In 2013, Russia celebrates the 400th Jubilee of the establishment of the Romanov dynasty, the royal family that had ruled the country for 304 years (1613 – 1917).
At the beginning of the 20th century, there then occurred a tragedy that causes pain in the conscience of the Russian people still today, nearly a hundred years later. In 1918 the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg. The murder of the Tsar`s family was an act of lawlessness that stood at the epicenter of a larger wave of unprecedented cruelty.
The situation in Russia has changed drastically with the new era. Perestroika and the collapse of Communism have brought substantial changes in the consciousness of contemporary Russian society. The murder of the Tsar`s family, which had been regarded officially as a revolutionary necessity, appears now in a very different light – as a brutal and lawless act of barbarism.
Contemporary art has not yet dealt with this topic.
The installation Dead House is an attempt to process that historical event, evoking the dramatic contrast between the peaceful everyday life of the Tsar’s family, and the tragedy behind the walls of the Ipatiev House where the crime took place. The building itself was destroyed long ago, but there exist photographs taken during the investigation right after the 1918 murders.
The installation creates a space, the walls of which are hung with oil paintings on wood and canvas in different dimensions, inspired by documentary images from the life of the Tsar’s family. This domestic idyll surrounds the visitor with its peaceful atmosphere, in sharp contrast with the object standing in the center of this space - a hypothetical recreation of the place where the murders occurred.
Outside of this object, there are 3D-lightboxes with different images of the facade of the house. These are based on documental material from the exterior of the building, and have been transferred to a three-dimensional form reminiscent of holograms. These lightboxes are illuminated from inside by flat LED-panels that create a cold, even light. Inside the object, there is a 3D-animation of the gloomy interiors: stairs, rooms, passages. The visitor can follow the sorrowful path that leads to the cellar, where traces of the bullets can be seen. This is where the murders happened.
The twilight into which the installation is plunged forces the spectator ever more to dive into this space full of tragedy.
The general atmosphere of the installation is complemented by the sound of the piano; melodies once performed for, and by, the family. This music underlines the drama of this transitional moment both in Russian, and in world, history.
Genia Chef considers his aesthetical method as «Post-historicism». His works include paintings, digital compositions, lightboxes and video, often united in different kinds of installations. He has a special interest in historical events which are turning points for mankind, and he works in border zones between history, aesthetics and science, conceptually transformed into a kind of neo-mythology.
The installation is sponsored by Frida Fine Arts Gallery, Moscow-Berlin.