Hans Ulrich Obrist on Pepperstein

One of the world’s leading curators Hans Ulrich Obrist recently wrote a short review of Pepperstein’s exhibition at Kunsthaus Zug:


If one does not look at the world from mankind’s restricted point of view then categories such as temporality, progress or decay are no longer valid, but everything is permanent and exists side by side.

Naturally it is not very easy to adopt this perspective, in fact it is more or less impossible as we as humans can only see things the way we do. However, there appear to be exceptions. One of them is Pavel Pepperstein. Born in Moscow in 1966, Pepperstein is one of the most important contemporary artists and a pioneer of Russian art who succeeded in freeing his work from the ideological dictates of the Soviet Union’s ‘Socialist realism’. Interestingly, he doesn’t appeal to the alternative canon of Western art, but the young Soviet Union’s belief in progress, according to which almost everything which appeared impossible according to the rules of physics would soon be realized by technical means. For example, the reanimation of the dead – such as Picasso.

The Russian avant-garde didn’t restrict itself to thinking along purely rational lines. Some of them invoked the Christian orthodox philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, a confidant of Dostoyevsky, who predicted that some day all the Russians who had ever lived would be brought back to life by technical means. One thought cosmically and from a cosmic perspective dates such as 1973, the year of Picasso’s death, or today’s 2017, are fairly irrelevant. And so it happened that Pepperstein—whose artistically minded parents gave him the name of the famous Spaniard—set about artistically resurrecting the role model.

The reincarnation will take place in 3111. However, that we are able to experience it now is due firstly to the Kunsthaus Zug, which has made its rooms available for this purpose, and secondly to Pepperstein’s resolution of the seeming paradox of being able to show an event which will first take place just over a thousand years in the future in the here and now. Like all Russian literature and art which during the decades of dictatorship had to learn to conceal the true in the bizarre, one can only understand Pepperstein’s work if one views it as neither purely serious nor purely amusing. Ultimately this is the case with all avant-garde art: even when it is ahead of its time it is already here today.

This article was originally published in German in Das Magazin, April 2017.  https://www.dasmagazin.ch/2017/04/07/picassos-auferstehung/?reduced=true

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