From the train station bench to Venice – Anna Jermolaeva
The artist Anna Jermolaewa will represent Austria at the Venice Biennale in 2024, and she has also been present at the VIENNA ART WEEK on several occasions. Now a show of works in Linz is dedicated to the St. Petersburg-born artist. A text by Sabine B. Vogel.
“Hostile design” is the name given to the design of the benches, which use metal struts and similar bumps to prevent elongated resting. Anna Jermolaewa slept on such a bench for three weeks. Born in St. Petersburg in 1970, she became involved in the political opposition and was one of the editors of a newspaper critical of the regime. In 1989 she came to Vienna as a political refugee, studied art and art history here, and exhibited her work twice at VIENNA ART WEEK.
Next year, the artist will represent Austria at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024. Now you can see a selection of her works at the Schlossmuseum Linz. There you can also see the short video that shows her attempts to sleep on one of these benches at the Vienna train station. She can’t stand the uncomfortable position for two minutes.
It is a typical work for the artist, who captures socio-politically charged moments in short, sober sequences. She also filmed toys for this purpose, such as the menacingly absurd close-up of an actually harmless teddy bear or the futile attempts at kissing with Mickey Mouse masks that end in biting attacks.
If these early works are presented puristically on monitors in Linz, she takes a step into space with her decidedly political works. The documentation of Soviet politician doubles in Moscow’s Red Square includes a setting with armchairs and lamps that, on the one hand, refer in style to the period of government, but on the other hand, also trick us into a false sense of coziness. The two pyramids in the room belong to “Number Two.” One is white, the other black: experiments show that people give in to peer pressure. If enough people see both in the same color, everyone fits in – frightening proof of people’s conformity behavior.
In her latest works, Jermolaewa focuses on forms of political resistance. The three-channel video “The Singing Revolution” was created especially for the Linz exhibition. The term refers to the mass protest movement in the Baltic countries that demanded independence from the Soviet Union in 1988-1991. Yermolaeva assembled a choir in each of the Baltic capitals and filmed them singing liberation songs. The Austrian Pavilion in Venice will also be themed around civil, peaceful protest: “A Language of Resistance,” as the title suggests, will revolve around forms of nonviolent resistance.
Anna Jermolaewa: NUMBER TWO
Castle Museum Linz
23.11.22 – 05.03.23