Elena Kovylina’s present project is a brutal satire on democracy in Russian society today. The video-installation “Egalite” creates a clear image of the many double standards in post-Soviet society, developing the idea of the “Procrustean bed,” that is, a norm that will cause the individual unavoidable pain when he or she tries to fit in. The real difference is that today, you don’t “try to fit in:” instead, participation in contemporary society is an inevitability that has become impossible to avoid.
Deliberate social security, the declaration of rights and freedoms, and other slogans and formulas characteristic of Russian society are expressed with visual simplicity, and one might even say that they have gained a human face. But if “egalite” is a century-long project that has continued in Europe since the Enlightenment, its Russian version is very different after the fall of the Soviet Union. Illusory financial equality has been replaced with a so-called civic equality that has become no less utopian than its Soviet counterpart.
“Egalite” is an octave poem of people, rhymed in four-legged footstools, demonstrating the impossibility of any global “golden age” of equality and freedom. The footstools’ legs have been extended, so that the people standing on them (who all differ in terms of gender, age, nationality, profession, and even health) are all on one level. Though they otherwise appear as they usually would, bearing all the marks of those everyday jobs they always perform, the tops of their heads have now been equalized and lined up in a row. The resulting “horizon” is illusory to the extreme, and has nothing in common with reality. But if you look down from their cheerless smiles, you can clearly see the groundlessness of their equal footing.