Unrealized Projects


YEAR: 1994



Collection of the artist.


See No 90



1. Two Memories About Fear, Berlin 1993 (a variation of the project from 1990 realized on the occasion of the exhibition Die Endlichkeit der Freiheit in Berlin, see No 37, Two Memories about Fear).
2. Flies and Tabular Poetry, Cologne, 1990-91.
3. Three Songs about the Motherland (realized on the occasion of the exhibition in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1995, as part of No 86, We are Living Here).
4. The Golden Apples, Secession, Vienna 1993 (a variation of this project was realized in the year 2000 on the occasion of the international project ‘Hier, da und dort. Kunst in Singen,’ see No 151 The Golden Apples).
5. Two Windows, Rome 1993 (realized on the occasion of the exhibition Crossings, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1998, see No 133, Two Windows).
6. Big Labyrinth, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris, 1991 (a smaller version with 16 albums and My Mother’s Album was realized in 1994 on the occasion of the exhibition in Nykytaiteen Museo Helsinki, see No 78 The Operating Room (Mother and Son).
7. Memorial, Frankfurt am Main, 1993.
8. The Toilet on the Mountain, Vienna 1992 (realized on the occasion of the exhibition ev+a 1996. The Twentieth Annual Exhibition of Visual + Art, Limerick, 1996, see No 96 Toilet on the River).
9. Paintings on the Floor, Library and Bank of Seattle, Seattle, 1990.
10. Let’s Go Girls, 2003.

Óframkvaemd verkefni, Önnur Hæd Sy´ ningarsalur, Reykjavik, 4 June – 31 July 1994

Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg, Germany
Unrealized Projects, 14 August – 18 September 1994

Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden (Organisation: Europäische Werkstatt für Kunst and Kultur Hellerau e. V.), Germany
Boot meines Lebens und Nicht ausgeführte Projekte, 15 July – 6 August 1995

Portalen, Køge Bugt Kulturhus, Greve, Denmark
Ilya Kabakov. Storyteller. Installationer og ikkerealiserede projekter, 19 January – 17 March 1996

Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, Denmark
14 April – 9 June 1996

Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany
Ilya Kabakov – Der Lesesaal – BilderLeporellos und Zeichnungen, 19 April – 28 July 1996 (as part of No 90, The Reading Room).

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Traumfabrik Kommunismus: Die Visuelle Kultur der Stalinzeit / Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Era, September 24, 2003 to January 4, 2004.

Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Lissitzky – Kabakov: Utopie en Werkelijkheid / Lissitzky – Kabakov: Utopia and Reality, December 1, 2012, to April 1, 2013 (elements of the installation slightly modified).


Description of Four Projects

“Paintings on the Floor”

The project can be done in two locations: The Library of Seattle (first floor) and The Bank of Seattle (first floor).

The floor in the selected location will be covered completely by a special synthetic material. Gigantic color reproductions of paintings (or fragments of these paintings) are painted on the background of this material using a special method. (The size of the fragments: for the library: 3.8 x 3.8 meters; for the bank: 12 x 16 meters.)

This gigantic ‘gallery on the floor’ doesn’t require any special care or security. It can be used as a regular carpet or any kind of plastic floor on which tables, chairs, etc. are placed and the visitors can move around freely.

The whole idea of such a floor is that both institutions can function normally, just like they do in their ordinary rhythm, just like they do under normal circumstances. The interior of the bank or the library will still be the same, no rearrangement of the interiors is required. But at the same time, this new floor adds something new to the existing design. It imparts the atmosphere of an art museum (this is particularly visible from the upper gallery of the library – this feeling of the movement of history), in this case, of a museum of the history of graphic art.

The rhythmical placement of the paintings on the floor is compatible with the whole architectural rhythmical feeling that prevails in the central part of Seattle and in its public buildings. This is the rhythm of metric grids, and therefore the designs for the floor proposed by the artist fit into the overall ensemble of the layout in Seattle. The technological and sanitary qualities of these floors are of the highest standards. They can be washed easily without damaging the paintings or harming the surrounding space.

The process for making such a floor uses a completely new technology (created in California, USA) for printing high-quality reproductions on plastic that can be of virtually unlimited size, while still maintaining all the qualities of the original work.

“Toilet on the Mountain”

A wooden toilet is erected on the edge of a high precipice, almost on the very edge. In terms of its ‘architecture’ and material, it replicates exactly the ‘country’ toilets which were built in Russia, but of course, such structures can be seen elsewhere. It is what is called an ‘outhouse.’ A hole 2 x 2 meters is dug into the sand or ground, and a small shack made of wooden boards and with a slanted roof is raised above it. Inside, seats are nailed together from the same kind of boards with round holes cut into them. From the ‘facade,’ doors are hung up according to the number of stalls, and the toilet is ready. Such toilets were built in courtyards of buildings without any inside ‘warm’ toilets and where a multitude of people lived. Then the toilet had two stalls, and large letters ‘M’ and ‘W’ (Men and Women) were written on the doors which could be locked on the outside with wooden latches and from the inside with special metal hooks.

‘Our’ toilet also has two stalls, separated by a wooden partition, and the letters ‘M’ and ‘W’ are written on its side walls because there are no doors – either they were stolen, or they were taken off their hinges. Besides this peculiarity, there is nothing else to discover in it.

The only thing that is special is its location on the edge of a precipice. Although, in this too, at first glance everything is ordinary – at any country cottage the toilet is placed at the end of one’s plot of land, farther from the house in the thick weeds so that they hide it. But the front, not the back, of ‘our’ toilet, is facing the precipice.

And this is intentional. An extraordinary view of the river flowing below the precipice, of the sandy bank on the other side, of the distant forests beyond the fields, opens up from the steep precipice … In this way, the Toilet on the Mountain is transformed into a type of ‘Chinese pavilion’ intended for meditation, in which a number of things are combined in marvelous harmony: a withdrawal from people, total isolation, seclusion, a ‘heavenly,’ high point from which to view the world, nature, spiritual, and, it’s impossible not to add, physical concentration …

“Three Songs about the Motherland”

The installation Three Songs about the Motherland should be built in three spaces which follow one another in succession like a suite (the size of each is 20 x 9.5 meters with a height of 4.5 meters). A short wooden platform is standing in each of them, and there is a painting on a stretcher on each platform. The height of the platform is 50 cm, the size of the two vertical paintings is 3 x 2 meters, the horizontal one is 2 x 3 meters.

Three different subjects from the life of the ‘Motherland’ are painted in oil on each of the paintings: ‘Industrial Construction’ and ‘Young Girls in the Garden’ are the titles of the two vertical ones; the horizontal one is ‘Landscape of My Motherland.’ There are radio speakers (large black boxes) on both sides of each painting. Coming at the viewer from the speakers (there are a few rows of benches or chairs in front of the painting so that the visitors can sit down) resounds rather loud music that corresponds in each case to a specific painting: an ‘industrial’ march and song full of the enthusiasm of construction; lyrical songs filled with heartfelt melodies accompany the ‘girls;’ solemn-patriotic songs for the ‘Landscape of the Motherland.’

All of this taken together should form a unique visual-musical concert, it should create a strange propagandistic-nostalgic image of the world which has left us forever. Therefore, the best place to build such a ‘suite’ is in a baroque palace, where yet an additional meaning emerges: the meeting of two epochs, two ‘cultures,’ which will impart to this installation a new and important dimension.

“The Golden Apples”

A large, wide basket which is half-filled with ‘golden’ apples stands on the grass in the very corner of a green median in the place where two highways intersect. Other apples are lying all over the place near the basket and all around it. But the viewer, who has looked into the basket and is thinking of how the apples wound up there and why, suddenly sees four human figures against the sky over the tops of the trees of the park. Each of these figures is posed as one who is ‘throwing’ something, and in each one’s hand is a golden apple just like those in the basket. The connection between the basket and these figures is easily grasped: they are throwing apples, trying to hit the basket, and that’s why the basket is half-filled and the rest of the apples are lying on the grass all around. This connection is easily seen despite the fact that the figures and the basket are separated by a distance of about 60-70 meters. The basket and apples on the ground can be seen clearly upon exit from the park in the direction of the tip of the median, and when the viewer approaches it, he sees the figures turned around. (From inside the park, from below, the figures cannot be seen through the leaves.)

In the general composition of the installation, one of the main meanings is contained in the colors of the objects participating in it. There are two such colors: gold and green (the color of old bronze which has become tarnished green). The gold color is the color of the apples in the basket, on the grass, in the hands of the ‘throwers,’ and it interacts well with the gold of the cupola of the Seccession. The green color is the color of the basket and all four figures, and it corresponds to the color of the green park while at the same time it is different from it.

But just what are these green ‘figures’ and why are they throwing golden apples?

Here, without a doubt, is a reworking of a well-known theme from the Bible – about paradise and paradise apples and about a serpent. In our installation, the golden cupola of ‘Seccession’ assumes the role of the garden of paradise and the park near it. The ‘golden’ apples – the apples in the basket and around it – and the role of the serpent (more precisely, of ‘serpents’), is performed by the four terrible half-figures (each of them has its own name: ‘Electric,’ ‘Raymon,’ ‘Sobatik,’ and ‘Dush’). The installation belongs to the type of ‘disconnected’ installations with its own internal drama: at first, the viewer sees only one part of it, and then in search of meaning discovers another part in a place which is often unexpected. Thus, the viewer, having seen the scattered apples, sees neither a meaning nor a reason for why they are here, but only having raised his head (having changed the ‘horizon of vision’), so to speak, does he discover for himself the reason for their appearance. But we know that the serpent-tempter was also not visible (understood) by Adam and Eve until a certain time. Hence, the installation easily reveals its theme: before taking the ‘golden apples,’ you must not only carefully look all around yourself, looking for how they wound up here, but you must also change your usual ‘angle of vision’ – you must look higher and farther than the place where you are standing.

In terms of style, the installation corresponds well with the region of Vienna that it is erected in. The gold of the apples on the grass and in the hands of the personages match not only the cupola and ornament of ‘Seccession,’ but also the other ‘gold’ in this region – the houses of Wagner and a few others. The green figures of the personages correspond with the mythological figures on the roofs of those same Wagnerian houses and with their strange and fantastic silhouettes against the sky.

The entire installation as a whole, so it seems, is permeated with the ‘spirit of Vienna’ as I imagine it to be. A strange and amazing life flows high above the earth on the level of its cornices and facades with their amazing population of sculptures and fantastic figures which have a special, mysterious contact with the people hurrying below. There is an enigmatic, strange contact between the ‘eternal’ city and the generations replacing one another, a connection between an unrevealed silent secret and the simple clarity of bustling everyday life.

“Tabular Poetry”

Flies, or more precisely, the depiction of flies has come to play a significant role recently in contemporary poetry, especially in that new, rapidly developing movement which has been given the name ‘tabular poetry.’ In the depiction the fly plays the role of an extra member, the idea of which lies in the fact that it is absolutely unnecessary, yet there is no possible way to get rid of it. But why then do we have this depiction and its presence at all? But more about this later; first a bit about just what ‘tabular poetry’ is.

As is well known, already in the beginning of the 20th century, in certain trends in contemporary poetry, more and more meaning began to be attributed to its ‘visualisation,’ i.e. the effect on the reader not only by means of traditional poetic devices – such as rhyme, rhythm, the letters, variation in their size. To a certain degree, poems began to turn into something resembling a painting – on the printed page arose a fountain, trees, or a portrait of the poet himself (Appollinaire, Aragon). It was proposed that the reader not only read, but also ‘contemplate’ in this way the given poem, more precisely, to combine in his perception both the former and the latter. He was to become simultaneously both a reader and a viewer of this new ‘visualverbal’ centaur. Tabular Poetry belongs to this tradition which has already become quite durable. Tabular Poetry can be described in the following way: One, or more rarely two or three, words are written into each cell of a table which has been outlined into squares, and which has been called the poetic ‘field.’


Nine stands, 170 cm x 210 cm each, are arranged in the hall. Pieces of paper with sketches, plans, drawings are nailed to each of them. Texts explaining these depictions are also glued to the stands. Each of the stands represents a proposal for some installation that was not realized for this or that reason. Each stand has a special stylized appearance of a ‘bureaucratic’ product: namely, the types of stands that hang in the corridors and offices of various establishments, of technical and other kinds of production plants.

Not only in architectural genres, but also in installations (which in one of its aspects is a little like architecture), there are many projects which are not realized, not ‘erected’1 for one reason or another.

Without going into the problem of whether or not they would have merited attention if they had been built, we would like to say that the genre itself of ‘exhibited projects’ deserves its own, most serious attention on the part of the viewer, not only in its capacity as an archival document, but as an entirely independent ‘thing of aesthetic value,’ capable in its capacity as such a ‘valuable thing’ of ‘arousing the most disturbing and profound feelings.’

Just what are these ‘feelings’ and why are they ‘profound?’ Everyone knows that ‘intentions,’ no matter what they involve, are much more direct, vivid, fresher, and more energetic than that which is actually realized according to them.

The concept, idea of creation, the author’s dream, can be more precisely read in the ‘project’ stage than in that which appears later as its material embodiment. It is interesting to follow the changes in the idea, the emergence of new variations in the many drafts, in the many initial rough sketches. And the final ‘project’ is, it seems, ready to be realized! How the author decorates it with additional aesthetic details, so that even in the form of a drawing on paper it would already appear attractive, so that it would please the eye of the contemplator and so that it would attract the attention of those on whom its realization depends!

At the same time, how much melancholy would be invoked by a stand on which sheets with similar projects, sketches for them, brief descriptions of them were glued or attached?

The contemplation of it would bring to mind thoughts about the vanity of everything, about the unrealized hopes of the author, about indifference, about the equality of the created and the uncreated, and about what nonsensical thing often separates the former from the latter.

From this emerges a touching, sad, and at the same time cheery affection for the pure expression of fantasy and dreaminess which, in essence, really comprise any project, and which can exist only in this already completed form of utopia, and this time forever.



1994Megan BartonComment