“Dead care” is the soloexhibition of Anastasia Vepreva: an artist, curator, and art critic based in St Petersburg.
Anastasia Vepreva is a historian by training and her artistic practice focuses on the analysis and discourse of historical memory. She works in various techniques with the idea of systems of oppression, and with the idea of death. Anastasia is an artist who works through the use of different techniques from video to text, drawing, photo, collages, and performances. The exhibition “Dead care” is divided into two parts – drawings created in 2020 during the period of self-isolation and tactile hand-crafted paper sculptures offering a carefully constructed visual conversation between the two.
The dead (victims of hostilities, victims of repression, victims of violence) are often stripped of their humanity and subjectivity for the sake of political games. Anastasia thinks that it is necessary to create a utopian place in which bodies are removed from the collective historical grave and find their own space of peace and comfort. According to Anastasia: "Our reality is millions of unidentified bodies buried in collective graves or simply scattered across the forests. There they all lie in one heap - both "ours" and "not ours", and security officers, and victims of repression, and soldiers, and civilians. And this mass is growing regularly. The war ends when the last soldier is buried - our wars never end, they take place outside and within our conditional borders - against "outsiders", against our own. In St. Petersburg, they do not allow the installation of memorial plaques to the repressed, in Sandarmokh they do not allow to study mass graves, and students, in general, are imprisoned under forged articles - like the historian Yuri Dmitriev. All this is our mournful everyday life, in which even dead people are godlessly exploited for the current political gain".
The exhibition “Dead care” consists of drawings and the crib sculptures with dancing skeletons frieze. In the first part of the exhibition, the viewer is greeted by the so-called Guardians of the Dead – heroes, both humans, and animals. Drawings based on photographs of the First World War, with the first prototypes of gas masks, which arose as a response to massive attacks with mustard gas. In the second part, we find ourselves in a tomb or heaven, where the dead, taken from collective graves, are sleeping in their beds having finally found peace and tranquility. This part of the exhibition represents an artistic solution to the situation. Anastasia said: "This is a space of free-floating when we have already gone through all the hardships and recognition and finally saw the sun, the horizon of our perspective. Here, each dead person has their own bed in which they can sleep peacefully. He is at home, he feels good and warm, and no one pulls him, does not wake him up, and does not try to return him to this day for his own benefit. The boundaries here are rather arbitrary, after all, the pedestal with cribs is our ideal future, which we will have to work very hard to achieve."
In the same room with sculptures, there is a frieze with dancing skeletons, reminiscent of an artistic genre of allegory from the Late Middle Ages: The Dance of Death.
From an interview with Anastasia:
During self-isolation, my attention was drawn to the variety of respiratory protection people create to be able to leave the house. This observation gave me the impetus for a new episode that suddenly turned out to be in tune with the current day. By this point, I had been working with military historical photographs for some time, mainly from the First and Second World Wars. Most often, there were images of military equipment or horrifying scenes after a battle with a huge number of dead. However, from time to time I came across photographs where strange structures were depicted - respiratory protection systems, and not only in humans, but also in animals. These were the prototypes of future gas masks, which became urgently needed by all participants in the hostilities immediately after the first serious gas attack on July 12, 1917, near the Belgian city of Ypres. It is very interesting that images of animals in gas masks were met about as often as photographs of people - there was some kind of tenderness and care in this, although it is clear that animals became victims of military operations as well as soldiers, and worked on an equal footing with them for the benefit of military machinery. When I perform historical plots in graphics, I use the simplest and most fragile paper - it can be torn and wrinkled, sometimes I glue something to it so that it does not fall apart into different parts. So I focus on the fragility of our memory - everything that was so long ago can be taken by us exclusively on faith, and this faith is easy to speculate, especially for political purposes. From the standpoint of today, when humanity has an unexpected and invisible enemy, against which there is still no defense, and everyone is forced to construct masks for themselves from improvised means, all these images from 1917 look scary. In any case, this is an interesting episode in the history of technology that coincides so surprisingly with the current moment.
Anastasia Vepreva is an artist, curator and art-critic from St. Petersburg, Russia. Born in Arkhangelsk in 1989. As an artist, she works with speculative and fictional approaches in Memory Studies and critical understanding of new technologies. Along with solo exhibitions, she participated in The 2nd Garage Triennial, Stuttgarter Filmwinter, PLURIVERSALE III, IV The Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Manifesta 10, 35th Moscow International film festival. Winner of Garage Museum Grant for artists (2019-2020). Organizer and co-curator Suoja / Shelter festival in Helsinki, Finland. Vepreva is published in Moscow Art Magazine, Art Leaks Gazette, Dialog of Arts, independents portals Colta.ru, Aroundart.org. Editor of the KRAPIVA portal. Holds a double MA degree from Smolny College, SPBU, St. Petersburg and Bard College, NY, USA. Holds a Specialists degree in history.