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Campagne Première Berlin | Nikita Kadan
Nikita Kadan, Limits of Responsibility, 2014. Metal, painted wood, earth and vegetables; 1.7 x 3 x 1 meters, 36 color slides, three book facsimiles, each 28.5 x 20.5 cm. Photo: Henning Moser. Courtesy Campagne Première, Berlin.

Campagne Première Berlin

Nikita Kadan
Limits of Responsibility

Through January 17, 2015

Campagne Première
Nina Koidl & Henning Weidemann
Chausseestrasse 116
D-10115 Berlin
Germany

Nikita Kadan was born 1982 in Kiev, Ukraine, where he lives and works today. He is a member of the artist group R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space, since 2004); and co-founder and member of the Hudrada (Artistic committee, 2008) curatorial and activist group. He often works in interdisciplinary collaborations—with architects, Human Rights Watch activists and sociologists.

Kadan’s work has been exhibited internationally, including exhibitions at the first Kiev Biennale at Art Arsenal (2012); CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2012); ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe (2013); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2013); Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2013); 55th Biennale di Venezia—Palazzo Contarini Polignac (2013); DAAD Galerie, Berlin (2014); and Saatchi Gallery, London (2014). He was nominated for the PinchukArtCentre Prize in 2009 and won it in 2011. His work is currently included in the exhibition 21 Artists Shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize 2014 at the PinchukArtCentre, Kiev (through January 4, 2015), where he was awarded the Special Prize of the Jury. A bilingual (Ukrainian / English) publication about Nikita Kadan’s work will appear in spring 2015 (text by Katerina Gregos).

The foundation for Nikita Kadan’s body of works Limits of Responsibility is a series of color slides by the Ukrainian artist. They document the protests against the scheduled removal of the protesters’ camp on Independence Square in Kiev in the spring of 2014. In the series, the focus is on the “Maidan gardens” that activists planted around their tents and barricades during their months of occupation, cultivating vegetables, grains and herbs in the contested Kiev ground. They cultivated the occupied area to survive, to sustain themselves self-sufficiently, while simultaneously carrying out their resistance, highlighting their presence, and literally rooting their claim deep in the earth of Maidan. Cabbage and lettuce, onions and tomatoes grow and ripen amongst the monuments, improvised homesteads, flags and barricades. A garden stretches its fingers between the instruments of protest, a slice of domesticated nature. Nature—where metamorphosis and the potential for change have always been inscribed—grows in the gardens of Maidan in safe, orderly, labeled rows, marking the square as a habitat and its very earth as taken and occupied.

In the multimedia exhibition Limits of Responsibility—the artist’s first solo exhibition in the German-speaking realm—the observer encounters not only various forms of resistance, conquest and occupation, but also various strategies of visual representation and argumentation. The aesthetics of the exhibited color slides are reminiscent of those found within the mass-media system of social media platforms, of viral snapshots that circle the globe, inspiring and agitating. Nikita Kadan’s watercolors, on the other hand, call to mind academic textbooks of biology or anatomy. But where such textbook illustrations present idealized details of one organic object, Kadan’s works combine plant bodies with human ones, and nature with architecture. Roots, tubers and buds end in bones or melt into architectural elements. Things that do not naturally connect gradually dissolve into one another, their unions creating new entities.

The artists’ play on and with the image takes on a sculptural form in a 1.7 x 3 meter object of lacquered white plywood and a square flowerbed of lettuce and herbs, built according to an illustration from a 1979 Soviet Agitprop publication, in which constructions of that kind are promoted as an ideal way to display agricultural achievement. While the sculpture’s construction and materials have their roots in instructional purposes, its illustrative function is missing. The display boards are painted opaque white, their lack of text and image conveying nothing but a reference to propaganda presentation strategy. The artist connects this relic of totalitarianism, robbed of its function, with a space for plants—a bed of garden growth which, in being brought up to date, has been liberated from its ideological underpinnings and today serves the autarchy of protesters and survivors. Excluded from the commercial exchange of goods, their responsibility is limited to their immediate surroundings.

Nikita Kadan’s Limits of Responsibility is not a rejection of the image, but an exploration of its conditions. In his choice of motif, in his aesthetic examinations of media and material, the artist reveals ideologically potent and system-strengthening image strategies, makes them his own, decontextualizes and undermines them. Reference and transmission unmask the original, making it recognizable for what it is.

Text by Nina Lucia Gross.

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