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Vita Nuova - The Exhibition (26.1.06)

Boris Lekar

Zarembo Lea | Nekoda Singer | Gali-Dana Singer

Come on let's pretend that I'm dead.
You'll call to me, and I won't answer.
I still haven't chosen a position.
In any case, it won't be the pose of a victim.
No, at the beginning
It's enough to close one's eyes, mouth, ears, nostrils, pores -
Seal them with wax, stuff them with cotton wool.
Two nickels on the eyelids and a penny between the teeth.
Finally I'll begin to decompose.
The earth must be black and wormy -
Sand isn't good enough for this,
Although you can't say that it's completely unsuitable.
I'll change color, odor and form,
And you will rewrite the list of offenses.
You'll call to me, and I won't answer,
Afterwards I'll get up, go out, slam the door,
Walk, ride away, forget and fake it:
I'll take a sheet and lower myself into the ground,
which has to be warm and clean.
That way, after I crumble,
it will take me in.

) Gali-Dana Singer . Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz (


From the very outset, mankind, or mostly artists, have attempted to cast a glance at the other side of the 'iron curtain', which separates this short earthly life from the one we use to call eternal - an incomprehensible concept for people who live within time and don't experience infinity. The fact that we approach a new life (vita nuova) after decomposition, and the transition between these two worlds, are certainties. The question which concerns us is: to what degree do we ourselves recognize and take part in the vita nuova as subjects capable of understanding and of self-recognition? In other words, does life continue with or without us, and, moreover, is the eternal world aware of us?

The title, borrowed from Dante Alighieri, marks an exhibition of four artists who have for more than fifteen years lived new lives on new soil, creating not only in different media, but also in different spheres of art, sometimes crossing paths and sometimes parting ways. Vita nuova, reminiscent of a knight's motto, allows us to approach the subject of afterlife from various points of view. Though the theme of death draws enormous attention in art and cultural anthropology today, this exhibition marks some new starting point in the post-mortem domain. And the domain is actually immense from the most general view: life of myths after their downfall, life of art after its assassination by the theoreticians, to the direct turn to an intercourse between the two worlds, to the concept of a grave as a border zone branded by culture. In the era when the Museum, an official, fossilized institution trying to play a legislative role, finally turns into a burial ground of art, the cemetery itself becomes, paradoxically, one of the rare forms of a living museum of art. Additionally, the graveyard gives us a certain example of conciliation with this world, though it's a matter of transition, more or less prolonged due to the burial conditions, and naturally the illusion of equality between the dead remains an illusion as every social Utopia. Every discourse about life eternal leads to the strange and unknown, but the cemetery - a station of great importance on the road to eternity - places us face to face with its understanding by culture and, even more important, : necropoleis lead their own lively and complex life .
In her search for the 'eternal feminine' Gali-Dana Singer takes photographs of sculptures of women found in European cemeteries. These works are situated at the crossroads of four classic genres: portrait, landscape, reproduction of artworks and still life. An unusual viewpoint may lead us to ignore the coldness of the sculptural material; in their gentle existence the statues turn to be as full of spirit and breath as any human being caught in motion. Organic life, atmospheric and other factors of decay intrude into inner selves of these women, virgins and angels, and change them, sometimes radically. Little by little they are brought into a state quite dissimilar to the sterility of statues imprisoned inside museum walls. Gali-Dana says: "At Olsansky and hrbitov in Prague I was bewitched by the harmonious unity of dissociation under the ground and that on its surface - the true decadence of Nature. The seasons, the character of light, and weather conditions are tightly bound to the spirit of each different cemetery: the delicate, roundish Czech softness at Olsany; the somber rot of the Kingdom of History at Pere Lachaise; the macabre eroticism and the mould and pomposity at Montmartre an Olsansky hrbitov d Montparnasse; traces of a strange Asiatic accent in a dry frost of Kerepesi temeto in Budapest; the mercy of fresh, pure snow at Donskoe and the mute Soviet anguish at Vagankovo in Moscow; the warm and friendly light of San Michele in Venice; the flippancy of Batignoles; the neo-classical theatricality of Cimitero Monumentale in Milan. Every such a place has a peculiar system of art principles and cliches, a specific attitude toward femininity, daily life, death and memory".

The exposition of Lea Zarembo is built of five three-dimensional domestic objects, partly mobile, on which the artist applies realistic painting in acrylics against a solemn black background, based on the famous story by Alexander Pushkin, 'The Coffin-maker', written in 1830 in the village of Boldino during a plague. The artist obviously doesn't try to illustrate the text, but produces a sort of lively visual commentary on it, tinted by irony and following the principle of play and live interaction with a spectator. Zarembo says: 'The striking humanism of the versatile Russian classic is of a unique kind: a man is a measure of all things not only in this world, but also in the other one. Pushkin succeeded in doing the impossible - confronting a man and weighing him against everyday life, eternity and infinity".

Boris Lekar presents a series of seven large paintings (acrylic on canvas) of graves and abandoned sites. In his delicate work with faint hints of color, nuances of chiaroscuro and shades of meaning, the artist achieves an effect of wan luminescence. 'As your frail body ages', says Boris, 'you more and more consider the inevitable end of your earthly life, the end that the Universe in its infinite greatness (here the Hebrew word ein-sof seems very precise) will definitely never notice. As for you, you are immeasurably tiny as a minuscule speck of dust, a nearly imperceptible particle of other grand works of Nature: a mountain peak, a desert, a sea - so independent and so estranged... Art is able to animate or to spiritualize them, and than comes another new life - vita nuova'.

Nekoda Singer's exhibition is composed of an imaginary panoramic view of Zaeltzovskoe cemetery in Novosibirsk, the artist's native city, where his parents, his memories, and the heroes of his novel rest in peace and of twenty small self-portraits ascribed to the masters of different schools from Van Eyck, Bosch and El Greco to Dali, Picasso and Soutine. The painting of the cemetery is in a way also 'a portrait of an artist as a young man' painted by himself, a field of the never-ending battle of influences, haunted by the spirits of art-history. This unexpected combination of works accords with the artist's clearly stated position; 'The more I live the more I understand that my life as an artist is not a process preceding death; on the contrary, it is a life after death, the deaths of whole epochs I went through and died with. The greatest (deceased) thinkers have already announced the death of God, of History, of Art (particularly, of painting), so it is only natural to prolong the logical chain and to proclaim the death of Death itself, as in the last stanza of 'Had-Gadya'. If so, our world is the Other world, our lives are eternal ones, our mode of existence is one of Paradise, and Time has no dominion. That is, if I'm dead as an artist, like all my colleagues from the Past, I have the pleasure and the privilege to keep them company in the everlasting, timeless world and even to be seen through their eyes'.

Nekoda Singer


Zarembo Lea


Nekoda Singer





Gali-Dana Singer







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