MUSEUM DER BILDENDEN KÜNSTE LEIPZIG
December, 2018

— Elizabeth Youngman
ON BEHALF OF GLUSCHENKOIZDAT

Kirill Gluschenko is not only an artist but also the founder and sole employee of the Gluschenkoizdat publishing house. This, at first glance, is not an unusual combination in the art world. But the publishing house is fictional, although it is all too real in the life and work of the artist. His works are commissioned by Gluschenkoizdat. He does not travel as an artist to the places where his works are created, but as the publisher's representative. Gluschenko thus establishes a constructed framework for himself in which he pursues his artistic work. The artist orientates himself on the Soviet publishing industry of the 1960s to 1980s and, according to his perceptions, tries to recreate the working conditions of the time as authentically as possible. He travels primarily on regional trains and stays in hotels from the Soviet era. Since 2010 Gluschenko publishes his works under the name Gluschenkoizdat and thereby allows his fictitious publishing house to appear in public. As an artist, he sometimes withdraws entirely behind it. However, the playful choice of the name (a combination of his surname Gluschenko with the Russian “izdat” as the final syllable—the short form of “Izdatelstvo,” which means “publishing house” and was part of many earlier Soviet publishing house names) always enables ascription.

Not only is Gluschenko's working method anchored in the past, he also explores it in his works in terms of content. At the end of the 2000s, the artist developed an interest in Soviet propaganda books from the 1960s and 1970s that show cities and their architecture. From 2008 to 2016 he traveled to various cities in the former Soviet Union and other former socialist countries (such as Dresden, Pskov, Riga, Tallinn, and Ulyanovsk) to photographically document the aesthetic heritage of the Soviet Union. He published the results of his travels in photo books or as sets of postcards that imitate the pictorial aesthetics and typography of Soviet books. The focus of his camera was mostly on residential houses and urban life. He was careful not to take pictures of any current consumer goods or make references to modern times. Viewers sometimes find it challenging to temporally locate the photographs and postcards, most of which are printed in black and white, although their year of origin is indicated in the publication or on the postcards. Not only does Gluschenko play with this irritation at the moment of viewing but also with the recipients’ personal history. This is supported by the simple thread binding of his books, which is reminiscent of private photo albums. His photographs are intended to evoke personal memories in visitors' minds and thus trigger an inner confrontation with the past and present. The impact of this is particularly evident to a Russian or local audience, who can enter into a dialogue with their memories of the Soviet era when looking at these images.

In 2016, Gluschenko presented a selection of his photo books and postcard sets in his exhibition Our Days are Rich and Bright in Moscow. The exhibition not only served as a framework for the presentation of his works but can also be seen as an artistic work in its own right. On the top floor of a building in northern Moscow, close to the locations of several former publishing houses, the artist staged an anachronistic space in which the Gluschenkoizdat company took on real form. The installation of the publisher's name in neon lettering on the building’s roof was reminiscent of the former cityscape and past publishing houses. The way into the exhibition space led through office floors that were in use. The staff of the local companies thus looked like employees of Gluschenkoizdat. In the presentation room, visitors were greeted with chairs and tables in the style of the 1960s, on which the works were displayed. City sounds recorded by Gluschenko during his travels were played back on old tape recorders. The impression of entering the salesroom of a publishing house in the 1960s was thus created, supplemented by larger prints of individual photographs, which were hung in a manner reminiscent of old school maps. However, the artist deliberately worked with inconsistencies in his staging: the furniture was newly made, and the respective city names hung above the tables in modern neon lettering. In the exhibition, the juxtaposition between fiction and fact, staging and reality, and yesterday and today became tangible.

Also part of the exhibition was the multifaceted work 1962. Nikolay Kozakov Diaries (2016), based on records of truck driver Nikolay Kozakov. For decades, Kozakov (1932–2005) meticulously kept a diary about his daily activities, his professional situation and everyday life in the Soviet Union. Gluschenko published the thirteen journals from 1962—which by chance had come into his possession—as a book. He aimed to uncover hidden stories and to give a voice to the common man. Twenty of the entries were presented as an audiobook read by Yuri Kovelenov, a well-known speaker of Soviet state television around 1990. For visitors socialized in the Soviet Union, this voice inevitably evoked memories of the state dissemination of news and created a strong contrast between the words read and their aural perception. In addition, twelve episodes of the audiobook were published on vinyl—a medium controlled and used by the state during Soviet times. The work can therefore be understood as a subversive commentary on the discrepancy between state propaganda and everyday life during the Soviet era. The artist himself even speaks of the victory of a ‘nobody’ over the state.

In his book Venets. Welcome to the Ideal (2017), Gluschenko examined the propagated image of an ideal state in the Soviet Union. From archive material and his photographs, he put together a multifaceted narration of Ulyanovsk's architectural redesign. The birthplace of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was modernized on the occasion of his 100th birthday in 1970. In this work, too, the artist aimed to tell hidden stories behind the official historiography. He sees his book as a way for readers to research and form their own impressions of history. As can be read in the preface, the Gluschenkoizdat publishing house took the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution in 2017 as an opportunity to send an employee to Ulyanovsk to examine everyday life in the ideal. The high-rise hotel Venets, completed in 1970, served as his object of investigation. With this introduction, which outlines the archive material used and the working method of the delegate, Gluschenko both explains how the book is to be approached and recedes once again as an artist behind the fictitious publishing house.

Framed by interior and exterior photographs of the hotel from an album by the Leningrad architects (1970) and by photographs taken by Gluschenko from today's Ulyanovsk, the history of the hotel's development unfolds. The artist combined official newspaper articles and photographs with personal reports from journalists, architects, hotel employees, and relatives of party members, thereby juxtaposing both praise and criticism. This material was supplemented by (party) letters and reports, material orders, schedules of public events and visitor statistics. Gluschenko deftly combined fiction and facts in his work: While the archive material is real, the essay in the first chapter is a fictional narrative. Venets. Welcome to the Ideal thus offers its readers different levels of visual and textual information and fiction. For the first time, the artist addressed an international audience directly with exclusively English texts and translations of the archive material. He opened up the space between the public, staged image and impressions that were private and real. The artist made it possible to look behind the official façade in order to reveal the common structure behind it and to contrast the Soviet ideal with a personal and unpretentious daily life.

In the 2017 group exhibition Space Force Construction at the V-A-C Foundation in Venice, Gluschenko presented material from his artist book and postcards depicting photographs from today's Ulyanovsk (Ascension to Olympus, 2017), together with a life-size copy of a suite from the Venets hotel of the 1970s (Venets. Welcome to the Ideal (installation), 2017). Here, through the large-scale installation, which once again became a work of art in itself, he enabled visitors to experience the hotel’s atmosphere shortly after it was built. The artist also understood the replica of the simple hotel room, which no longer exists in reality and which could only be filled with life again through the imagination of the visitors with the stories from Venets. Welcome to the Ideal, as a reaction to other works in the group exhibition, which reproduced pieces by well-known artists such as El Lissitzky. As his exhibition in Moscow has already shown, Gluschenko is interested in making the contemplation of his works a holistic experience. With his presentations, he always reacts to the reality of the respective exhibitions, spaces, and locations.

THE ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW
December, 2017

— Owen Hatherley
OWEN HATHERLEY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2017

〈...〉 This wonderful book documents the architectural results of another Soviet anniversary – the celebrations of the centenary of Lenin’s birth in Ulyanovsk, formerly Simbirsk, the small city on the Volga where he was born. Told by the authorities in Moscow that the ‘door would be open’ for them to modernise their mainly wooden, one-storey, Tsarist city for the duration of the celebrations, and that they’d close it immediately when it was over, the local Party rushed to build a Museum, a Library, a Palace of Culture, housing, an Airport and the high-rise Hotel Venets before the tap of money and resources was turned off. A villa was laid on for Brezhnev, who took against the town and left almost immediately after opening the Lenin Museum, and a planned banquet was cancelled. Ulyanovsk’s supermarkets were suddenly full of quails and quails eggs. This story is told through photographs – some of them making the clean International Style lines of the buildings look rather chic, others showing them to be clunky and rushed – and most interestingly, through a proliferation of documents. We get to find out how the architects got their ideas past a hostile building industry (one designer remembers literally chiselling off unwanted tiling himself when the builders weren’t looking), how the city authorities decided to decorate the city (where to put a neon sign reading ‘Communism Will Prevail’, etc) and how a sleepy provincial town dealt with a sudden influx of foreign guests. In its first year of opening, two Poles, 70 Britons, and more than 3,000 East Germans arrived to stay in the Hotel Venets, and we get to read the inventory of difficult questions they answered (‘can we see how people live in those little wooden houses?’), and find out how hotel staff took it out on the guests. A report details ‘deficiencies in table service, unauthorised menu changes, systematically subpar preparation of coffee and tea, and disregard for many requests from tourists, even if those requests were entirely possible to accommodate’. 〈...〉

IT’S NICE THAT
January, 2018

—Ruby Boddington
THE HISTORY OF THE HOTEL VENETS: A 22-STOREY METAPHOR FOR SOVIET UTOPIA

It was while working on a project in a small town on the Volga River, Ulyanovsk that photographer, designer and publisher, Kirill Gluschenko first stayed in the 22-storey hotel – the Venets. “Such large hotels are a rarity in Russia,” he explains, “I took the most inexpensive room, which also turned out to be the oldest with its partially preserved Soviet interior. The view from the 20th floor was impressive and I immediately fell in love with the hotel.”

Kirill, originally from Kaliningrad – a small Russian city on the shores of the Baltic Sea – began taking photos after being gifted a 35mm camera, by his father, at the age of 18. After discovering and creating pixel art on an 8-bit computer, he transitioned to the world of design and spent years working as a designer and art director for magazines such as Port and Esquire. Currently studying towards a masters degree in photography at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts, he is the founder of fictional publishing house Glushchenkoizdat, under which he creates books devoted to Russia’s small cities and the former Eastern Bloc.

Venets. Welcome to the Ideal, is one such book. When approached by the curator for the Space Force Construction exhibition in Venice (an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution), Kirill immediately remembered his stay in the mammoth hotel in a city named after its most famous son: Vladimir Lenin (born Ulyanov). For the exhibition, Kirill reconstructed, in detail, a three-room suite for the Venets hotels which was designed and built together with the Lenin Memorial, producing Venets. Welcome to the Ideal to accompany the installation.

Built as a celebration of the centenary of Lenin, the hotel stands in a large complex – a show of Soviet power and its utopian ideals. With a river, railway stations, an airport, a university, a library for children, a palace of pioneers, a supermarket and several factories, Ulyanovsk was a city designed to show off. Regular groups of tourists and foreign officials were brought and led by tour guides, in a similar fashion to North Korea today.

Venets. Welcome to the Ideal explores the hotel as an allegory for Russia and the fall of the Soviet Union. It presents a fictional narrative, based on the true story of a journalist who once spent a year in the hotel, told through archival photography, images of the hotel as it exists now and a text by Grigor Atanesian. To complete the project, Kirill spent one night on every floor of the hotel, documenting his surroundings and interviewing the hotel’s workers.

Through research, which “was more like an investigation”, Kirill was able to compile a series of original documents and photographs that uncover narratives from the history of one hotel. For example, although appearing luxurious and at odds with the rest of the struggling city, a children’s library was built, intended not for tourists but for local residents. “The book has a lot of memories of ordinary people who, in contrast to the editorials of Pravda, show how people really felt,” explains Kirill.

In its design, the book is extremely accomplished. Graded photos, varying paper stocks and references to Soviet layouts and typefaces make it feel like an object of the past. These subtle elements replicate the tourist photo albums published in the USSR where “the sun always shines, the workers always smile and the houses are clean and brand-new.”

ART REVIEW
September, 2016

— Helen Sumpter
OUR DAYS ARE RICH AND BRIGHT

After noticing me taking pictures, a little girl about five years old drew my attention to a box and offered me to capture some pigeons who were unwell.’ So reads the translated English caption that accompanies an image of said birds in Kirill Glushchenko’s handmade soft-cover book about the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. It’s a moment of intimacy amid the more impersonal, grainy black-and-white photographs of homogeneous concrete housing blocks that fill most of the pages of this and the nine similarly photo-heavy publications that form the backbone to the young Russian artist’s first solo show. Each book is focused on a different former Soviet or Eastern Bloc city — Pskov, Riga, Dresden and Tallinn among them. Adding short stories and other selected texts to the images, Glushchenko provides, as with the vignette of the pigeons, glimpses into ordinary lives.

This ongoing project — for which the artist makes one or more three-to-four-day trips to each city, taking a still film camera and an old tape recorder — follows both the methodical process and the aesthetics used by the Soviet state to produce city guidebooks during the 1960s and 70s. Such books, examples of which are also on display, were a showcase for the extensive housebuilding programme during those decades, but Glushchenko’s publications — and the context in which he presents them — are multilayered, mixing elements of fact and fiction, past and present, and highlighting contrasting notions of public and private, emotional and contained, openness and obfuscation. This is quietly impressive work.

Installed within an empty space in a light-industrial factory in a district of Moscow that once contained many publishing houses (a large neon on the roof declares the building to house Glushchenko’s own eponymous publisher, ‘Glushchenkoizdat’), each publication is presented within its own reading area, above which the relevant city’s name is spelled out in neon. Here visitors can sit and read the books, peruse the accompanying postcards and listen on headphones to the ambient sounds of that city playing on a large reel-to-reel tape recorder. Like the books, this experience elicits feelings of both intimacy and eavesdropping, an unease heightened by the slowly turning reels of the tape machine and its associations with interrogation and surveillance.

Similar ideas of private and public are subtly subverted by a second body of work, based on the found diaries of a bus driver named Nikolai Kozakov (1932–2005), in which their author records his loves, longings and everyday activities. In publishing these as a book, Glushchenko again reveals a desire to show what goes on behind closed doors and concrete facades. Photographs and film of Kozakov, which the artist obtained from his widow, add a documentary feel, but sound booths emanating excerpts from the diaries read out by a well-known (in Russia) tv presenter are another twist on expectations, mismatching the often emotional content to a voice pitched to deliver a more propagandist message.

With only some of the written texts and one audio excerpt currently available in translation, to non-Russian speakers much of this detail again becomes obscure, but not so the artist s desire to gently reveal personal stories and hidden histories.

ART MONTHLY
September, 2016

— Chris McCormack
〈...〉 Kirill Gluschenko, a Moscow-based artist who benefited from the support of the VAC to complete his exhibition ‘Our Days are Rich and Bright’, created an imprint of books and recordings in an area of now empty newspaper and book warehouses in the outskirts of the city. Gluschenko paralleled the work of 1950s Soviet- era journalists by visiting the then newly minted cities under communist rule long relinquished, such as Dresden, Pärnu, Tallinn, Tartu, Riga, Pskov and Ulyanovsk. Gluschenko, unlike his forebears who proudly reported on Soviet life and its splendour, recorded more incidental and abject events that occurred. In perhaps a conscious nod to the Moscow Conceptualists, who, in order to make a living, joined the applied arts and graphic design union (they were not considered to be artists by the traditional artists’ union), Gluschenko’s minor histories subtly spoke of how power obscures its tracks. The placing of otherwise hidden histories back into circulation and thought, still threatened by oppressive systems, has never been more urgent. 〈...〉

ARTNET
July 5, 2016

— Hettie Judah
〈...〉 In a rented top floor site in a 1970s block in the north of Moscow, Kirill Glushchenko’s exhibition “Our Days are Rich and Bright” came to a close this last weekend. A beautifully designed show of books and field recordings created by the young artist’s fictional publishing house Glushchenkoizdat, the overall project riffed off Soviet-era travel guides and the living heritage of brutal-modernist and prefabricated architecture. Curated by V-A-C’s head of exhibitions Katerina Chuchalina, this unconventional and generously installed exhibition presaged well for the Foundation’s dedication to support young artists in the future. 〈...〉

KOMMERSANT
May 12, 2016

— Valentin Diakonov  
OUTSKIRTS OF SOCIALISM (ОКРАИНЫ СОЦИАЛИЗМА)

〈...〉 The poetic name of the exhibition is taken from the book of the German journalist and historian Karl-Heinz Böhle devoted to the life and everyday life of the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic in the early 1970s. In Soviet times, there were quite a few such books, photo albums and documentaries: one could even say that their release was one of the most important fronts of the ideological struggle. Now this typographic product is sold by booksellers by weight, but to Kirill Gluschenko, it’s a road like a bygone nature, like a grandmother’s garden—to Vasily Polenov. As part of his own publishing project Gluschenkoizdat, the artist travels around the cities of Eastern Europe—Pskov, Riga, Dresden, Ulyanovsk—and photographs the current state of that new life, which was presented in Soviet times as an achievement of socialism. Once a Zhigulenok—"penny" was a symbol of welfare, now it rots in the yard overgrown with burdock. Once upon a time new houses took happy owners, now it is housing for demolition. Glushchenko, in detail and with love, fixes places far from tourist attraction. Of course, his efforts in the commercial mainstream do not find understanding: the artist loves to tell how he offered his book about Pskov to the local bookstore, but the commodity expert, not finding any church onion domes in photos, indignantly refused to take the goods for sale. It’s understandable: immersion in the albums of Gluschenkoizdat is comparable with watching Wim Wenders' early films, like “Alice in The Cities” or “Kings of the Road”. There is no plot development in them, but there are hypnosis paths, so that the viewer feels like an enchanted wanderer in an insignificant landscape. 〈...〉
ISKUSSTVO MAGAZINE
2018

— Elena Konyushikhina
IN THE ARMS OF THE ARCHIVE (В ОБНИМКУ С АРХИВОМ)

〈...〉 The fact is that the artist reproduced the process of Soviet typography to the smallest details—starting with the choice of format, layout and ending with the font solution: the texts were typed in Journal and Journal Sans—the most popular typeface of that time. Albums can even be taken as historical, but digital printing and manual stitching of pages give away the year of publication. With his painstaking substitution, the artist illustrates the work of the Soviet system, the main feature of which is routine. Therefore, he turns to the most prosaic sides of the life of the USSR—colorless dormitory areas with typical buildings of the 1960s–80s. Black-and-white photos, stories, soundtrack—the sound of trains and the sound of trains create the atmosphere of the exhibition. Her lyrical hero, an employee of Gluschenkoizdat, who plays with the audience, presenting a myth as reality, appears as a catcher of the past. 〈...〉