Locomotion commotion

By GREG COOK  |  September 18, 2007

Out the back and down the stairs, you enter what appears to be an excavation. At the end of a dirt-filled room stands a giant mushroom-looking thing, apparently made from clay, rising from floor to ceiling. The monumental brass of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra started up in my head. It was all cosmic and kind of silly, like the black-monolith thingy in the film 2001:A Space Odyssey.

The installation seems oddly vacant and somewhat tedious — which feels both spot-on and kind of tedious. With all their make-believe, the Kabakovs are playing at inventing a new religion here. And as with many religions, they aim to ease our doubts with important-looking architecture and signs. The design evokes the future circa 1969, the year 2001: A Space Odyssey came out.

Signs at the end of the exhibit explain that Ilya Kabakov has shifted his focus from dystopias to utopian dreaming. But I wonder whether his subject hasn’t shifted from the demise of the Russian Revolution’s utopian dreams to America’s space-age utopian capitalist dreams. These seemed triumphant in the 1990s, but since 2001 they appear to not be doing so well.

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