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Architecture, ART, Exhibition

The Strange City – Monumenta 2014 Paris


The strange City:

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at the Grand Palais

Born in 1933 in Dnipropetrovsk (ex USSR), Ilya Kabakov is a major figure on the international art scene. In the 60s, he began a work on daily life un Russia and since then his installations, sculputres and paintings have been exhibited around the world. Also born in Dnipropetrovsk, in 1945. Emilia Kabakov graduated from the Faculty of Music and studied Spanish literature at the University of Moscow. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have worked together since 1989 an live in Long Island, New York.

Monumenta 2014

Monumenta 2014

A Total Installation

The artists have taken up the Monumenta challenge with the creation of a utopian and mysterious city, both monumental yet intimate. This new installation is inspired from the Renaissance, Romanticism and modern science, and is the synthesis of a long artistic career. Infused with the artists Soviet origins, The Strange City takes visitors on a journey throught dream and reality. This year, Monumenta takes on the form of an initiatory journey in which Kabakov questions the human condition and “the great visions of progress, science, and human upliftement that could have led to the brink of disaster” ( Ilya Kabakov)

The Tour of the Strange City:


The Dome evokes the theory expounded by Russian musician Alexander Scriabin, who created a coulour organ using the synesthetic system, that is to say based on correspondences between sounds and couolours, popular in the early 20 th century. this dome corresponds to the ideal of a total work of art envisaged by Richard Wagner and developed in all sorts of utopian projects combining music colours and dance.




This ruin is the vestige of a grand and triumphant entrance to the city at a moment of history.




It is almost like being in a museum from yesteryear. The paintings on the wall have been replaced by oval pools of light and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passacaglia fills the room with music. A natural yet unexpected connection is forged between the music ant the spots of light, like stained-glass windows sparkling when the rays of sunlight hit them. There is the same grandiose, traditional and classic content as the paintings that could have been hung there.



The central model is a reconstruction of a city that once existed to the north of Tibet. It existed on two levels: the first, terrestrial, that of everyday life; the second, celestial, that of the world above. The city is surrounded by 8 mountains whose summits conceal devices that enable a heightened consciousness and communication with the other worlds to be achieved. These 8 mountains whose are The house of dreams, Two Antennae, The centre of Cosmic Energy, The Tunnel in the Mountain, The black Room, Two visions: downwards and upwards, Reception of Signals from the Noosphere, The Celestial Gardens and the Cascades.




The centre of Cosmic Energy is comprised of three buildings: the ancient reservoir of cosmic energy, the centre of Cosmic Energy and the laboratory for communicating with the noosphere. Cosmic energy flows towards the earth at a 60° angle. This same principle can be found in several constructions in ancient civilisations- the Tower of Babel, the pyramids of Gizeh- but also contemporary civilisations- Tatlin’s Tower or El Lissitzky’s orator’s platform. Combining the archaeological discovery of ancient antennas and the equipment to capture signals from the cosmos, the centre and its laboratory attempt to explain the relations between the past and distant worlds.



Monumenta 2014

Angels are omnipresent in Kabakov’s work, wheter it be a guardian angel, a sort of alter ego who pushes towards charity and the moral improvement of “know thyself”, the fallen angel who predicts the loss of spiritually and the domination of materialism, or the angel who reminds us that mental illnesses can bring us closer to absolute knowledge and spiritual fulfilment. More than a religious figure, the angel is an allegory for the aspiration of happiness and wisdom.



The gate marks the rift between the interior and the exterior, between the private domain and the social sphere, between the individual and the collective. In many societies, the crossing of this threshold is accompanied by rites to facilitate the passage. In these paintings the gates appear on the horizon and almost merge with it. These are in fat twelve stylistic variations in wich the artist strives to play on the effects of light and atmosphere, referring to impressionism and to Paul Cézanne, and seeking to break free of the styles and dogmas of Modernism and contemporary art. The transition from life to the beyond takes place via the gate bathed in a uniform ambiance that blurs distinctions.





As in many ancient churches, the frescoes decorating the walls have disappeared. paintings appear like strewn pieces retracing the fragments of life. Like memories scattered in space, these pieces of memory are spread across the clouds of white that erase and engulf the past. Images of Soviet propaganda can be seen, now belonging to an era long since past. The huge black stain above the entrance represents the place destined for the Last Judgement and tragic representations of Hell in the Christian tradition.





Like the White Chapel, the Dark Chapel reproduces the proportions of a Renaissance church, but the zenithal lighting resembles more an artist’s workshop than a church. The pictures are an autobiographical collection and combine a central black hole, stereotypical Soviet images, memories of the presentation of the Imperial Prize in TOkyo reserved in the interest of detachment, and the white marks of cloths for cleaning the brushes. The combination of honour and triciality results in pride. By renewing the Baroque painting notion of immersion in the picture, Ilya Kabakov sets out on a new deeply personal adventure.

Monumenta 2014 : l’étrange cité d’Ilya et Emilia Kabakov



Images: Carmen Lobo


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