MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM, MOSCOW
MUSEUM "MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY"
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Is it easy to be young?
The Rodchenko Art School

Moscow, 21.02—19.04.2020

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Curators: Igor Mukhin

As part of Photobiennale 2020
Curators: Igor Mukhin

As part of Photobiennale 2020

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«Is It Easy To Be Young?»

As part of the ‘Photobiennale-2020’, the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow and the Rodchenko School present an exhibition by students and graduates from the workshop of Igor Mukhin, the outstanding contemporary photographer and classic of Russian photography. Mukhin, one of the school’s most senior teachers, has conducted the Immediate Photography workshop since 2010.  

For each course the master suggests performing a standard exercise on a specific topic. According to the photographer, he has experienced and interpreted all these themes himself in past years. ‘Is It Easy To Be Young?’ is the question he puts to his students as part of a practical task, and this marked a starting point in Mukhin’s own work. He began his career in the 1980s with portraits of non-conformist Soviet youth and leaders of the counterculture. Juris Podnieks’ documentary film ‘Is It Easy To Be Young?’ was released in 1987. This film caused a sensation, showing Soviet audiences a new ‘restructured’ generation of non-conformists and rebels who may have gained the right to vote for the first time. The film’s title soon caught on, becoming a catchphrase, and Mukhin’s images filled with the spirit of protest and the expectation of change provided documentation of a contradictory era. Decades later, now acting as a mentor, he poses the same question to his students, inviting the modern generation to say what it means to be young today and to discover if the heroes of this new age are really any different from their predecessors.

Each participant in the exhibition offers his or her own understanding of the theme. ‘…The principal character may be encountered online or on the street, they may be chosen from a crowd, you could visit an old friend or respected classmate, unexpectedly find yourself in a closed community and become “one of them”; you can pretend to be a regular at some fashionable venue and record its patrons for all time, you can be in a theatre and try to find the boundaries of theatre in real life, you can photograph characters from a well-known squat or attempt to convey the carefree atmosphere of rock ’n’ roll in the Moscow region, or play at online journalism and take photographs like the illustrations to questionnaires for photo shoot participants,’ explains Igor Mukhin. ‘The main thing is that the plotline is compelling and the viewer feels a “lump in their throat”; then perhaps someone in years to come will see in this exercise the typical Moscow and surrounding area, the inhabitants, and only in the future will it become clear if the leading characters correspond to their epoch, and whether the author has managed to capture and convey the atmosphere of a city that lives through winter in the hope of spring.’

 

The young artists often turn their attention to the representatives of various subcultures and micro-groups. Although the authors tell their own personal stories, all together these form a single mosaic, the portrait of a new generation.

Ilya Nikitin turned his lens to regulars at the Zinziver, a popular bar on Pokrovka. He has created a collective portrait of the capital’s youth, those who grew up in the time of globalisation and social media, who seem very different, yet also very similar to young people in a trendy bar in any other city.

Gosha Bergal’s project ‘Serebryanka. Rock ’n’ Roll Near Moscow’ features a company of his friends obliged to continually seek new places where they can freely play their music. His presence in this context allowed the author to show young people as representatives of a separate community, with their own attributes and traditions.

Karina Gradusova’s series entitled ‘Dubki’ (Oaks) is the story of her peers living in a settlement outside Moscow, youths ‘from the neighbourhood’, the generation comprising ‘lost children of the post-Soviet space’ who grew up outside the capital in the 1990s. They are involved in the problems of their micro-socium, their subculture, and live their lives without any desire to participate in the society that surrounds them. ‘Millennials’, the project by Ksenia Tsykunova, is on the contrary dedicated to the life of young Muscovites and the city’s new heroes: activists, rappers, cybersportsmen… Tsykunova’s series is an artistic documentation of the types and visual signs of today’s world.

Vlada Volkova’s project ‘Of course it’s not just about studs, hairstyles and metal, although they matter too, I think!’ is devoted to the heroes of contemporary punk culture. This is about the visual images many people now consider a thing of the past, but punk still survives, and those that belong to this culture are actually very like their predecessors.

 

Vera Vishnevaya explores the theme ‘Is It Easy To Be Young?’ by looking at the life of inhabitants in the celebrated Milyutinsky squat, a large commune of artists in the centre of Moscow that to some extent inherited the artistic traditions of legendary squats of the 1980s to 1990s such as Baumansky, Furmanny, the Trokhprudny Lane gallery, and others. In Vishnevaya’s images the everyday life and work of the squat’s residents are presented in a symbiotic unity that she tries to show through the eyes of a direct participant involved in the artistic process, on an equal basis with the others.

The projects by Ksenia Yablonskaya (‘Contemporary Kolya’), Dasha Karetnikova (‘Dima Makes Violins’) and Sasha Breus (‘Courier’) can be attributed to the genre of visual diaries based on recording the everyday life of characters widely different from one another. The hero of Ksenia Yablonskaya’s series is Nikolai Klyamchuk, a young actor at the Sovremennik Theatre. Dasha Karetnikova records the everyday life of Dima, who wanted to become a doctor but in the end decided to make violins instead, completing a special course on violin making in America. Sasha Breus has created a series of images about the life of a young man working in the service sector in order to become financially independent and live with his girlfriend.

 

This exhibition also includes photographs taken during graduation celebrations in Gorky Park on Igor Mukhin’s assignment (by Olga Vorobyova, Nikita Ponomaryov, Vlada Volkova and Ksenia Tsykunova). The artists’ attention is focused on the symbolic boundary between childhood and youth, which the authors and the subjects in their shots simultaneously perceive as a lyrical event and also a moment of absolute freedom — just like the graduates in Mukhin’s images of the 1990s.

The ‘Photobiennale-2020’ has the theme ‘Running Through Time’ and starts chronologically from the 1930s, covering almost 90 years of Russian history in photography. The exhibition ‘Is It Easy To Be Young?’ presents the last years of the past decade: most of the works showcased in the exposition were created in 2019.

Time influences how artists select their themes and stylistic approach, while in many respects photography as visual evidence and documentation shapes our concept of a particular period. The future will judge whether these young photographers managed to convey the spirit of the times, of their own generation.

The Rodchenko School has existed since 2006 as a structural unit of MAMM. Since then the school has consistently played a crucial role in the development of Russian art and been actively involved in international art processes. Within its walls artists are trained as professionals in the field of photography, and also in contemporary art processes using other media. Students and graduates of the school regularly participate in Russian and international exhibitions and festivals (including the Venice Biennale, The Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival, the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, the Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival, ARTAGON in France, ViennaPhotoBookFestival, International Month of Photography in Moscow ‘Photobiennale’, and the Moscow International Biennale ‘Fashion and Style in Photography’). They number among the laureates of such prestigious awards as World Press Photo, the Rencontres d'Arles Book Awards, the Kandinsky Prize, the State Innovation Prize, the Sergey Kuryokhin Prize, and others.

Школа Родченко

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