Vyacheslav Akhunov
(b. 1948, Osh, Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic; lives and works in Tashkent)

USSR Mantras.

Installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist

A major figure in the art of Central Asia, Vyacheslav Akhunov works in a variety of techniques, his practice focused on critique of the state. The absurdity and abnormality of Soviet life are reflected in most of his works. With obsessive meticulousness and dedication, he reproduces and brings into conflict Soviet symbols, from photographs of Soviet leaders and Politburo members to slogans, documents, lyrics, flags, and other communist paraphernalia. His critique of the Soviet Union perhaps reached its highest point in the ongoing project USSR Mantras, which Akhunov started over forty years ago. It is his longest-lasting and best-known work and, essentially, his life- long project.

This is the fifth decade in which Akhunov has covered various objects (newspaper cuttings, handmade books, tickets, cardiograms, sewing patterns, pages from school progress reports, carbon paper, old folders, archival documents, canvases) in tiny handwriting with excerpts from books on scientific communism and dialectical materialism. He has produced thousands of objects over tens of thousands of hours. The repetition of slogans in his work, however, is based on the principle directly opposite to the one behind mantras as formulas of endless worship. Every articulation of USSR Mantras uses reverse power to devalue the Soviet project, hollowing out a meaning in which the population subjected to this ideological experiment lost faith halfway through.