What kind of artist thinks to create a full-size simulation of an abandoned Soviet schoolhouse—complete with decaying desks and faded portraits of Lenin—in the Texas desert? The kind who’s felt alternately hemmed in and displaced for so long that smaller scales simply won’t do. That’s Ilya Kabakov, a Ukrainian conceptualist who spent most of his years working under the thumb of an oppressive government. Art critic Amei Wallach’s documentary explores the creative process of Kabakov and Emilia, his collaborator and wife (and, er…blood relative), as they prepare to mount a historic multivenue exhibit in Moscow.
Kabakov’s life story reads like a Pasternak novel, from his hardscrabble upbringing in Stalinist Russia to his double life as a government-sanctioned “official” artist and an underground cultural revolutionary. Wallach combines footage of the installation process with Ilya reflecting about his life and aesthetic philosophy (“Irony is like a sauce in a sandwich”). Though she pans across countless visually arresting artworks—like hundreds of plastic houseflies hung in the shape of a church cupola—there’s little art to Wallach’s camerawork or pacing. Still, Ilya and Emilia are fascinating enough to merit sitting through Enter Here’s meanderings.
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