Exhibition Opening: Olga Bozhko: "Рыбы - немы / Рабы не мы" ("Fish are Dumb / We Are No Slaves")

Join us for the opening of an exhibition in the run-up to Russian Art Week by the young Moscow-based artist Olga Bozkho, who explores and subverts Russian cultural symbols and the manipulative use of language.  

RSVP essential to office@pushkinhouse.org.uk

In this site-specific installation, created for Pushkin House with the kind support of Iragui Gallery, the artist refers to notions of memory and history as they are reflected in the language of streets and propaganda to comprehend today’s reality.  The artist is fascinated by the ways the everyday language reacts to our ever-changing understanding of history. Living and working in Moscow, Bojko pays attention to graffiti, slogans and adverts in the ways their reveal the social and political situations of today.

For her work at Pushkin House Bojko makes a reference to the pre-eminent Russian poet after whom the organisation was named. The key piece here is inspired by ‘The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish’ by A.S. Pushkin. It is a large hand-knitted ‘fishing’ net in the colours of Russian flag with the inscription ‘Ryby Nemy’ (Fishes Are Silent). The inscription sounds similar to the early Soviet propaganda slogan ‘Raby Ne My’ which in Russian means‘We Are Not Slaves’.  It was one of the first phrases Soviet children were taught to read in the primary school in the period between the Revolution and Perestroika. This linguistic charade illustrates how the subtle changes in words could not only change the meaning of the phrase, but disarm a powerful message. ‘We are not Slaves’ is a statement that refers to one of the grand narratives of the twentieth century, ‘fish are silent’ is a neutral however not false statement.

All works for installation were made in the technique of hand knitting which is considered as feminine and soft media. But the inscriptions and images of the works are rather unsettling. Some of them imitate brick walls covered with graffiti with angry messages, the others - net window curtains which reveal surprisingly hardcore messages. Put in the context of elegant Georgian  architecture of Pushkin House, an independent centre for Russian culture in Moscow, they turn into politically-charged comments on past and present of Russia.

Olga Bojko is a highly-regarded artist based in Moscow. She graduated from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (2000), and the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art (2010). Bojko works in different media, including installation, painting, drawing. She is a regular participant of major group shows in Russia and Europe. The exhibition in Pushkin House is her eighth solo show. Her works were exhibited in London in group exhibitions in Calvert 22 (2010) and in Pushkin House (2014).