THE WAR IS NOT YET OVER
24 FEB 2023 | Rua Damasceno Monteiro 2, Lisbon
One year since this war between Russian and Ukraine began, Kuril Chto says that he is afraid that the constant news about the war is now becoming normalized for the average person, causing them to care less. His new piece in the Graça neighborhood of Lisbon is meant to convey the quotidian quality of this horror by depicting the most mundane of home laundry tools, a drying rack. So familiar that it becomes invisible. A passerby may not make a note of the wall illustration until they consider the military uniform that is hanging on it.
“This intrusive element in the midst of mundanity is a mass-produced object employed in the mass production of death, ” he says.
14 JUN — 27 AUG 2022 | Voskhod Gallery, Basel
Voskhod Gallery presents the first solo exhibition of the artist Kuril Chto — “Goods”.
Looting has lately become the illustration of the outrageous and incomprehensible suffering of the Ukrainian people caused by the actions of Russian war criminals. The peculiar variety of looting that has emerged during the brutal attack on Ukraine may be characterized by Russian troops’ theft of basic household appliances and items — from washing machines to musical instruments, building materials and even cosmetic samples.
“The banality of evil”, mindless obedience to laws that are not simply inhuman but directed against the very foundations of life, were taken by Hannah Arendt and set in opposition to critical thinking, the only effective way to resist universal evil. According to the German philosopher, evil is committed by ordinary people who accept the order established in society as the norm and conscientiously fulfill the obligations assigned to them by the law currently in force. But what to do when the concept of a norm is determined not by the criminal code or ethical precepts, but by TV propaganda and the logic of narcissistic imperial authoritarianism?
Videos of Russian soldiers plundering grocery stores and civilians’ homes and sending the pilfered goods home to their families may be found all over the Internet. The most influential press organs all over the world, including The Times and The Guardian, have published revealing articles with photographic and video evidence, eyewitness accounts and the testimonies of those Ukrainians who returned home to find their houses and apartments plundered and devastated. Looting Russian soldiers became the topic of Reddit threads and memes involving washing machines and Russian soldiers have spread like wildfire online.
The artist Kuril Chto (literally “Smoked What”), who in his past projects has repeatedly turned to images of the typical household items that surround us in everyday life and shape our mundane reality, from chairs, ironing boards and indoor pot plants to head scratchers, has found a new hero: the washing machine that appears in a wide variety of forms, from painting on canvas and graphics to ceramic sculptures.
The washing machine has become, perhaps, the main symbol of the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine. For the soldier who has come to fight from the Russian countryside this is a luxurious trophy; for his relatives it’s a wonderful gift; for web folklore it’s a key image of the Newspeak which has appeared as a result of the “looting tour”; while for everyone else it serves an endless source of memes and jokes (the most striking of which involved helicopters flying at the Victory Parade on Red Square with washing machines suspended beneath them). What if, by means of the theft of this particular variety of household appliance, the soldiers of “unwashed” Russia are trying on a subconscious level to wash away not only the shameful stain on the entire army, but also the blood of those killed as part of the aggressive attack on Ukrainian civilians? By the power of the social unconscious, the washing machine turns not only into the paradoxical quintessence of robbery as a national idea and a sign of the imperial colonial consciousness or the desire to appropriate not only the territory of a sovereign state, but also the theft of the future from the younger generations inhabiting that country. With this artistic gesture, Kuril Chto puts washing machines on the same shelves as figurines of soldiers turned into commodities, the cannon fodder of propaganda and pawns in political games. The only thing that can unite them is not a national super-idea, but the desire to fulfill the need for basic household items and goods.