The work of Nikita Kadan (born 1982 in Kiev) centers on his artistic exploration of post-communist social and political developments, and their origins and causes in the Soviet system. Kadan produces drawings, paintings, and photography as well as objects, sculptures, and installations. The artist is a sensitive and critical observer and interpreter of historical shifts, and also of the connections and continuities between the communist past and turbo-capitalist present. He is a member of the artists’ group R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space) and co-founder of the activists’ group Hudrada. As an activist in the field of art and politics, Kadan also works with architects, sociologists, and human rights activists.
In his exhibitions, the artist addresses the visibility and function of the artistic avant-garde in Ukraine within contemporary neoliberalism, which—in the conflict with Russia—is shaped by a politics based on military goals and an ideology of anti-solidarity in the fabric of society.
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, Source: Afterall Journal nr 52, March 2022
Children Are Surrounded by Art
The Beautiful Colonizer, 2020
The Masks, 2020
Flags, 2016 & 2017
‘Dark Air’ & ‘Devils’, 2016
Everybody Wants to Live by the Sea, 2014 & 2016
Observations on Archives, 2015
Delineation of the borders, 2015
Neon Sun Grid, as exhibited in Nikita Kadan’s solo show Engineering Hope in Art Brussels 2014, booth galerie Transit