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

I’m Still Alive.

Mirror, breath, screenprint. 365 parts, each 30×21 cm
Courtesy of the artist

For 365 days, exactly the number of mirrors lined up on the wall, Yuri Albert performed a series of monotonous, repetitive acts of breathing onto a mirrored surface, as if checking he was still alive. Each time, he would scan the foggy spot and then print it back onto the mirror using transparent varnish. Albert compared the resulting spot on the mirror to an abstract painting, not so much because of its formal qualities but because of the trust we often need to have in what the artist tells us an abstract painting means. Albert’s breath becomes a testimony to honoring that trust by providing an answer about the meaning of the painting again and again each day (I’m Still Alive), as if to compensate for the answers of entire generations of other artists.

In this direct homage to a series of works by On Kawara, in which the artist would send telegrams to his friends around the world with the sole message “I am still alive,” Albert does not seem to be concerned with phatic communication in the way we might read Kawara’s work. In other words, the abstract spot on the glass that is meant to prove (if we are to trust Albert) that the artist is still alive is not a way to continue the conversation or to keep the relationship going but instead points to the relationships that keep him alive—to other artists and other works—something that his choice of a mirror surface also betrays through its “relational” qualities.