January 18-March 15, 2014
Members-only reception January 17, 6-7pm
Public Opening and Reception January 17, 7-9pm.
For his museum debut in the United States, Anton Ginzburg will present At the Back of the North Wind and Walking the Sea, part one and two of a trilogy of works in film, photography, sculpture and painting developed around historical and cultural conceptions of mythical or legendary landscapes and places that have conquered popular imagination and spawned collective memories.
At the Back of the North Wind, first presented at the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011, is the result of Ginzburg’s part-fictional, part-documentary journey to and search for Hyperborea, a mythical land that first appears in the writings of ancient Greek writers Hesiod, Homer and Herodotus as a place of pure bliss, perpetual sunlight and eternal springtime. Associated with the “golden age of man,” Hyperborea was a source for inspiration for early modernist thinkers such as German Friedrich Nietzsche and Russian Helena Blavatsky, before occupying central stage in the early twentieth century St. Petersburg poetic tradition of Acmeism which took its name from the Greek word acme invoking the golden age of man.
In developing this project, Ginzburg embarked on a three-part journey attempting to locate Hyperborea according to descriptions found in literature, newspaper articles and mythology. The photographs, sculpture, reliefs, drawings, and film that make up At the Back of the North Wind represent fragments of the artist’s impressions and experiences from his research and travels to form a master narrative of journey and discovery. The installation takes the viewer from the primordial virgin forest of Oregon, to St. Petersburg and its eroding palaces and haunted natural history museum, and finally to the ruins of the Gulag prisons and archeological sites on the White Sea. Present throughout is a cloud of red smoke that functions both as a metaphor for the exalted self and an expression of the collective unconscious.
In Walking the Sea, Ginzburg crosses the Aral Sea – an inland salt-water sea that lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Previously one of the four largest inland bodies of water in the world with an area of more than 26,000 sq miles, the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s and by now has almost dried up. Caused by the Soviet irrigation project which diverted feeder-rivers to irrigate cotton fields in the surrounding desert, this environmental devastation led to the destruction of the region’s once prosperous fishing industry, unemployment and local climate change. Calling it a “ready-made earthwork”, Ginzburg explores the poetic paradox of the sea without water. As in At the Back of the North Wind, the artist employs landscape that contains the remnants of the twentieth century past to explore themes of collective memory.
Carrying a mirror as a device for representation, Ginzburg offers a literal and metaphorical reflection on scenes of historical and natural processes: the exposed seabed, abandoned Soviet military bases, and scattered rusting vessels. The resulting installation of film, photographs, objects and paintings combines the documentation of the physical experience of crossing the sea with his personal poetic interpretation of a specific place and time. It draws on the theory that the Aral Sea has disappeared underground and reemerged several times throughout history. Likening the idea of this “sub-sea” to Lacanian concepts of the mechanism of the subconscious, Ginzburg employs methods of psychoanalysis to record and interpret the dreams and experiences of Walking the Sea.
With At the Back of the North Wind and Walking the Sea, Ginzburg also ruminates on the nature of an earthwork, whether made through a direct physical gesture by an individual or could as the unforeseen result of a collective activity. In both works, his involvement with the land is defined through walking and as such refers to a rich history of artists who have approached landscape and urban environments from the perspective of a wanderer ranging from Richard Long and Hamish Fulton to Janet Cardiff and Francis Alys. Using an array of historical and cultural references as starting points for his investigations of art’s capacity to penetrate layers of the past, Ginzburg constructs lines of memory and imagination that draw on the collective and the individual to trace them to points of intersection.
Anton Ginzburg was born in St. Petersburg in 1974, where he received a classical art education in preparation for the Soviet academy, and immigrated to the United States in 1990, earning a BFA from the Parsons School of Design in 1997 and is currently working on his MFA degree at Bard College. He lives and works in New York.
Anton Ginzburg: Terra Corpus is made possible, in part, by the Cecil Amelia Blaffer von Furstenberg Endowment for Exhibitions and Programs, the Houston Endowment Inc., Krista and Mike Dumas, Judy and Scott Nyquist, and Ted Lee and Marc Sekula. Additional major exhibition support is provided by Leslie and Brad Bucher, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, the Jo and Jim Furr Exhibition Endowment at Blaffer Art Museum, The George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, William J. Hill and Jane Dale Owen.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company provides in-kind support.
Educational outreach programs are made possible by Dorothy C. Sumner, the Kristin Saleri Art Foundation and Quantum Reservoir Impact.
The original production of At the Back of the North Wind and Walking the Sea was made possible in part by Flo Art Fund and Andrey Goncharenko Cultural Foundation.
Visiting Artist and Scholar Series: Boris Groys + Anton Ginzburg
Thursday, February 27, 6:30pm
Dudley Recital Hall, University of Houston (adjacent to Blaffer)
Boris Groys is Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University. His lecture, “New Archeology of the Soviet Empire,” will be followed by a conversation between Groys and Blaffer exhibiting artist Anton Ginzburg.
Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist, and an internationally acclaimed expert on late-Soviet postmodern art and literature, as well as on the Russian avant-garde. His philosophical writing includes A Philosopher’s Diary, On the New: A Study of Cultural Economics, and The Invention of Russia, while his contributions to art theory and criticism can be found in Vanishing Point Moscow and The Art of Installation. His most recent books are Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of the Media and Ilya Kabakov. The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (Afterall/MIT Press, 2006).
The 2013 – 14 Visiting Artist and Scholar Series is supported through a Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts Program Innovations grant, funded in part by the Houston Endowment, Inc.