A timeless atmosphere defines the dreamlike setting, located somewhere in a rural landscape in Russia. The ruins of a church emerge like landmarks on the horizon. Sprawling vegetation has gradually overgrown the fragmented remains of the building. However, there is more to see: the appearance of this derelict church is complemented by abstract modernist forms. A large area painted black marks one of the façades of the church and renders the actual composition of materials and forms illegible. Yet another intervention includes various three-dimensional black spheres that seem to hover weightlessly above the neglected remains of the building.
These lightweight structures were created by Russia-based visual artist Danila Tkachenko. In his most recent project titled MONUMENTS, Tkachenko artistically appropriates various former orthodox churches that were abandoned during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
At the end of the 16th century, the Russian Orthodox Church founded its own patriarchate in Moscow. However, when the Communists took power in 1917, religion was declared an enemy of the state. Of the nearly 80,000 Orthodox communities that still existed in 1917, only about 3,000 remained thirty years later. Today, the separation of church and state has been laid down in the Russian constitution of 1993. The reality, however, often seems to be the opposite. For instance, in the year 2000 Vladimir Putin’s election as president was celebrated in a church ceremony.
“We come up with new interpretations and build additional structures to manipulate images of past history”
Especially in relation to political regimes, the artist Tkachenko points out that “every single one of us is individually inclined to exploit images of the past for the sake of our current needs or future goals.” For this purpose, according to Tkachenko, we design “new interpretations” and build “additional structures to manipulate images of past history.” For MONUMENTS, Tkachenko makes the process of appropriating historical images visually and physically perceptible. By concealing, supplementing or altering the ruins of Orthodox churches, he manipulates their image. By doing so, he asks how a society perceives its historical heritage. Tkachenko calls this undefined space the “area between fact and fiction”.
With MONUMENTS, Tkachenko shows that an artistic interaction with historical heritage is one possible way of becoming witness to historic events. For his project, he approaches abandoned Orthodox churches in a sensitive way as existing testimonies of Russia‘s multi-layered history and identity.