Moscow Museum of Modern Art, with the support of the Triumph Gallery, presents the PROMZONA, Pavel Otdelnov’s research exhibition project dwelling on the chemical industrial estate in his native town Dzerzhinsk (Nizhny Novgord Region). The project chronology spans over 4 years, which the exhibition splits into 6 parts displayed together for the first time. While preparing the project, Otdelnov has explored the industrial area in its current state, as well as archival materials and newspapers of the time. He has also dug into the personal stories of people who once worked in chemical industry. Working in different media, including painting, photography, video, installation, text and ready-made, the artist introduces his viewers to the bygone era in its historical and personal dimension.
The PROMZONA project has started as the artist’s family saga. Three generations of the artist’s ancestors laboured at chemical plants of Dzerzhinsk. In the 1930s they were part of the Industrialisation endeavour and built production facilities; during the World War II, they would produce warfare poisonous agents; and in the subsequent time of peace, they would make materials for different sectors of national economy. In the period of Perestroika, when economical system was decentralised, those plants became private property, soon many were recognised inefficient and closed. Nowadays all that is left of the once imposing and potent industrial complex are hectares of wastelands, ruins reoccupied by nature and chemical waste tanks.
Over the several years the PROMZONA cycle has started and developed, the ‘intonation’ of exhibiting strategy has been gradually changing. The tone has gone the way from the local history and ecological study to that of creative writing. What has remained the same is the recurrent theme of oblivion, with real events turning into a myth, while documental evidence under the influence of environment losing some of their accuracy, adapting to the general opinion.
The MMOMA display comprises 6 parts: The Traces, The Honour Board, The Museum, The Sand, The Ruins, The Cinema Hall. The latter will feature three films about the history of the industrial park. The films bring together panoramic aerial video shot from quadcopter and accounts by the artist’s relatives who used to work at the plants, so a bird’s eye view is complemented with microhistory. Moving from one gallery into another, the visitor will see the paintings alternating the images of abandoned plants with the aesthetics of soviet newspapers. According to the curator Daria Kamyshnikova, bland portraits of ‘honoured’ employees and deserted facilities stand in stark contrast with fragments from the artist’s father Alexander Otdelnov’s short stories collection ‘Danger! Respirator Required’. The omnibus of Alexander Otdelnov stories is published in the appendix to the exhibition catalogue prepared specifically for the opening of the project at the MMOMA. Sketches of the plants’ every day life and their cast, now funny, now sad, seem to fill the deserted industrial landscapes with sound. The present-day spectator is introduced into the history of a soviet industrial park through some so-to-say ‘entrance points’: quotations from those texts taken together with other stories told at the exhibition, such as one of a German war prisoner who took part in the construction of one of the plants concerned, as well as some ‘found objects’ from the plants’ premises bearing witness to their past.
Pavel Otdelnov’s PROMZONA exhibition will also feature the artist’s guided tours of the display, public talks with the participation of the artist, the curator and their special guests. Further details on the events and admittance are on the exhibition page on the website: mmoma.ru.
The project partner is the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Moscow.