Melanie Stegemann

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Chic Machines - Made in Moskau Vol. II

Presentation of the works that were created in Moscow as part of the series ‚Back from Moscow’, after a two months artist residency made possible by the cultural office of Düsseldorf and the MAMM, Multimedia Art Museum Moscow, in 2012.

I was inspired for the work Orlyonok by the urban landscape on site. The monumental buildings and stony panels of public spaces determined my visual impression of the city. Inspired by the massive impact of the metropolis I started taking photos of the urban surfaces such as large-scale marble tiles, sculptural ornamental tiles and complex mosaics which I referred to as artworks already. The numerous and detailed stone mosaics show evidence of past political density and a most elaborate craftsmanship. The aesthetic complexity of these silent witnesses have left an impression on me.
I fell for the appeal of a specific mosaic I found underneath a speedway in October 2012. It depicts Orlyonok (Eaglet), a famous Soviet heroic revolutionary character for children. He’s a young boy and member of the red army who fights against the enemy, embodied by the white army. With his trumpet he called for attack. Even today a lot of public establishments are named after him such as camps, hotels, theaters, cultural centers etc.
Unfortunately the artist of this particular creation and the year of its origin remains unknown.
I explored the structure and form of the piece by transferring the composition into its purified digital form and seize. Then I digitally filled this form with the photos I took in the public spaces to create a new body of work.
The result is a playful and newly interpreted copy, which arises the possibility of a new spectator’s perspective, coming from an enhanced aesthetic point of view. The horse and the trooper are now white and gold. This doesn’t only displace the work from its narrative content but also detaches it from its political detention.
Coincidentally the original mosaic was intentionally destroyed during tunnel renovations- simultaneous to the presentation of the new version approximately 500 meters away. I was able to preserve one part of the original work and transferred it to Germany. In this exhibition in February 2016 both pieces were united and presented together for the very first time.

The time in Moscow also inspired the series Mothers and further More Mothers.
Due to about 4500 chronologically displayed icons in the Tretjakow gallery I was able to trace the depiction of Maria with Jesus from the last 1000 years. What I found was how graphic and illustrated Maria was back in the days. She seemed like a symbol, an ideal, unapproachable for human kind. Over time though her facial features became softer, the pale skin more lively, the face more personal. She became more and more human up to the point of a moment of identification for me. I now saw a mother with her child.
What surprised me was that within the process of humanisation something important was left out- the smile as an impression of joy which in my opinion is one of the most human characteristics of all. I just couldn’t believe that Maria, despite of her knowledge of her son’s destiny, didn’t seem to have had a happy moment with her child and I liked the thought of transforming this visual heaviness with a digital smile.
Within this exhibition I’ve presented the first five mothers which I brought from Moscow. As a natural consequence of this work I came across more ‘sad’ mothers in art history and I worked my way through it. This is how about 90 more smiling mothers generated within the 2014 series More Mothers.