I am pleased to present The Crown, a photographic exhibition that is "the multicultural trash-dreaming" vision of The Fourth Height, a Russian collective of three artists: Dina Kim, Katya Kameneva, and Gala Smirnskaya. Working with renowned Swiss photographer Urs Bigler, these unique images question and examine 21st century geopolitics within the context of the Soviet past and the Capitalist present.
Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev (1794-1856), a major figure in the development of Russian intellectual history, was the first to identify a question that would direct Russian thought for centuries to come: How should Russia position herself between the East and the West?Continuing Chaadaev's reasoning in the 20th century, the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev attempted to make sense of the violent upheavals that shook Russia in 1917. Berdyaev believed that the source of Russia's troubles lay in what he termed the inconsistency of the Russian spirit, the source of which was the conflict between the Eastern and Western elements in the country. Arguing that Russia contained within her territory an invisible and shifting border between two continents, Berdyaev posited that Russian society was forever being torn between two cultures and insisted that Russia could not discover her true calling or place in the world until she resolved her internal conflict between East and West.
In their new project The Crown, The Fourth Height + Urs Bigler continue to investigate the East-West dilemma. Using the iconography of fashion photography and referencing Russia's rich folkloric tradition, The Fourth Height's witty and sophisticated photographs reflect a reluctance to depict Russia as a hybrid of the West and, yet equally uncomfortable presenting Russia as simply the middle ground between these two great powers. However, the artists are not simply engaged in a geopolitical debate, they are equally on a quest to define a new identity for Russia. Although this quest for national identity is by no means a uniquely contemporary pursuit, as evidenced by the works of Berdyaev and Chaadaev before him, The Fourth Height position their images in what is definitely a post-Soviet reality. With irony and political correctness in tenuous balance, the photographs in The Crown present a clear message and calling for Russia: Bigger than both West and East, but culturally and historically closer to the West, yet with a communist connection to the East, Mother Russia of the 21st century will not be a buffer between the world powers of the West and the East, but rather a broker. And most significantly, a world power in her own right.
Founded in Moscow in 1992, The Fourth Height are best known for their per- formative work that reflects mass culture through irony and fantasy and address- es post-war and feminist issues. Most famous for their video pieces including The Deed, The Taste of Victory and Gene Pool, The Fourth Height's works can be found in the Tretyakov Gallery, The Russian Museum and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
Urs Bigler was born in Switzerland in 1981 to a photographer father and contin- ued his photographic education in Bern and Lausanne. Bigler is known for his photographic combinations of art and entertainment, fashion and history. The Crown is the first project he has realized with The Fourth Height.