Exhibition catalogue, Must Gallery, Lugano
Date of publication: June 2017
Languages: Italian and English
Text: Antonio D’Amico
Translations: Ian Mansbridge
Dimensions: 14.8 x 21 cm
Binding: sewn paperback
Anna Skoromnaya, the winner of the Must Gallery Special Prize, awarded in autumn last year as part of the Arteam Cup 2016, is preparing to present a project in Switzerland bristling with powerful social commentary, which represents a key stage in the artist’s development and art.
The young Belarusian artist’s unique KINDERGARTEN project, which will come to life in the rooms of the Must Gallery in Lugano from 5 July to 22 October 2017, all takes place with an air of apparent normality: there are children and classic children’s play equipment (swings, slides, and brightly coloured building blocks) recalled both in their forms and their colours, and all appears quiet and peaceful. The environment gives the impression of being orderly, under control and safe, just as you would expect in a play area or kindergarten. As visitors wander around, they are enchanted by immediately recognisable iconography, and hear the reassuring voices of children reciting a nursery rhyme. Basically, it feels like a world in miniature, where everything that occurs can be recognised in the collective imagination, and therefore appreciated by the public.
However, the illusion of this apparent normality is shattered in the cruellest way possible when, amongst a plethora of colours, sounds and images, we are forced to confront reality: in the installation Popcorn Machine (2017), for example, with an unmistakable green tone evoking Middle Eastern settings and a barely recognizable, whispered geometry that brings to mind ideas of devastation and ruins, holograms show child soldiers carrying out actions that we would assume were fiction were it not for the atrocities we see in the news every day.
As Antonio D’Amico writes in the catalogue:
While everyday life in our globalised world has the semblance of normality, in places that reason seems to have abandoned childhood in denied, and children are obliged to be adults and live in a KINDERGARTEN with none of the amenities or joy of a normal nursery.
There are places under the baking sun where things that go against nature are presented as the norm: abuse, violence and constraint underpin a horrific reality into which the children are dragged, made slaves to tyranny in the imprisonment of a game played between opposing sides. In these dystonic places the sky is clear, as is the children’s innocence and their broken dreams.
Child soldiers, child brides and exploited children, the victims of oppressive capitalism: these are just some of the faces of violated childhood, denied all opportunities, that Anna Skoromnaya has chosen to depict, without ever resorting to rhetoric. She recognises the important responsibility artists have, if not to change the world, then at least to create pathways fo meaning that can open people’s eyes and reveal the horror to everyone – the oppressed, the oppressors and everyone who closes their eyes when faced with the undeniable atrocities of a system and a world that is losing all its humanity. Her project gives art back its essential role of providing an ethical and social commentary, a particularly vital attribute a this moment in history.