The story comes from the realm of conspiracy theories; specifically, the proposition that Hitler did not commit suicide but managed to escape Germany. The artist turns this narrative into an all-out dreamlike story. His Hitler went on to quietly live in a Soviet-era pre-fab residential block, a carpet hung on the wall of his small condo. He walks his beloved shepherd, reads the Pravda newspaper, and occasionally revisits art.
Innocently meticulous, emphatically realistic manner in which
new works of Kuznetsov were completed, in combination with a phantasmagoric plot, the thought of photographic falsifications exciting the imagination.
Painting, no matter how realistic or, on the contrary, surrealistic it may be, can only be fiction, in no way mixed with reality.
And photographic forgeries, even the most clumsy ones, are tempted by the opportunity not so much to believe in them as to doubt the authenticity of the usual version of events. The plot chosen by the artist for the exhibition refers exactly
to conspiracy theories, namely to the assumption that Hitler did not commit suicide, but was able to escape from Germany, according to the most common version, to Argentina. And although there is enough solid evidence of his death in 1945, and the German dictator would not have survived to this day anyway, new details of his “escape” are still no, no, and they surface in the news.
Kuznetsov turns this plot into a frankly dreamlike story.
With him, Hitler quietly continues to live in the Soviet “socket”, in an apartment with a carpet on the wall. He walks his beloved shepherd dog, reads the newspaper Pravda, and from time to time returns to his art studies – for example, he writes “from nature” an alpine view from the photo wallpaper decorating the room. But most of the time, it seems, he devotes to reconstructing his past: sometimes he “zigzags” from the balcony
imaginary crowds, drowns enemy ships in the bathroom, lifts squadrons to the ceiling, places armies on the floor, cultivates a myriad of miniature nuclear explosions in the room, sets up and builds on the table Speer’s model of reconstructed Berlin – the white dome of the People’s House, forgotten next to the cups, looks cozy like a cupcake for tea. However, it is possible that in this parallel world Hitler was never the Fuehrer, but remained an artist-loser, secretly dreaming of unlimited power.
The strange tenant, it seems, is not alarming anyone. Except perhaps
the one whose eyes we follow the ex-dictator – a voyeuristic look, like the hero of Hitchcock’s “Window to the Courtyard,” and suspicious, like a vigilant neighbor. Perhaps this invisible neighbor is actually the protagonist of the Behind the Wall series. A couch conspiracy theorist, a lover of historical reenactments, keen on history and secretly longing for a “strong hand”
perhaps – a school military instructor who has gone crazy on retirement – who else in the closed neighbor on the entrance suddenly sees Hitler? In the paintings of Anton Kuznetsov themselves there is something from the clarity of the old school stands on initial military training, calling for vigilance, frightening the horrors of nuclear
war and the routine horror of helplessness.
The Behind the Wall exhibition continues and combines the plots of the two previous
projects by Anton Kuznetsov. Phantasmagoric military history was dedicated to his 2014 project “Insecticide”, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the First World War, but unfolding as if in a parallel universe, where, together with people on the battlefields, in trenches, hospitals, on desolate city streets, giant insects appeared , but not so much as the enemies of humanity in this war (although the artist himself admits that his paintings are partly inspired by Paul Verhoeven’s fantastic action movie Starship Troopers in 1997), as a sign of a kind of apocalyptic and absurd metamorphosis of the world – a kind of rain of locusts, where each from the host of insects was once Gregor Zamza.
And the 2017 project “Natural History” was dedicated to the amazing ability of the rooms of Soviet “panels” to contain secret worlds.
References to Soviet aesthetics, propaganda, didactic, visual
educational, it seems to place Anton Kuznetsov in the tradition of Moscow conceptualism. The plot of Hitler, quietly while away exile in a Soviet residential area, could be woven, for example, into “The Mythogenic Love of Castes” by Pavel Pepperstein and Sergei Anufriev. And the pictures themselves, imbued with humble comfort, “panels” (which have become cult today in their own way) remind Viktor Pivovarov with his everyday life, in which there is always a place for a fairy tale. Isn’t it “Projects for a Lonely Man”, these secluded war games of Hitler or the paranoid observations of his neighbor?
But Anton Kuznetsov is closer not to the classics of Moscow conceptualism, but to the artists of the “New Leipzig School” – Neo Rauch
(whom Kuznetsov appreciates), Matthias Weischer, Tilo Baumgartel. Like them,
Anton Kuznetsov, who received a traditional art education (he graduated from the monumental painting workshop of the Moscow State Academic Art Institute named after Surikov), turned out to be not so much an oppositionist as an almost involuntary heir to the tradition of socialist realism in its most “liberal” (almost like in the GDR) version, and seeks to understand what is possible to speak this artistic language – albeit with gaps, reservations, sometimes intentional, or puns.
The “New Leipzig School” somehow goes back to surrealism –
only in the version not of Dali and Magritte, but of Max Ernst with his collages. The artist does not create his own autonomous new world, but reshuffles the scraps and debris of an almost unrecognizable past. The artists of the new Leipzig school (first of all, Neo Rauch) build on the principle of collage their paintings, including fragments of East German visuality – advertisements, posters, illustrations, instructions, and so on. The past turns out to be
too fragmented to become an object of nostalgia and canonization,
requiring solidity, inviolability and stylistic completeness.
It turns out to be possible endless corrections, substitutions, “betrayal”. Anton Kuznetsov’s past – stylistic and historical – appears to be exactly the same, to the point of dizziness, changeable, indefinite, incomprehensible, unsteady. The artist, of course, does not pretend to rewrite or “falsify” history. But shifting it, canceling retribution, replacing “hell” with the eternal limb of stagnant “panels”, he deprives the present of the apparent determinism. This is especially true now, when almost the entire Russian state identity is built on fierce celebrations of victory in the war that ended 75 years ago. After all, if what is good about conspiracy theories, it is because they question the inviolability of even the most rational
and obvious ideas about the world.