The Artnewspaper: Artist whose grandfather died in Stalin’s purges wins Russian art prize.Her project uses family photos in an “attempt to understand the inexplicable”

Irina Nakhova, a conceptual artist who works in Moscow and the US, was awarded the €40,000 Kandinsky Prize for Project of the Year. The award was presented at a ceremony on Thursday in a Stalin-era movie theater that is being converted into a contemporary art museum by the ArtChronika Foundation, which founded the prize.
Nakhova’s grandfather was executed during Stalin’s purges, and her project, Untitled, uses her family archives and personal photos in an “attempt to understand the inexplicable state of affairs that has reigned in my country for the last century”, as she writes in her artist statement. “To understand through private imagery how millions of people were erased from history and happily forgotten; how people have been blinded and their souls destroyed so that they can live without memory and history.”

In a telephone interview on Friday, Nakhova told The Art Newspaper that while she knew for decades that her grandfather, Kuzma Ivanovich Peshekhodov, had died in Stalin’s purges, during the Soviet era it was not discussed and she only learned the details after sorting through her parents’ papers after they died several years ago. Nakhova’s mother was about 14 years old when her father was taken away deep in the night and never seen again. “It was like in the movies,” said Nakhova. “A classic story.”

Because the Stalin regime was both cruel and bureaucratic, there were many documents detailing every single item that was searched and seized from the family, including old long johns and a used blanket. Peshekhodov was from a peasant family and believed in the Bolshevik Revolution. In the 1930s, he worked as a Soviet trade representative in Amsterdam. He was recalled to Russia and arrested in 1937, the start of the Great Terror, was declared an “enemy of the people” and, according to the documents that Nakhova found, was executed in 1939. The building in which the Kandinsky Prize ceremony took place once housed many of the Soviet elite who were later killed.

“History is being rewritten right now,” she said of the situation in Russia today. “If collective memory can be manipulated and remade, then individual memory, individual archives, are what preserve the history of the country.”

Meanwhile, Timofei Parschikov and Evgeny Granilshikov won the Kandinsky Young Artist Prize, and are splitting €10,000: Parschikov for a photography project that documents the obsession of Russia’s elite with copies of imitation Roman sculptures and Granilshikov for a film about three political activists sharing a Moscow apartment. Parschikov is the son of Olga Sviblova, the director of Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum and House of Photography, who also served on the Kandinsky Prize jury.

By Sophia Kishkovsky. Web only
Published online: 14 December 2013

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