Running concurrently with the Michael Armitage exhibition, Kunsthaus Bregenz also presents a solo show with works by Anna Jermolaewa. Anna Jermolaewa has been chosen to represent Austria at next years Venice Art Biennale. The Kunsthaus Bregenz is closely associated with the artist. Several of her main works are part of the Kunsthaus Bregenz collection. In the exhibition in Bregenz, Anna Jermolaewa shows three artworks: Her installation Chernobyl Safari, from 2014/23, Famous Pigeons, from 2021, and her installation Dining Room, from 2017, which will be on view in Austria for the first time.
Anna Jermolaewa, who came to Austria as a Russian dissident in 1989, explores political history and present in her diverse work. Jermolaewa’s exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz runs until October 29, 2023.
Anna Jermolaewa (b. 1970, Saint Petersburg) lives and works in Vienna and Upper Austria. As a co-founder of the first opposition party in the Soviet Union and a co-publisher of its government-critical newspaper, she fled from the Soviet Union to Austria in 1989. Since 2019 she has been professor for experimental design at the University of Arts Linz. Jeramolaewa has shown her work in solo exhibitions, including at the Schlossmuseum Linz in 2022–23 and at the MAK Wien in 2022. In 2022 the City of Vienna artist awarded the artist the Dr. Karl Renner Prize from for her social commitment as a member of the association “Ariadne: Wir Flüchtlinge für Österreich” (“Ariadne: We Refugees for Austria”). Jermolaewa will represent Austria at the Venice Biennale in 2024.
Anna Jermolaewa / Kunsthaus Bregenz. Bregenz (Austria), July 14, 2023.
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Press text (excerpt):
The Kunsthaus Bregenz is closely associated with the artist. In recent years, several of her main works have been acquired for the KUB collection. One of them is Chernobyl Safari, a highly topical piece about the wildlife in the contaminated zone of Chernobyl. In 2014 and again in 2021, Jermolaewa went on a photo-and-video safari in the restricted area. She subsequently created drawings of the animals that didn’t wander into the photo-and-video traps she had installed there. A few of the drawings allude to rumors about deformed “radioactive” creatures. A mixture of fantasy and reality, Chernobyl Safari shows a paradise for animals in a habitat that has been abandoned by humans—a paradise that was destroyed by the Russian invasion in February 2022 and left mined by the Russian military after it withdrew. The restricted zone thus became a war zone. Jermolaewa recently succeeded in recovering some of the imagery that was recorded by the wildlife cameras in February and March 2022. These current recordings will be on view in Bregenz for the first time.
The subject of war bookends the works that Jermolaewa will be showing in Bregenz. Her 2017 installation piece Dining Room makes it clear how people deal with war and its vestiges: from 1964 to 1973 the United States dropped over two million tons of bombs over Laos. Many of the bombs still lie buried as unexploded ordnance in the country’s soil. In a village outside of Phonsavan in Laos, residents have begun to produce and sell cutlery created from defused bombs. Dining Room is a dining room installation with cutlery made from these American duds. This work has never been shown in Austria before.
Famous Pigeons, from 2021, portrays eight carrier pigeons that were employed in different wars in the twentieth century. The work addresses the fact that it is often animals that are on the front lines of wars.
“Jermolaewa, who came to Austria as a Russian dissident in 1989, explores political issues in history and in the present in her diverse work,” Thomas D. Trummer explains. “Her political commentary is as astute as it is humorous.” In 2022 Jermolaewa was awarded the Dr. Karl Renner Prize from the City of Vienna for her social commitment as a member of the association Ariadne: Wir Flüchtlinge für Österreich (Ariadne: We Refugees for Austria).
Chernobyl Safari, 2014/23
Video 55 min., 79 photographs, 11 watercolorsCourtesy of the artist and Kunsthaus BregenzChernobyl Safari presents the fauna of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. With no one hunting or encroaching on these animals’ habitat due to the evacuation of the zone’s human population, the local wildlife has thrived despite being constantly exposed to high amounts of radiation. In fact, the area is such a haven that over four hundred species flourish there, including fifty that are classified “endangered.” Jermolaewa traveled to the exclusion zone in 2014 and again in 2021, where she went on a “safari.” She traversed forests and fields, capturing “trophies” with her camera, sometimes setting photo and video traps. She then drew the animals she didn’t “capture.” Some of her drawings were inspired by myths she had heard about the zone’s mutated and radioactive beasts. A mix of fantasy and reality, this work shows a paradise for animals – a paradise destroyed by the Russian invasion in February 2022. The exclusion zone became a war zone. Jermolaewa recently succeeded in recovering some of the imagery that was recorded by the wildlife cameras in February and March 2022. These current recordings are on view in Bregenz for the first time.
Famous Pigeons, 2021
8 watercolors, 3 pigeo clocks Courtesy of the artist and Kunsthaus Bregenz Famous Pigeons is an installation that highlights eight brave carrier pigeons in the 20th century. It consists of portraits of these fearless birds that contain descriptions of their daring deeds. Three pigeon clocks, which register a pigeon’s time of arrival, sit below them, a reminder that time is of the essence.
Dining Room, 2017
Video 13:28 min., watercolor, cutlery made from bomb casings, table, chairs, vinyl tablecloth Courtesy of the artist and Sammlung Johann Widauer
From 1964 through 1973, the United States dropped over two million tons of bombs on Laos. Many of these bombs still exist as unexploded ordinance, buried in the countryside soil. In a village outside of Phonsavan, Laos, locals have found a positive use for these “bombies,” after detonated by a bomb-clearing unit. These villagers melt the remaining aluminum casings to make various items, the most popular of which are dining ware. Dining Room is a dining-room installation that uses Lao-made objects, including spoons, forks, and knives made out of American bomb casings, to construct a setting that is both inherently Lao and an emulation of the typical American family dinner placement.