“Liquid Modernity” by the Russian artist Andrei Molodkin opened in the spectacular new Orel Art gallery in London last week. Redolent of a wedding ceremony we witnessed a juxtaposition of two different closed circuit energy states corsetted in tubes configured to reproduce two Russian prison cells. Light was wearing her neon chiffon which produced a wonderful  chaud froid effect. The groom’s proboscis was sucking from a 10 gallon drum of  authentic fine Russian crude to top himself off.  A special page-less edition of “Das Kapital” with hollow Vampire typeface half filled with oil served as the Holy book. The walls were adorned with clear pipe assemblies filled, alternatively, with either real blood or oil in disrupted Mondrian-like formations fitted with taps. Mr. Molodkin  glided throughout flanked  by interpreters.


Molodkin will represent Russia at this year’s Venice Biennale. He merits our attention  because of the  anarchistic country that he hails from and his re-evaluation of a human’s worth based on his or her calorific value.

Russia is a mysterious country. It teeters on the brink of failed statehood. Meanwhile,  London is full of Russian citizens on spending sprees and Molodkin points out that a lot of contemporary art is bought with oil money. Intrigue abounds. Recently the Kremlin chose London to poison to death a dissident  with radioactive substances. London is also the seat of a major Russian oil trading syndicate. In the scramble  to put their lips to the derricks some oligarchs  slip in the oil puddles. Not too long ago Putin put the CEO of Gazprom in prison and this inspired the show’s cages.

A hollow “pop” emanating from the pumps circulating oil through the grooms pipes created a pleasing ambient rhythm while a  continuous baseline hum droned from  the electric transformers powering the neon. This is the artist at work on a mock industrial scale. Molodkin has created  closed circuits that will run themselves and continue to produce art while he concentrates on other projects.

Next door a grid of oil  lies atop  a grid of neon  creating a  stained glass effect that veers towards an eclipse.  It all feels very underground and I  was surprised that daylight was allowed to filter into the gallery.

In or out?
Energy put them behind bars.

Although the contemporary art building site vernacular was familiar there was a missing ingredient . . . a welcoming committee? A prisoner?

Portrait of the Féé Electrique
Portrait of the Féé Electrique. Warning: this is not an MFA show.

Oil is the result of geological transformations but Molodkin doesn’t yet  know how to speak in the transformative with it. We all know what the political and moral implications of this black liquid are. One look at it and our mind reels.  But Molodkin seems to expect the oil to speak for itself while trying to piggyback off of our personal knowledge about the stuff. He just puts it in the picture or moves it around and says, There.

Although blood, oil and light are in close proximity  they never mingle. Molodkin’s awe for this material produces raging sterility. Molodkin articulates and formalizes liquid through tubular supports but these are nothing more than personal kinks.  The artist needs  to do more than just prebend his subject/medium.

Reflex Icon. But where does he fill them?

More grimly, but at least transformative, is Molodkin’s project “I Die For Art”.  Upon their death a porn star , a BBC journalist and some HIV positive sufferers have agreed to have their mortal remains compressed into oil and to be made into sculptures. Molodkin suggests that relatives of the deceased might want to run their cars off of their loved ones oily remains or burn a flame with it.

Judge for youself. It comes too close to the unspeakable.
Judge for yourself. It comes too close to the unspeakable.

Molodkin messes with a fair amount of hand me down concepts. Lately he sold a ballpoint pen drawing of a skull( can you believe it?) for 56,000 euros and then produced 100  prints of the drawing that had the same “aggregate” value of the original (of which he sold thirty).   Thank you for the mishandled  Walter Benjamin lesson.

Euro-trash Philosophy
Euro-trash Philosophy

All in all the spectator feels outmaneuvered and interrogated. Bright light obscures our vision and the  blood-sucking undertones  make us ill.  Or maybe it was the fumes?

My preferred energy drink is to the right
My preferred energy drink is to the right

Ultimately the cages question our freedom. I would gladly hop into one of them if it would protect me from  the forces unleashed when the occult meets the geological.

No clogged arteries here.
The groom’s tubes: internal bleeding?

andrei molodkin, bio fuel, blood, champagne, hedge funds, london, oil, orel gallery, stained glass, vampires, walter benjamin



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