Cosmoscow Blog

A Deserted City

Constructing a detached view on wastelands and the aesthetics of desert landscapes: from painting to social networks

Artist-talk by Pavel Otdelnov
Moderator: Alexander Burenkov, curator of the Foundation
May 8, 18: 00 Moscow time

On May holidays, Pavel Otdelnov – Cosmoscow 2020 artist of the year, whose main theme is focused around abandoned industrial zones found on the ruins of Soviet civilization - invites you to join an online journey through the cities that were deserted during the coronavirus pandemic. Using Google Maps, Pavel will take us through the places depicted on his paintings and speak about his methods of understanding urban landscapes that were deserted in the spring of 2020.

Empty urban spaces, which became the habitual landscapes of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, at different times became the subject of artistic interpretation and were dissected by various opticians: the melancholy of deserted cities by metaphysical painters Giorgio de Chirico and Mario Sironi is not consonant with, for example, the abandoned urban landscapes in the works of representatives of the Duesseldorf school of photography.

The emptiness of urban spaces in the works of Pavel Otdelnov becomes the subject of fixing the elusive modernity and reassembling the image of the new Russian landscape. In the vast majority of cases, the main subject of Pavel Otdelnov's artistic interest is the deserted urban spaces of Russian cities, abandoned industrial zones found on the ruins of Soviet civilization, wastelands with no signs of urban renovation yet, residential areas that still seem not to have woken up and exist in the space of timelessness. Addressing specific areas like Western Degunino, wastelands outside of the MKAD, Kapotnya, industrial zones around his hometown Dzerzhinsk, Otdelnov creates a universal statement about any suburban area as a typical phenomenon of the post-Soviet space, focusing not on the features of a particular place, but on the changes that have occurred in the familiar landscape and in our perception of this landscape. Otdelnov focuses his detached optics on the invisible to the usual eye signs of reality and the legacy of the Soviet era of modernization: post-Soviet wasteland with power lines going nowhere, which embodied Lenin's modernist dream of total electrification, and typical housing construction, the facades of ubiquitous block-panel houses of the P-44 series. The eye is used to perceive these elements of the landscape as something stable, as a background, dissecting it not only using the language of painting, but analyzing the perception of the "aesthetics of panels", mediated by social networks and digital folklore of public places, using strategies of media archeology, referring to Google maps, satellite surveys, including digital "found objects" in its practice.

Detached intonation, detachment and generalization - probably one of the main techniques of Pavel Otdelnov, which allows the urban emptiness to sound in a new way, fills it with the historical past, personal stories of people, the memory of past epochs. At artist talk, the artist will speak about his methods of detachment, interpretation of the empty urban landscapes in spring of 2020, and working on new projects.