Magazine article Artforum International

Komar and Melamid

Magazine article Artforum International

Komar and Melamid

Article excerpt

It's all very Russian. The work for which Komar and Melamid became famous was about the frightening absurdity of the Soviet system, and was directed toward the dismantling of that system. Now that the system has been dismantled, Komar and Melamid are the kings of nostalgia, ardent for the very sorrows that once gave them a claim to tragedy. Like all victims of child abuse, Russians are paralyzed by the loss of the abusive parent--not simply because that abusive parent defined their lives, but also because (nature is perverse) they loved that parent with a depth of emotion obscure to nationals of more genial and less controlling lands. Komar and Melamid's recent work is an attempt to articulate their grief; though it is presented in ironic, humorous, and often cynical language, it is in fact at least as tragic as the ironic, humorous, and often cynical work they made in protest against the ills of the Soviet system.

"Death and Immortality," is one of a series of shows that deals with the disappearance of Soviet architectural monuments. The esthetes among us join with Komar and Melamid in protesting the architectural merits of these works. However, for the artists the salvation of these monuments takes place not in spite of their origins, but in honor of those origins. Russian history has gone in waves of architectural destruction: there was the burning of Moscow before Napoleon; then the destruction of Tsarist and religious buildings by the communists; now the annihilation of Soviet monuments by the democrats. Stop this madness, cry Komar and Melamid, for when you destroy in the name of some putative new good you do not accomplish good. It's a trope drawn half from Freud and half from Santayana: only when you confront your own past and accept it and make it part of your living present can you escape from its bondage. …

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