Russian emigres and dissident artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov bring their ironic and melancholic installations to Tate Modern, a reminder of the dangers of authoritarianism.
Given the backdrop of Soviet Russia, the work of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov was an elephant in the room. The collaborative couple make installations, not the kind of work that can be folded up or hidden under floorboards.
Many Moscow artists of the 1980s and 1990s resorted to publishing as a way to circulate work discreetly outside of the gallery system. Magazines like A-Ya (1979-1986), the MANI folders (1981-1986) and Pastor (1992-2001) flew under the radar.
One could not say the same for monumental sculptural works such as The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment: a narrative-driven warren of rooms from 1984, which calls to mind Mike Nelson, who represented Britain in Venice in 2011.
The Kabakovs have also represented their country in Venice. And many of their major immersive works and architectural models appear to have been made post-Glasnost, in an era when Russian society, if no less authoritarian, is at least more conducive to making conceptual art.
But given the scale on which the pair work, this exhibition will suit Tate Modern’s sizeable galleries and offer a range of high impact environments which can be enjoyed in this new context, free from bureaucratic censors and threats of career-ending sanctions.
Such repercussions are an ever present danger in any society, and for those who wish to understand the failed utopias we all live in, this show comes at a most interesting time.