1917: Weighed, Up-Measured, Divided 

Alkovi gallery, Helsinki, Finland.
April-May 2017. 

[the detail of the installation / image : Arttu Merimaa]

The idea for this work came while I perused 1917's newspapers reports on the funeral of the victims of the February revolution in Petrograd on the 23rd March 1917 – a grandiose demonstration with more than one million participants involved, described by contemporaries as completely unprecedented “parade and review of all the revolutionary forces.” Giving the apparently huge multitude of flags, slogans, and banners involved in the demonstration, it looked it was not by chance that three of the major newspapers described in details the same banner they have noticed among the revolutionary crowds. As reported, it was a “huge banner with the image symbolically depicting the year of 1917 divided by the revolution into two parts: the Past with all its horrors – suppression, inequality, tyranny, and the Future, full of hope and happiness; the caption on the banner was: "1917: Weighed, Up-Measured, Divided.” 

 

I investigated the issue in the historical museums in St. Petersburg, but failed: there was even no photo-documentation of the banner remained. All I had was the 1917 newspapers reports. On the other hand, I had no illusions about the artistic quality of the banner: I kept in mind that the visual culture of that time (between the February and October revolutions of 1917) was quite conservative – a neo-classicist and symbolist imagery combined with the Jugendstil fonts was the dominated visual morphology, even for the revolutionary banners of the period. 

 

It was a time of economic crisis and instability, a hard situation at the front, universal euphoria over revolutionary liberation, total uncertainty about the future, and potential social fissure. Who among the artist of that time could reflect the proper way all that multiple political tensions and contradictions, that revolutionary “rupture of time”, that “division the time into two parts”? I guess it were the avant-garde artists, whose works were not recognized by the public of the period. The exemplary of the possible language came to my mind was V. Tatlin's Corner relief (1915) with its ropes stretched in tension between two walls, and the strange form hanging on it, in the corner. I think in March 1917 he could hold the same line. I decided to combine two approaches – that was to re-create the lost banner slogan 1917: Weighed, Up-Measured, Divided in Tatlin's way. 

Text: Ilya Orlov 

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