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SovMod Skull

Nikita Kadan, SovMod Skull, charcoal and collage on paper, 2021
The series is inspired by the movement Save Kyiv Modernism, or Save Ukrainian/Soviet Modernism, that recently emerged in Ukraine. This is a movement of mostly young people. Soviet Modernism or SovMod refers to the Soviet architecture of 1960–80s that is being brutally destroyed or reconstructed for commercial purposes in today’s Ukraine. This movement is political because it opposes the so-called ‘politics of de-communisation’, in other words, state anti-communism, which gives its green light to the destruction of various forms of Soviet heritage. On the other hand, those who participate in the SovMod movement treat this architecture as if it represented a dead modernity, in a rather historicist way. This aestheticisation and melancholic gaze became political to the extent that they oppose an aggressive reactionary nationalism and the commercialisation of public space of Ukrainian cities. Such an encounter between aesthetics and politics contains something paradoxical

Another paradox that characterises this situation is that in the Soviet Union these buildings were never called ‘modernist’. ‘Modernism’ was only used in a strictly negative sense. The skulls painted by Pablo Picasso often served as illustrations for anti-modernist books, such as The Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop-Art (1968) by Mikhail Lifshitz. Soviet discussions about modernism and modernity are now almost forgotten and Soviet architecture and monumental art have been turned into ‘Soviet Modernism’ for a younger generation.

I picture modernist skulls by Picasso as protecting SovMod building fetishes that still remain untouched in Kyiv, Dnipro, Odessa or in the war zone of Donetsk.

Nikita Kadan, SovMod Skull, charcoal and collage on paper, 2021