AESTatyana Arzamasova, Lev Yevzovich, Yevgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes. Founded in 1987, the group has had about 30 solo exhibitions in Russia, Europe and the United States. Participated in the Lyons Biennale (2000), the Istanbul Biennale (2007), the Venice Biennale (Russian pavilion, 2007) and special projects for the 1st and 2nd Moscow Biennales (2005, 2007), among others.

The Last Riot project, started in December 2003, is one of the successes of the AES+F group. It was shown, most notably, at the 2007 Venice Biennale. The shoot-’em-up game theme, the glossy beauty of perfect young bodies and the lifelike quality of its digital photographs all create the illusion that its artistic message is pretty straightforward. At first sight, it is a kind of PlayStation saga, marrying fantasy with the popular theme of Armageddon and reality shows like Survivor. But working with these images from media culture and using new technologies is only part of the group’s strategy. Perhaps no less curious is the fundamental ambivalence of their images. At first it seems that this stems from the blurry boundary between the virtual world and the real. But contrasts extend further. Monumental figures co-inhabit the frame with cinematic images; glamorous kitsch, with references to academic tradition; Christian themes of sacrifice and mourning; and the Roman cult of strength and youth. Not to mention the contrast between the outward fragility and weakness of children and the power of the cutting-edge weapons civilization has supplied them with. Or the juxtaposition of the children’s guiltlessness and their extreme cruelty. What we have here are young barbarians of the post-Christian era. They are beyond ethics because they have no inkling of biblical commandments. Or is it because they are already not quite human? In that sense, the appearance of a tailed mutant comes as no surprise.
Zhanna Vasilieva