Alexey Vanushkin’s Splay Anthem at Galerie Thomas Schulte incorporates the video based work W. and the floor piece Funerary Flowers. The installation references the history of the Corner Space as a former display window for a women’s department store, combining elements of advertisement, film, and music, investigating the representation of women in media and the male gaze as well as the transience of things.
Alexey Vanushkin with his installation Splay Anthem addresses the atmosphere of a commercial window arrangement and invites the spectator to enter the gallery’s Corner Space, which is covered with 900 red carnations. Legible from within the space on the central window is written Funerary Flowers (Children around the courtyard would warn each other: “Don’t step on the flowers after the funeral, you or your relatives are gonna die.”). The viewer is, in a sense, on display himself, particularly vulnerable to the gazes of others looking into the space. Over the course of the exhibition the flowers will eventually wilt and disintegrate.
In the corner of the space is a monitor showing the video work W., which in a continuous loop shows shots of a young female nude filmed in the style of a luxurious commercial. The image is accompanied by music from Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight Returns. Three cables protrude from behind the screen, stretching through the entire height of the space to the ceiling and ultimately reaching the center of the windows. Transducers then transform the three windows into vibrating speakers, projecting the soundtrack, audible to passersby in the street.
The dramatic musical embellishment enhances the sultry and overbearing emphasis of the text superimposed on the moving image. The text borrows content from several sources as well as including original material inspired by said sources. The opening lines were initially published as part of a Chevron advertisement aimed to bolster a positive image of the company by declaring its work a service to human kind. Furthermore, Vanushkin uses content from Robin Thicke’s light-hearted, chart-topping 2013 hit song Blurred Lines which received considerable backlash for its sexually objectifying subject matter and music video and promoting rape culture. The artist therefore also adds Joy Division’s infamous lyric Love Will Tear Us Apart Again, juxtaposing it to Thicke and pointing out the narrative of an aggressive masculine lover in both songs.
By combining these various elements, Vanushkin creates an environment of discomfort. The viewer is challenged to position themselves against the controversial content of the installation, opening up new associations and narratives.