(b. 1962, Moscow; lives and works in Moscow)

Hymns. Rehearsals, 2007
6-channel video installation, 5’ 19”
Courtesy of the artist

An attentive observer of Russian reality, Olga Chernysheva captures the face of the new corporate culture on the eve of the global economic crisis. In six short videos, employees of various companies, dressed in uniforms or according to an office dress code, perform the corporate anthems of their companies. Chernysheva demonstrates the striking gap between the imposed rehearsal of corporate identity and personal self-awareness: the bathos of a song glorifying a company is mocked by the out-of-tune performance; the collective body keeps crumbling and disintegrating even while singing. Focusing on one person or another in the general chorus, the camera reveals their feelings, be it awkward shyness, pensive sorrow or genuine enthusiasm reminiscent of Soviet childhood singalongs performed by the young pioneers. We are forced to consider the continuity between the new corporate roles and the former ideological ones. In 1997, Chernysheva made the series Inner Light from photographs of performances by amateur ensembles at a Soviet cultural center. In the context of that series, Hymns can be read as an awkward attempt by modern Russian society to reconstruct the lost collective feeling that is still close to the heart of the last Soviet generation. Curiously, the origin of the word “hymn” is associated with the Greek verb φαίνω—“to weave.” The “woven” song about “a brand like a friend,” performed with a Russian accent, thus becomes part of the surprisingly diverse texture of the exhibition.

Ekaterina Lazareva