A State of Emergency

Tent, H-hour
Tent, H-hour
Illustration of father and son putting on gas masks

Bruskin— I’m interested in the enemy image in all of its incarnations starting with the enemy at war. Our enemies were German Nazis, Americans, public enemies, kulaks, saboteurs, cosmopolitans, spies, doctors-killers. We lived awaiting a war. We were surrounded by civil defense posters that told us war was near at hand, and we had to be ready for this situation. The posters told us what to do and what we should not do.

An antique children's toy soldier

They resembled biblical commandments that also regulated people’s lives according to religious laws. When I was young, I imagined that I lived in these moments of life described in these civil defense posters, and because I didn’t understand these laws, my every move would be punished. This situation became maniacal, turning into fate and doom as in Kafka’s novels.

Aid, H-hour
Aid, H-hour

Borovsky— He repeats the idea of the universe, that is being delivered via manuals and directives, in form of occupational safety posters, how to act in emergency situations an so on.

Bruskin— These posters described life in the state of emergency when normal laws are not observed in society, the constitution is abolished, and lawlessness rules” describes Bruskin.

Borovsky— It’s not clear, who is arresting whom, who is saving whom, who is chasing whom and you really need to make yourself that gas mask and sit through the American strike. You look in this mask like everybody; it was very democratic.

Cosmonaut, H-hour
Cosmonaut, H-hour
Broken Bodies, detail from H-Hour

“‘The only fundamental news in this world is death.’” Bruskin quotes Charles Baudelaire in the poem Swimming.

Bruskin— In the end, the hero of his works having passed and tried everything and having reassured that there is nothing new in life, that everything is hellish, at the end refers to death, as a prospective new experience.

It was important for me to understand how the image was going sacred, how it was endowed with a mystical aura, because the image is the strongest instrument of human exposure. Religions and states used this feature of the image to subjugate the people to their own will. It was interesting for me to use this primitive and simple plot involving the enemy of human kind, the enemy image, the myth of the enemy. I wanted to analyse different variations on the enemy, how these myths come to be, and how they function. Analyze and talk about the way the myth is born, how it functions, how it ends, how it is destroyed, and how afterwards, when it is already destroyed, after its story ends, how the remains, the traces of this myth, museumify and become part of history, historic culture. Naturally, I use the language of artistic metaphor.

Twins, H-hour

We do not remember the pantheon of the ancient Egyptian deities, yet we experience strong emotion, a certain powerful hold these objects have over people. This aura remains even after this life is long forgotten. I wanted to analyse how to create such magical objects.

In 2012, Bruskin exhibited his H-hour project at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow. He was later awarded the Kandinsky prize.

Tent, detail from H-Hour

The works describing the enemy image then traveled to Washington DC’s American University Museum. Archival created a short film to join the exhibition called, Aqua Sicca, or Dry Water. It took 3 days in Bruskin’s studio staging and filming one object, Bruskin’s Tent, a sculpture within H-hour. Aqua Sicca tells the story of the Soviet experience as a microcosm, and continues to travel with Bruskin’s H-hour installation.”

 
We lived
awaiting a war.

-Grisha Bruskin
 
The only fundamental news in this world is death.
-Charles Baudelaire
 

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