16. April 2020

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov (b. 1933, b. 1945, Dnepropetrovsk) are an artistic and married couple who collaborate on environments which fuse elements of the everyday with those of the conceptual. While their work is deeply rooted in the Soviet social and cultural context in which the Kabakovs came of age, their work still attains a universal significance. They pioneered the “total installation” – an environment that completely immerses the viewer in a dramatic environment, and often deal with topics of power and control.

Ilya and Emilia currently live in Long Island, New York State which is the global epicentre of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, and USA is the country with most active cases of the disease.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov wrote to us for the project a strong, encouraging message regarding the COVID-19 virus pandemic and its impact on their daily life, and its impact on the world.

“The time is difficult and what is the most unsettling that this situation is unpredictable. You don't know how long you will be in isolation, how many people will be affected, what to expect.
But Ilya and I, as artists, are used to working under any conditions and in general just keep our life style, which always was: our work is our priority. Of course, now friends, curators, museum directors, family members cannot come here to visit us, we cannot travel, all exhibitions are postponed, galleries closed.
But Ilya didn't have any exhibitions for the 30 years of his artistic life in Soviet Union, so in a way it’s just: ‘Back to the USSR’, with all the restrictions, isolation from the world and absence of shows.
The difference is that we are restricting ourselves out of our social conscience as not to put other people and yourself in unnecessary danger.
And we know the necessity of this social isolation. We know it will end and we will win the battle with VIRUS!
We do have communication through Internet, telephone, endless visual conversations with our family members, friends, colleagues.
Yes, we are restricted in our movements, but not in our thinking, our ability to write, to paint, to compose, to create. And that’s what makes all the difference.

Our day is  more or less go as usual: Ilya is painting from 7.30  till 12.
Then we go for a walk. After that he reads, sometimes write, walk around.
I am working in the morning, answering emails, editing my book, which is finished/first part/ and just need some corrections.
Then prepare food, we discuss work, plans, ideas. I write some more, watch news, and read a lot.
And, of course, talk to our family members, which are mostly in New York, and to friends on Skype, or just on the phone.
We all will be ok. Artists, musicians, poets, writers, are indestructible; they survive through thousands of years of human history. They describe and reflect on everything that happens to humanity and this time is no different.
We come out of it better, stronger and with a lot of good art, books, stories and music.
We wish good luck to every person in Croatia and we do hope to come to spend our ‘Artist on vacation’/Valamar time with all of you soon!

Emilia and Ilya Kabakov”

Long Island, NYC, US, 16/04/2020

Artists Respond project was started by the Institute for the Research of the Avant-Garde and the Marinko Sudac Collection. Addressing the current global pandemic, the project aims to virtually present the thoughts and attitudes of neo-avant-garde artists, their energy and the message they have for the present moment. This is the moment in which the world as we know it is on hold and the moment in which we need optimism and solidarity more than ever. We wish for the public to welcome the creative energy of these artists - artists who are ready to point out the state of things, to respond with art and creativity, as they have done in all difficult times in the past.

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