Over the last thirty years, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have exhibited all over the world, including Russia, which is not their home country. Aside from the fact that they are both born and raised in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, their homeland is the Soviet Union.
Emilia left her in emigration in 1973 and Ilya did not return to Moscow from a trip abroad in 1988, where he had been living since graduation in the 1950s. Soviet Union had shaped it forever and remained artistically its reference system. Even non-Soviets understand their work or recognize something that affects their own lives.
In this respect, what Emilia Kabakov said during a conversation with Sergei Tchoban, who asked for an exhibition in his architectural drawing museum, is astonishing. Emilia, who constantly negotiates and discusses, emphasizes: "Our work is always based on imagination and imagination, and while Illya illustrated children's books" – it was his work of bread at the time. Soviet era – "and was supposed to search for boats, trains, tools or costumes of a certain period, he never invested time in research.Ilya used his imagination and invented everything."
Perhaps, indeed, it is this moment of free invention that makes the work of both, especially their complex installations, so understandable. The Soviet element, perceptible in all its touching, realistic details, is only the background to a story that touches on deep hopes and human aspirations.
Kabakovs are removed without further delay from a subject such as "meeting with an angel" because it seems so natural on paper, just as something that can happen and has already happened. Anyway, this is what Ilya Kabakov describes in his drawings and in the handwritten text attached, which is even attached to the catalog of beautifully designed architecture in the form of a folding panel next to the main drawing.
Already in 1992 at the documenta
Thus, the question of architecture no longer arises. Because what the Kabakovs designed and designed by Ilya in the drawings has always been architecture in its most original sense: something that people build themselves. Or hope to build.
Inevitably, the Kabakov facilities do something of what was built, like the habitable toilet pavilion built in 1992 for the documenta behind the Kasseler Fridericianum. The house with chair and bed next to the latrines was classified as critical of Soviet conditions, criticizing unreasonable living conditions. It was just an example of the general human capacity to establish under given circumstances, however unpleasant they may be.
If there is something to build, Ilya Kabakov will provide accurate technical drawings with all the measurements, as the architects did before the invention of the computer. For the Venice Biennale in 1993, he designed a "Red Pavilion" inaccessible in a fenced area behind the Russian Pavilion, no doubt evoking the achievements of communism from the broadcast of speakers on May 1.
[Museum of Architectural Design, Christinenstraße 18 A, until February 23, catalog € 28. www.tchoban-foundation.de]
Dreams on paper
The size of a facility is a priori irrelevant for the Kabakovs, who certainly have a penchant for megalomania; that too, probably, a legacy of the Soviet system. For example, the Essener Zollverein coal mine wanted to rethink it completely. He then stayed at the "Palace of Projects", a spiral structure in which 65 individual projects to improve the world are presented and which will now be based in Essen. This too is not without irony, as the almost vanished region of the Ruhr embodies this dream of the industrial controllability of the world that led the Soviet Union to the end.
Thus, you can see the graphic sheets exhibited at the Museum of Architectural Drawing as preliminary work and accompanying of the architecture; You can also interpret them as frozen dreams, because dreams always associate real reality with a troubling reality. The Kabakovs are better understood by using their quotes from the Soviet past not as the very heart of their work, but as the raw material with which they express the human condition in a melancholy way; melancholy, because they know that the meeting with an angel is in principle possible, but very improbable.
Consolers of the futility of human efforts, they provide these beautiful drawings and watercolors. The catalog of the exhibition is therefore an illustrated book, designed by Ilya Kabakov in the Soviet era, as the only real fantasy space.