Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe

monroBorn in 1969 in Leningrad. From 1986 he took part in exhibitions by Timur Novikov’s New Artists group and Sergei Kurekhin’s Pop Mechanics musical project. In 1989 he founded Pirate TV with Yuris Lesnik and Timur Novikov. He won the Kandinsky Prize 2007 in the Media Art – Project of the Year category, and his works are held by the State Russian Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Antwerp Museum of Modern Art and numerous private collections. He died in 2013 in Bali.

In the hands of Mamyshev-Monroe the Pop Art-style appropriation of images from popular culture attains an almost intimate dimension: It is as though he needs to endlessly parody others in order to find himself. But this need reflects the impossibility of engaging in any other way with the people he parodies, their wrenching inaccessibility. The only way to bridge this gap is by donning their masks. They include Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the two official political leaders of Russia in recent years, whose images the author photographed in his work Putin and Medvedev. He says that millions of people “must be saved from ‘not knowing what he creates,’ simulacrums of power, accidentally (and fatally for us all) ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The artist’s identification with those in power is a way to both possess them and poke fun at them. If they can become one more image in a kaleidoscopic, interchangeable chain of images, then they are no more than masks that can be laughed at — if, of course, the masks can later be removed. With this work Putin and Medvedev become included in the pool of cultural images that the artist uses to dress a supposedly empty core — that is to say, his own image. On the faces of the politicians there is either emptiness or something inaccessible to the average viewer. Humor is here mixed with something more disturbing. The compulsion that the artist feels to imitate his characters suggests that there is some power behind these almost pitiable images (Putin’s face, for example, bears his characteristically infantile expression) issuing a challenge to him.