“We went to work but produced nothing […] We only had irony and sarcasm.” The epitome of a meme-fed millennial working in late capitalism’s service economy, one might say. Ironically, these statements pertain to life in the Soviet Union as recounted by the mother of Russian-born artist Margarita Maximova in her video Madmen, informers, sleuths, seducers. The video revolves around the transcribed memories of the artist’s mother regarding life in the Soviet era, in light of Mikhail Bulgakov’s famously censored novel The Master and Margarita.
Chronicling the role this novel had in creating a new collective consciousness in the USSR, Maximova’s video devises a mirroring effect through the use of her mother’s statements, and the latter’s description of people surreptitiously exchanging phrases from Bulgakov’s “profane bible.” Presented on a small screen with headphones, the video emphasizes this exchange of short sentences. They become the vectors that create a sense of togetherness in spite of the contingency of fragmented language. Mixing skillful shots of shimmering vodka and aerial views of Berlin’s former Soviet suburbs, the oneiric piece made for this duo exhibition with Aisha Christison, feeds upon the artist’s 2017 video, Memorial. In Memorial, Maximova reconstructed the identity of her estranged father by bringing together her mother’s recollection with images of a commemorative statue, and footage of East Berlin’s Plattenbauen. Emile Rubino