Sergey Bratkov: BEFORE/AFTER

OVCHARENKO presents two events that are inextricably interlinked and, at the same time, have independent meaning. It is the exhibition "BEFORE/AFTER" and a launch of the artist's catalogue titled "WE ARE NOT HERE", representing a series of Bratkov's works with texts.


The exhibition "BEFORE/AFTER" consists of three installations created specifically for the gallery space and a piece of photography. According to the author, the exhibition's title describes the method of juxtaposing portraits, city views, and landscapes, the technique quite ubiquitous now in the era of colossally expanded photo archives. There is no peering into the past, no pricks of nostalgia – social networks and mass media are full of optimism, like a dentist commercial: a murky monochrome of now and then in RGB.


Even more paradoxical appears to be the new work with neon, which gave the name to the exhibition: luminous inscriptions "before" and "after" flank the smeared glass doors. But the difference between "before" and "after" is so conditional that the gaze rivets to the central part, trying to penetrate the white veil of paint and understand – perhaps, something happened at least there? The artwork also repels the model of the entire exhibition: together with an equally grand collage on the opposite wall, they represent two propylaeum framing the image on the central wall – a giant scoreboard with zeros, a "new countdown" for the "new millennium" and "new technologies"...


However, the scoreboard looks – in the artist's interpretation – suspiciously threadbare and defective. The artist presents the hopes and aspirations of twenty years ago through the prism of imperfect verbs, showing the action protracted and ineffectual: it was – but did not happen. At the same time, the works are devoid of drama, anguish, and pretentiousness, Bratkov reproduces the gaze of the viewer of the perestroika age, a generation of cold observers impossible to challenge; on behalf of those Jacques Rancière says: "There is nothing we need feel guilty about". The neo-liberal aspirations of the past appear in the merciless light of the modern reality, and instead of Fukuyama's "End of History", we see a false start: a clock with no electricity supply; a step-ladder clamped in a film and someone's profile – a silhouette, in counter light, failed to be identified…


Sergey Bratkov's artworks are distinguished by filigree and witty editing, a trait recognized even in the author's early work but now extended to the format of installations. Neon, large-format printing on film, letters and numbers appear here in a dizzyingly precise and effective ensemble, dissecting everyday reality and putting new accents and rhythms to it. And this creates the conditions for a new – analytical and emancipated personal – view.


The use of neon inscriptions in the work "BEFORE/AFTER" connects the exhibition project with the catalogue "WE ARE NOT HERE", dedicated to a series of works with captions. This catalogue is a study that takes the series through complex art history, philosophical and sociological analysis. The author's team o includes philologist and professor at the University of Zurich Tomáš Glanc; Head of the Department of Sociocultural Research at the Levada Center* sociologist Alexey Levinson; art historian and critic, columnist for the Department of Culture in Kommersant Publishing House Anna Tolstova, and art critic Evgenia Kikodze.

Evgenia Kikodze

*The organization is classified as a foreign agent