Russian Nowhere

One early morning I happened to stay around a large train station. I might be waiting for the subway to open, or be waiting for a departure—I cannot quite recall. It was freezing cold outside, dark and drab, so I decided to kill the time in a station café. I got myself a dixie-cup tea and went on to look for a place to seat. Everything was occupied by other people waiting or napping, large luggage, and I had to land near two men of different ages who were engaged in a lively conversation. Apparently, they just met right there and then, and had already fixed something to tank up. Both were, most likely, making a transit connection. As I joined their table, there was a protracted silence that seemed to drag on forever. The conversation could not continue given my presence, and a new subject was in order. Then the older guy looked around the table and said: “So we are all going to part ways now. You’ll head your way, I’ll go to (he mumbled an unknown destination). This one (he pointed at me) goes someplace else.” The stranger looked around the table once again and held a pause. “Wherever, everywhere it’s the same sh*t all over!..”

I would like to revisit my reflections on nonsites that I began in Inner Degunino and Mall. Both series were informed by direct observation of the changing landscapes on the outskirts of major cities. The new project that I started during lockdown deals with virtual images. As captured by Yandex and Google streetview cars, landscapes are completely devoid of any idealization or an author’s view. These pictures have no author or author’s attitude towards the seen: the lens of an automated camera is perfectly impartial and disengaged. I based by paintings on the most banal and typical images that could be made anywhere in Russia. During lockdown, I had enough time on my hands to browse through many cities of our extensive nation and see their unretouched side as well. My previous series were an attempt to represent the changing cityscape as it could be depicted in a timelapse (Inner Degunino) or a search for a vantage point located in an imagined future (Mall). The new project turns to the disinterested machine vision, which does not differentiate between the surface of Mars and a hometown street. A new generation of people has emerged over the recent few years who rely on the surrounding post-Soviet landscape for self-identification. Arguably, there is a trend among people born in the 1990s to romanticize the Soviet past and its attributes. A recent coinage even terms it as the “Lapenko Phenomenon.” A great many subscribers follow such social media communities as The Beauty Of Blight, Birch Tree, Russian Death, Outskirts, Any Russian City, Each New Day Is Brighter Than The Other, etc. These communities make numerous daily posts, mostly of photos with extremely mundane landscapes. Each such picture generates active discussion, making the comment section into a competition of wits. Certain phrases are spammed repeatedly, and popular jokes are memed. I think these repeated comments are quite telling—they provide an insight into the younger generation's outlook on the surrounding landscape. It is both an attempt to romanticize the place of own existence, aesthetically conceptualize and accept it, and an attempt to build an ironic distance, find a personal point of view.

The landscapes that resulted from my virtual walks are exhibited alongside the social media comments. I have transformed them into neon signs, like Garage or Groceries, their shape and lettering hinting at the reality that actually underlies these phrases. I planted them into real-life landscapes and made a short series of photographs. The social media comments, directed towards the surrounding environment, have thus incorporated themselves into this reality.

The video Prayer was filmed on the outskirts of Moscow, where a residential project is in development in the flood plain of the Skhodnya River. To protest the development, a local activist dug out huge letters in the ground, so big as to be clearly seen on Google satellite images: “Putin, save Skhodnya.” However, a high-rise residential project was soon built right on top of the letters. Disillusioned with the government, that same activist dug out a new message nearby, now appealing to a higher authority: “God save Skhodnya.” These letters, similar to the glowing neon comments placed in real-life landscapes and attributed to no author, sound like an utterance by earth itself

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Concrete fence. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Concrete fence. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Blocks. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Blocks. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Blockhouses. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Blockhouses. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Scrap-metal. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Scrap-metal. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Enthusiasts street. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Enthusiasts street. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Green fence. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Green fence. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Puddle. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Puddle. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Red barn. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Red barn. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Streetline. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Streetline. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Yellow tube. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Yellow tube. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Overpass. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

Pavel Otdelnov. Nowhere. Overpass. 2020. oil on canvas. 100x200

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Future. 2021. oil on canvas. 45×60

Pavel Otdelnov. Future. 2021. oil on canvas. 45×60

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. There is no aesthetic in it. 2021 oil on canvas 180x260

Pavel Otdelnov. There is no aesthetic in it. 2021 oil on canvas 180x260

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages.2020. oil on canvas. 100х150

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages.2020. oil on canvas. 100х150

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages. 2020. oil on canvas. 90х160. Private collection

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages. 2020. oil on canvas. 90х160. Private collection

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages. Panorama. 2020. oil on canvas. 115х345

Pavel Otdelnov. Garages. Panorama. 2020. oil on canvas. 115х345

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. Zhuten. 2020. oil on canvas. 115х345

Pavel Otdelnov. Zhuten. 2020. oil on canvas. 115х345

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. "— Can you send the location? — Pick it yourself" on Cosmoscow Art Fair. 2020

Pavel Otdelnov. "— Can you send the location? — Pick it yourself" on Cosmoscow Art Fair. 2020

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. "— Geolocation, please? — Choose yourself" on Cosmoscow Art Fair. 2020

Pavel Otdelnov. "— Geolocation, please? — Choose yourself" on Cosmoscow Art Fair. 2020

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. First off, it is beautiful. 2020. Installation, photo

Pavel Otdelnov. First off, it is beautiful. 2020. Installation, photo

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. — Can you send the location? — Pick it yourself. 2020. Installation, photo

Pavel Otdelnov. — Can you send the location? — Pick it yourself. 2020. Installation, photo

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov.  — What year? — It's yesterday. 2020. Installation, photo

Pavel Otdelnov. — What year? — It's yesterday. 2020. Installation, photo

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. It's the same everywhere. 2020. Installation, photo

Pavel Otdelnov. It's the same everywhere. 2020. Installation, photo

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. There is no aesthetic in it. 2020. Installation, photo

Pavel Otdelnov. There is no aesthetic in it. 2020. Installation, photo

 

 

 

Pavel Otdelnov. The Land of Fascinating Wonder. 2020. Installation.

Pavel Otdelnov. The Land of Fascinating Wonder. 2020. Installation.

 

 

 

The message “God save Russia” near Mitino District was dug up by Andrey Finonchenko, a Skhodnya local. It took him two months to complete. This is the second large-scale wording he has done. The first one said “Putin, save Skhodnya.” This was Andrey’s way to protest development in the water conservation area of the Skhodnya River. Nonetheless, major construction began less than 12 months later right on top of the first message. It is now a new residential project. Disillusioned after the first attempt, he decided to appeal to a higher authority.

Pavel Otdelnov. Prayer. 2020. video. 2' 41"

   
eng|рус