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Fedor Hiroshige
Dream of the Red Chamber

05 September — 10 October 2021
11 Vladey Space

Fedor Hiroshige
Dream of the Red Chamber


Where on the eve, and where later


Fedor Hiroshige, also known as the mushroom man, lives in St. Petersburg, and sometimes occurs in other territories. For the last couple of years, Fedor has been sharing a workshop with another woodworking master, the artist Nestor Engelke, but their relationship with this material is different. Engelke prefers to show that wood is wood. Hiroshige, on the other hand, makes the wood surface resemble a scroll, a faded photograph, a book cover, or a glass mosaic, revealing many unexpected properties hidden in each tablet. Sawdust is one of the main characters of this exhibition. In the universe curled up in the space of the exposition, they emerge fr om the cornucopia - the main source of benefits. The scraps in which the structure of the tree is still visible, or very small ones that have turned into dust, are used by the artist to create the texture of the panel. According to Hiroshige, this process resembles working with vector graphics, when any image is made up of many "pre-visual" digital objects. The leap between "whole" and "plural" is a state that worries and captivates the artist. Perhaps this is why one of his alter ego is a mushroom: not only something with a cap on a leg, but also a mycelium, which can collect in the form of a fruiting body, or can spread out in many threads. Therefore, we should expect that the adventure that Hiroshige offers in his exhibition will seem completely different from a distance than in the process of approaching.


The exposition of works, collected by Fyodor Hiroshige, and the white gallery halls in which it is housed, coexist with each other in a difficult way: as if two different spaces were intertwined, by a strange coincidence, into one. According to an old cultural habit, large panels of complex shape, bright, mosaic, although laid out from sawdust, are perceived as a monumental art made to order for a certain interior. A gallery that offers a "neutral" space, wh ere exhibitions are replaced one after another, it seems that such a place cannot be. Hiroshige is not doing an exhibition of a series of works, not an installation that claims to be a total transformation of space, but an exposition of fragments. What could be the place for which these works were created and what was its function?

The numerous characters in Hiroshige's works awaken iconographic curiosity. You can imagine yourself briefly as Abi Warburg, unraveling the meaning of the plots of the Palazzo Scyfanoia. Images of long-legged girls from the anime "Beauty Warrior Sailor Moon" refer to the four planets: Saturn, Mars, Pluto and Venus, the names of which the heroines bore, and also, probably, to their properties. It is difficult to say for sure which of the existing interpretations of this, coming from antiquity, the connection between planets and gods, planets and the properties of temperament, interests the artist. Saturn here is a sign of melancholy, a mark of genius, a renewed image of the deity of fertility, or are all the meanings mixed up? Why does Venus ride a horse backwards, resembling Ivanushka the Fool? The artist himself also refuses to offer one line of deciphering, confusing and confusing with stories that the girl Pluto is standing in the pose of "Freedom on the Barricades" by Delacroix, and the area of ​​the planet Pluto is equal in size to the territory of Russia. A harmonious interpretation does not add up, but it can be assumed that the hypothetical space for which these panels are intended should keep the secrets of the foundations of the world order.

Artifacts are placed in the halls, covered with inscriptions and supposedly giving additional clues: a throne, a couch, a book, a step-ladder. So, it could be a palace reception hall, a noble lord's library, or just a bedchamber. The emperor or sovereign is mentioned in many texts and appears in many of the images included in this space. The artist suggests that in the halls you can find a fox and a lion, referring to the treatise of Machiavelli, which describes how knowledge about the characters of these two animals should be used for successful reign. You can easily find the fox, although it has turned into a werewolf with nine tails. The lion has changed a little and appears as a dinosaur, biting its mouth at the feet of Mars. Not only images of strong and calculating rulers inhabit this space, royal fools and wise philosophers are also included in the list of characters, because the emperor can be anything.

In a word: our speech is about how he became king

Hiroshige concatenates various quotes into funnels, dragging him on very long journeys. Following some of them will remind you of studying conspiracy theories or reading another Pelevin novel, others will lead to a unicorn that yells: "Cogito!" But still, what have palaces and emperors have to do with it? After all, it is unlikely that the fractional, polysyllabic narrative offered by the exposition is a commentary on the current political situation, although the “Red Tower” mentioned in the title of the exhibition and the yellow Kremlin in one of the works remind us that even fantasies (especially fantasies) are occupied by ideological tension. ...

Hiroshige throws me keys, a couple of which you can try to catch. One of them is Borges' story "Aleph". Also called one of the artist's works - the image of the eye. The protagonist of Borges' work is faced with something that allows him to see everything that happens in the universe at once. This experience turns out to be terrifying for him, but, fortunately, "Aleph" is destroyed, and he manages to get rid of superknowledge, just having a good night's sleep. One of the epigraphs to the story is a line from Hamlet: "Oh my God, I could shut myself up in a nutshell and consider myself the king of infinite space." The quote that Hiroshige uses as an epigraph to the exhibition, placing it on the throne: "Imperare sibi maximum imperium est" (Commanding oneself is the greatest power) is also a description of an unimaginable experience of gaining superpowers, which the enemy does not wish.

The second key. Having got a little acquainted with the artist's works, it is not hard to guess that Eastern religious practices are also included in the sphere of his interests. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a rite of creation of mandalas, which are built / drawn in accordance with the concept of an "all-perfect palace" in order to become a repository of some divine energy. At the end of the ritual, the mandala is destroyed, and the sand from which it was created is dismantled by parishioners and others. The deity remains in the sand, Emperor Hiroshige can be reflected in anything, or be locked up anywhere. But here we will dwell on the fact that the destruction of the palace, according to this religious tradition, changes the energy of the world, or, let's say, has a therapeutic effect.

Knock knock, is there anyone at home?

One of the theorists of "chontology" Mark Fisher described the current state of society as a situation of "homogenization of time and space." The combination of fragments of past eras (a symptom of our era) has become so commonplace, in everyday life and in art, that no one notices it anymore. The forests of quotations that Hiroshige suggests to wade through are ghostly forests left to those who have taken full control of themselves. But the palace was not rebuilt. Its fragmentation, fragmentation, give hope that the emperor, having slept properly, forgot how to keep himself in captivity, stopped seeing everything at once and therefore, seeing something else, finally left his house.

Anastasia Kotyleva