vacuum of industry that renders any sequence of gestures as hovering in zero-gravity.

Valentin Diaconov