contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the month / December 2019

Utopia XXII
Inna Artemova

Oil on canvas
170 cm x 240 cm

The oil painting “Utopia XXII” by Inna Artemova is part of her series “Future Structures”, where she reflects on prospective living and working environments, which might be united in one single space. “Utopia XXII” shows two sets of freely floating square-shaped boxes over a plain. Additionally, on the ground are some smaller container-like cases. All these geometric items have in common that they have no front or back sides, making it possible to look inside the form.

There are some lines, perhaps laths, which are reaching from the bottom to the left box group and some ladders heading for the right side accumulation. On the left of the picture centre is a tree-resembling object and in the farer background on the right another smaller similar one. On the ground and perhaps also in the suspended boxes are single shadowlike people. The whole scenery is sketchy executed, mainly in grey shades with some ochre accents, which gives the painting an inhospitable impression. It seems to depict a setting, difficult to identify in time and space.

Already for her former series, Inna dealt with the ideas of the architectural utopians of the 1960s. Expanded all over the world, there were inter alia groups like the Groupe d’études de architecture mobile (GEAM), the Megastructure Movement, including the Metabolists (Japan) and Archigram (London), the Situationist International, Archizoom Associati (Italy) and Superstudio (Italy). The motivations and designs of the plans for the ideal cities of the future varied, according to the orientation of the different associations. However, there were some common features. Often the creatives focussed on huge, expandable arrangements as infrastructure and collective spaces, with smaller inner units to be configured individually. Components from serial production should be used during the realisation.1 Yona Friedman, Hungarian/French architect, urban planner and co-founder of the GIAP outlined the Spatial City. These projects are settlements, floating over historic centres or difficult to build on areas like expanses of water or marshland.

With this background, “Utopia XXII” could be seen as Inna’s interpretation of an ideal city inspired by the utopians of the 1960s, even though it is a painting, not an architectural drawing. However, she revises the former projects regarding the technical and social changes and applies the new exigencies to her concept. In this sense, the image could depict a spatial settlement that is still in expansion. The square-shaped boxes are more or less isolated units with different dimensions, whereby the smaller ones are also used as structuring elements of the bigger ones. Their function is likewise living and working space, due to the increasing digital home-based work. A common infrastructure is no longer important, since the individual is connected to the outer world via internet. There is no more need to travel, to shop or to have classical gathering points as squares and city centres. People can order all their needs and everything is delivered to their homes. Even the social contacts enter via social media into the living room, which transforms into a virtual space itself.

Still, some people are outside, mostly under the right box group, where the archaic ladders stand. Since these access ways seem to be rather temporary than fixed entries, the people might soon disappear into their units never to be seen in the outside. The left box group has its unique connection to this analogue world by the, at the beginning as laths labelled vertical elements. Could this be channels of supply to ensure the alimentation of the people living in the spatial colony? Who is taking care of the functioning of the settlement? Are there still people living a life as we know it or is all conducted by artificial intelligence? Only the trees remind an analogue nature, relics of a bygone age. If not at the far horizon, there is no hint to a world outside this grey, inhospitable environment. People are living in quasi-virtual cages, floating above the ground like the Cloud. Could this be the city of the future, which is structured by the digital world?


Inna Artemova

Born in 1972 in Moscow, Inna Artemova studied architecture at the Moscow Architectural Institute (MArchI). For her diploma project, she was honoured the 2nd prize of the Russian Federation in 1995. Three years later, she moved to Berlin. Since then, she had numerous solo exhibitions in Germany. In 2019, the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts presented her works in the solo show “Landscapes of Tomorrow”. Moreover, the artist participated in many group exhibitions in Germany, but also in Austria, Italy and England. Additionally, her works were shown at international art fairs besides Germany in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, the US and Japan. Apart from this, German and international public and private collections include her oeuvre.

Grown up in the Soviet Union, Inna experienced its collapse as adolescent. In the following transitory phase, she started her studies at the MArchI. Her professors were the former Paper Architects, a movement originating in the 1980s. Disillusioned by the limited possibilities of innovative architectural creations, these architects started to project their ideas and visions on paper. These futuristic concepts were never intended to be realised. In consequence, they were less amenable to construction principles and could be more conceptual and artistic.

The visionary projects of the Paper Architects and the experienced failure of the communist utopia influenced Inna sustainable in her artistic oeuvre. Additionally, she explored the ideas of the architectural utopians of the 1960s, who reflected on new living environments. All this knowledge enters in her creations. Seemingly, she depicts “borrowed memories”2 from long bygone times or an unpredictable future. In doing so, she considers current social and technical developments and imagines their impact on prospective life.

Inna’s series “Error Codes” from 2016 and 2017 seems to glance back in a time, when scientific progress was uncritically welcomed or rather necessary to succeed the new soviet society. Whereas the paintings of “Reinventing Utopia” from 2017 might illustrate situations between a glorified past, a certain chaos and a beginning reconstruction. Apparently more arranged are the scenes in “Future Structures” from 2019. Even though, the construction of the future is not yet completed, new structures become visible, like in “Utopia XXII” our Artwork of the month / December 2019. Currently, the artist points to another future, in conceiving a panorama of an alternative world. Interesting is that this utopian project will be a monumental painting with a length of 28 metres. Compared to her former compositions, which are already large-sized it will be huge. Curiously expecting the artist’s new visions, we have to wait until the end of January 2020, when the picture will be presented at the Lahore Biennale (Pakistan).

Inna lives and works in Berlin.


1 Ruth Eaton: Die ideale Stadt. Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Berlin, 2003, p. 219
2 Bojana Pejić: The Space where unforseen Things take place. In: Inna Artemova – Reinventing Utopia (Catalogue), Berlin, 2017, p. 5