The 56th Venice Biennale – in the words of its director Enwezor – boldly addresses the ruins of the history of the last centuries and its ever-changing ideologies; through the artistic languages that represent a time marked by accumulation and destruction, it takes stock of a deep-set angst. The project An Archaeologist’s Collection by Russian artist Grisha Bruskin, hosted in the former church of Santa Caterina, is one of this year’s collateral events. This complex installation draws its origins from the large-scale painting that brought Bruskin to the attention of the public and critics in Russia and abroad: Fundamental Lexicon (Fundamentalny leksikon, 1986), a visual archive of over 250 normotypes of Soviet humanity. What appeared at the time as the fresco of an unchanging anthropology turned out to be, a few years later, the analytical documentation of an Empire that had suddenly vanished, of a collapsed and imploded system. After the collapse of the USSR (1991), Bruskin drew from his boundless collection of characters to design a series of almost life-size statues. He then proceeded to smash them into pieces and cast in bronze the most relevant fragments. Three years after burying these fragments in the Tuscan countryside, near an Etruscan necropolis, Bruskin set up an actual archaeological excavation campaign (with an assessment of the oxidation of the findings) to unearth them. These are the items on display at the exhibition in Venice. A perfectly tidy archaeological site where we can retrace the apparent order of power and the actual disorder of history. The artist did not omit to explain the reasons of this long research: he wanted the remains of the Soviet empire to be unearthed from the land of the Roman empire, in the name of an ancient tradition, dating from Czarist times (the word czar is a contraction of caesar), whereby Moscow was granted the title of Third Rome to counter the risk of corruption of religious orthodoxy after the fall of Constantinople.
- Grisha Bruskin, Doctor. Courtesy of the artist and Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia