As of late, dystopia has become the most apt genre across all art media, steadily overtaking news reports in its urgency. It seems incredible that Gosha Ostretsov dreamed up his fantastically realistic story more than a year ago, and that it is rooted in his very own New Government project from the early 2000s. An imaginary totalitarian state systematically decimates its subjects, hiding behind sanctimonious slogans that proclaim their well-being. On reaching 'legal age', nationals are sent to 'resurrection houses' where their personalities are humanely released from the prison of the body. According to the state's official doctrine, an individual is 'locked up' in three prisons – their body, their family, and their state. They do not choose the first one, they build the second one themselves, and the third one patiently takes care of them from birth and up until – liberation. That way citizens who have finished their career journey are rid of the tedious drudgery of earning a living, while the state is released from no less tedious obligation to pay pensions.
The artist meticulously documents his dystopia, building it to last for centuries – and on a scale befitting the subject. He uses his favourite mediums – wooden sculpture and painting, and marries them in all sorts of paradoxical juxtapositions. On some canvases, one may make out vaguely familiar images of the Renaissance and Baroque. The propaganda machine in this – naturally, purely fictional and far-fetched – state blatantly reverses the meaning of words and appropriates the classical heritage, replacing Botticelli's Madonna with the supreme ruler wearing a hideous mask. Ostretsov's New Government with masked government officials whom no one should know by sight emerged at a time when colourful politicians of the Yeltsin era were superseded by grey office-holders with nondescript faces.
But there is room for hope even in this realm of dead absurdity. Though, to be fair, this hope is abstract in the truest sense of the word. The artist relies on the creative energy that seemingly springs from nowhere. This energy manifests in vivid and vigorous abstract shapes invading the viscous flesh of a hopeless reality and tearing it apart. These 'jewels of dissent', as Ostretsov calls them, burst through the models of 'resurrection houses', infecting stillborn propaganda art like an all-pervasive virus, and sprouting through the geometric haze of cities – large-scale reliefs that resemble the sets of German expressionist cinema. This force, wilful, angular, and indecipherable, is a law unto itself that does not bend to the total control of the repressive authorities. The artist leaves it to the viewer – or the future – to decide which force will win in the end.
Ekaterina Wagner, Editor-in-Chief of Russian Art Focus magazine