Fondazione Antonio Ratti

Ilya Kabakov

The Spirit of a Place

8 July 2000
Spazio Culturale Antonio Ratti

The text of the conference is available in Italian.
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In this introductory lecture, Ilya Kabakov illustrates his intervention for the VI edition of CSAV, which articulates in a round of meetings addressing the theme of public installation and in a laboratory with the students. The artist refers to a kind of non-monumental installation that could not be perceived as an artistic work: an installation that rises not in artistic nor celebratory places, but in residential spaces, and that will be received by a public that could be not interested in art. In this case, the installation will not just overlap the place, but rise from it, in continuity with the “spirit of the place”: the aura generated from the spatial forms and the historical passing of human generations in that same place. That aura which “speaks very clearly and distinctly” and which the artists, partly renouncing to their autoriality, need to deal with.

Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933, Dnipro, Ukraine) lives and works in Long Island. His work developed in the form of drawings, collages, environmental installations and sculptures which, from the limits placed on the individual in the Soviet Union, now address the structures imposed upon humanity in general terms. Today he produces works in collaboration with his wife, Emilia. The Kabakovs are best known for their ‘total’ installations, a type of immersive artwork that they pioneered. A ‘total installation’ completely immerses the viewer in a dramatic environment. They transform the gallery spaces they are displayed in, creating a new reality for the viewer to enter and experience.

Their work has been shown in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Documenta 9, Kassel; Whitney Biennial, New York and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg among others. In 1993 they represented Russia at the 45th Venice Biennale with their installation The Red Pavilion. The Kabakovs have also completed many important public commissions throughout Europe and have received a number of honors and awards, including the Oscar Kokoschka Preis, Vienna, in 2002 and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, in 1995.

Ilya Kabakov has held personal shows in numerous museums around the world which have purchased his permanent installations. Kabakov has also participated in some of the leading international group shows including Skulptur Projekte Münster (1997), Documenta, Kassel (1992) and the Venice Biennial (1997).

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