The Palace of Projects houses a universal exhibition of everyday obsessions. It displays, in the Kabakovs' words "a seemingly common known and even trivial truth; the world consists of a multitude of projects, realised ones, half-realised ones, and not realised at all. Everything that we see around us, in the world surrounding us, everything that we discover in the past, that which could possibly comprise the future - all of this is a limitless world of projects."
Like the heroic artists and architects of the early 20th century, the Kabakovs are great constructors. But their imaginary world intersects with the reality of an imperfect today rather than projecting a more perfect tomorrow. Made with makeshift models and maquettes, drawings, paintings, plans and explanations, the 65 individual projects exhibited through the palace showed people dreaming and scheming their way through the survival course of everyday life. The result was a spiralling succession of proposals by melancholics and misfits, hobbyists, fantasists and down-to-earth dreamers to make the world a better place.
The presentation at The Roundhouse was opened with a speech by Labour politician Peter Mandelson, then busy directing a new palace of projects, The Millennium Dome, to mark the turn of the century in London. Following its premiere presentation in London, The Palace of Projects was then reconstructed in Manchester, Madrid, New York and St. Petersburg before finding a permanent home at the Kokerei Zollverein in Essen, Germany.
Everything that we see around us, in the world surrounding us, everything that we discover in the past, that which possibly could comprise the future - all of this is a limitless world of projects.
Foreward to the Installation
Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Studying a boundless area of utopias and projects, at first you begin to drown in the gigantic sea not only of all kinds of proposals and beginnings, but also in the abundance of the goals and ideas which guided their inventors and authors. Gradually, it is possible to discern a few groups of such intentions.
An enormous quantity of projects fall under the heading which could be designated as Power and Control: all possible forms of management, regulation, observations, etc. The main idea that dominates in all these projects is the complete mastery of the situation, the gravitation of everything to one centre, to the author of the project himself and to the place where the author or the one using it is located.
Another group of projects is guided by the ideas of blackmail and the threats of total annihilation. The authors invent possibilities for subjecting as many people as possible, all of humanity in their extreme forms, to fear and desperation with the aid of special mechanisms or directed cosmic rays. The authors are inspired by the idea of the destruction of this world, moreover, destruction that is total and instantaneous.
N. Solomatkin, Chauffeur, Kishinev
How can you make yourself better, kinder, more decent? More than one generation of moralist, thinkers and religious figures have racked their brains over this problem of how to rid oneself of the majority of your shortcomings, faults, in a work, how to change in a better, more moral direction. The majority sees the only possibility for change by the person himself, of his internal "I," others see it in strict adherence to moral laws, still others see it in the renunciation of earthly temptations and in following a religious path.
Each of these ways is correct, having set out on it you can achieve the desired goal. Not refuting any one of them our project foresees yet another possibility. It consists in the daily procedure which despite its seeming simplicity, can turn out to be extraordinarily effective.
B. Suvorov, Assembler, Lenino
It is well known that creating poetry was included in the obligatory program of education in the XVIIth-XVIIIth centuries, the ability to create a sonnet, a poetic congratulations, an epigraph, ultimately, was so highly appreciated in society, just like the ability to play musical instruments. But this was an indisputable quality - the ability of each person, given the chance, to shroud his thoughts in poetic form - was not the property of the "gallant" epoch along: over the course of the entire XIXth century, the ability to create verses was also widespread, verses were written, re-written, sent to one another in the mail, were read to one another when meeting, not to mention the popular literary evenings...
W. Petrov, Pensioner, Kiev.
How can you escape far-far away, to set off on a boundless journey, where everything around you will be new, unexpected, where everything is surrounded by the unfamiliar and interesting, you encounter things which don't have names, their purposes and reason for existing are incomprehensible, where your every step is accompanied by the risk of falling under the feet of a strange being, and at the same time you will be surrounded on all sides by symbols and signs addressing you but in a language that is foreign to you?
B. Borden, Secretary, Stalinobad.
An encounter with one's angel and with other angels for many continues to be a unsolvable problem, and since the majority of people consider it to be unsolvable under any circumstances, the very thought of such a possibility seems insane and not subject to discussion. And this is entirely in vain. The facts and the testimony of numerous eye-witnesses attest precisely to the opposite. But in analysing these occurrences, few among these witnesses have paid any attention to the place, or more accurately speaking, the level of space where such encounters occur most often. The analysis of many of them indicates that the probability and most likely the actuality of such encounters occurs at a height of approximately l200-l400 meters above sea-level, in mountainous regions, correspondingly on mountains with these heights.
I. Kabakov, Graphic Artist, Moscow
It is now the end of the century, and there aren't many who maintain the illusion that invented projects, even the most noble of them, can bring some benefit to a large number of people, virtually to all of humanity, that they can actually be realised and embodied in reality. It is most likely just the opposite; precisely those projects which have been embodied in life with such enthusiasm have rendered innumerable misfortunes and the more grandiose a project appeared to be, the more victims corresponded to its size. Knowing and having lived through this sad, and for many people, tragic experience, the end of the century represents a mirror image of its beginning, but with the opposite sign. This time, beginning with the illusion of a radical change in life, with small and large utopias, is ending with disillusionment in their results and scepticism toward any utopia or utopian creation in general. But, the elimination of utopianism - alas, is also yet another form of utopianism.
The palace rises toward the pinnacle of the old railway turntable shed, glowing with light and the aura of bright ideas. – Adrian Searle, The Guardian
Ilya and Emilia Kabakovs Palace of Projects gleams in the gloom of London’s Roundhouse. A spiralling, luminous edifice of translucent walls, it is a truncated Tower of Babel... As much as Kabakov’s projects are funny, they are treated in such a deadpan way that the humour leaves one with a lingering sense of the tragic, of frustrated creativity, of the necessity to make life bearable by any means. – Adrian Searle, The Guardian, 24 March 1998
The Kabakovs, survivors of the Soviet Utopia, know better than most both the liberating power and the potential danger of the human imagination. – Lynn Macritchie, Financial Times, 31 March 1998
However ludicrous Kabakov’s invented figures and situations might seem, they are based on daily life... humour and pathos are interwoven. The result is mock-documentary involving people trying to come to terms with nature and the universe, and offering proposals for bettering their own lives and those of others. – Stuart Morgan, Frieze, 1998
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are Russian-born, American-based artists that collaborate on environments which fuse elements of the everyday with those of the conceptual. While their work is deeply rooted in the Soviet social and cultural context in which the Kabakovs came of age, their work still attains a universal significance.
Ilya Kabakov was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union, in 1933. He studied at the VA Surikov Art Academy in Moscow, and began his career as a children's book illustrator during the 1950's. He was part of a group of Conceptual artists in Moscow who worked outside the official Soviet art system. In 1985 he received his first solo show exhibition at Dina Vierny Gallery, Paris, and he moved to the West two years later taking up a six months residency at Kunstverein Graz, Austria. In 1988 Kabakov began working with his future wife Emilia (they were to be married in 1992). From this point onwards, all their work was collaborative, in different proportions according to the specific project involved. Today Kabakov is recognized as the most important Russian artist to have emerged in the late 20th century. His installations speak as much about conditions in post-Stalinist Russia as they do about the human condition universally.
Emilia Kabakov (nee Kanevsky) was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union, in 1945. She attended the Music College in Irkutsk in addition to studying Spanish language and literature at the Moscow University. She immigrated to Israel in 1973, and moved to New York in 1975, where she worked as a curator and art dealer. Emilia has worked side by side with Ilya since 1989.
Their work has been shown in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Documenta IX, at the Whitney Biennial in 1997 and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg among others. In 1993 they represented Russia at the 45th Venice Biennale with their installation The Red Pavilion. The Kabakovs have also completed many important public commissions throughout Europe and have received a number of honours and awards, including the Oscar Kokoschka Preis, Vienna, in 2002 and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, in 1995.
In 2014, the documentary film Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here premiered in New York City.
The Kabakovs live and work in Long Island.
Who made this possible?
The Palace of Projects was commissioned by Artangel. It was made with the support of the National Lottery through the A4E scheme administered by the Arts Council England, the International Initiatives Fund and Special Projects Fund of the Arts Council England, the London Arts Board, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation and the private patronage of the Company of Angels. With thanks to The Roundhouse Trust, Delfina Foundation and Atelier One. Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England, and by the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special Angels, Guardian Angels and The Company of Angels.