Museum of Proletarian Culture, Worker Smashing the Urinal
His large installation entitled The Museum of Proletarian Culture (2012) looked at the changes in artistic practice that have occurred in Russia throughout the last thirty years – from the amateur art of the late Soviet era to the commercialized post-Soviet cultural practices and the more recent self-expression via contemporary social networks. Thus, the exhibition becomes a whole installation where it is impossible to distinguish architecture from assemblage, facts from fantasy, document from fiction. It is a museum of museums where viewers find themselves in the era of didactic exhibitions; whereby the main protagonists are workers, engineers, and amateur artists, and finally replaced by the creative class of 1990s and 2000s.
Sdelay sam or “do it yourself” is a work in progress described by the artist as a research in the tradition of the Soviet and post-Soviet culture of non-professional worker’s folk art. “Usually ordinary people in the Soviet Union had no opportunity to frequently change the furniture according to their taste. But they could do it by themselves! It was during that period that workers’ amateur creativity flourished, exemplified in techniques such as woodcarving, hammered ironwork or amateur furniture design. It was part of free time, type of creative hobby. It was called ‘creative relaxation’. The strict division between work and leisure during the era of late socialism made this creativity possible. It was an extremely democratic art and this is what still inspires me today.”
Arseniy Zhilyaev (born 1984 in Voronezh, Russia) is an artist, writer and political activist who lives and works in Moscow and Voronezh.
Zhilyaev’s artistic practice poses questions about the cultural production in the postsoviet condition.