“Our practice resembles social psychoanalysis or collective catharsis,” say AES+F, a group of Russian contemporary artists made up of Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladimir Fridkes. Since the 1980s AES+F has been creating surreal, spectacular and sometimes disturbing creations collaging together disparate imagery into sprawling multimedia artworks. While these works vary from photographs, ceramics and paintings to theatrical productions and multi-channel videos, the conceptual thread connecting them remains constant: “fears, anxiety, vices, desires, conflicts – everything that your psychotherapist would want to discuss with you but on a collective plane instead of an individual one.”
The group formed in Moscow in the late 1980s against the backdrop of Soviet Union’s collapse. Reflecting on that time and the opportunities it brought forward, AES+F tells It’s Nice That: “The new situation created by the fall of the Soviet Union opened up the world for us, and allowed us to begin making art as a collective.”
In the time since its formation, the troop’s output has shifted and evolved considerably. Emphasising print, photography and painting, in the 90s AES+F were “more interested in communicating a very clear concept using the language of mass media.” Having developed a cohesive and distinctive voice during that time, the group used the decade that followed to experiment with a more multi-layered approach to concept, allegory and aesthetics.
Now, working between Moscow, Berlin and New York, AES+F push this complexity to its maximal extent – creating entire worlds inside vast multi-media tableaux. Combining ancient myth, medieval tales and popular culture these mesmerising works reflect back an exaggerated version of current societal fears and paranoia as a means of critique.
The collective’s latest work Turandot takes these transfixing multi-media spectaculars to the stage in a surreal operatic production. A piece of speculative fiction, Turandot uses the #MeToo movement as a springboard to envision a future ruled by an “authoritarian techno-matriarchy.” Hyperbolic and grotesque, the work parodies conservative narratives of female vengeance that have grown in prevalence in recent years.
AES+Fs sprawling mystical worlds are currently on show at Manezh Central Exhibition Hall in St. Petersberg. The exhibition, Predictions and Revelations, presents more than twenty years of the groups creative output, promising: “everything might not become clearer, but at least it will be more interesting.”