Whose Are Those Wings?


YEAR: 1991



The artist

Collection City of Utrecht


Utrecht, Netherlands
Nachtregels/Night Lines, 27 Apr 1991 — 15 Oct 1991 (Organisation: Centraal Museum, Utrecht)


I made a large frame from neon green tubes with transverse lines in the middle. Inside of this frame, at equal intervals of 14 seconds, blue wings would appear either along the edges or along the top or near the central line. Each phase of their appearance is accompanied by a text arising from beneath the frame on the right and left sides. These texts are dialogues between a man and a woman, each time different ones, called by name and patronymic as is customary in Russia, i.e. with great precision. The woman asks and the man answers: “Whose are those wings ?” “I don’t know.” This repeats three times. Moreover, the wings change their position three times. In the fourth position, all 6 wings appear simultaneously and the inscription, ‘No one knows whose wings those are,’ lights up underneath them. After this phase fades, the entire cycle begins again. The rhythm of the appearance and changing of the wings and the repetition of the entire cycle created, to a certain degree, a bewitching impression, especially in combination with the continually burning, ‘unsleeping’ window where the silhouettes of the police personnel could be seen: this shining window and the figures beyond it were included in the overall composition. Without a doubt, this was a paraphrase of advertising announcements, but with its own ridiculous, absurd nuance. I don’t know, perhaps the police chief liked the humor of this installation, but a short while after the end of the festival, I learned that it was decided to leave this installation on the wall permanently.

Here are all four phases in sequence:

Phase I: The wings are on the side, the text below:

Anna Petrovna Ryss: “Whose are those wings?” Boris Pavlovich Koss: “I don’t know.”

Phase II: The wings are up above, the text below:

Olga Ivanovna Bobrova: “Whose are those wings?”

Ivan Igorevich Gorin: “I don’t know.”

Phase III: The wings are to the sides of the central line, the text below: Lydia Markovna Popova: “Whose wings are those?” Pavel Ilich Kostin: “I don’t know.”

Phase IV: All the wings appear simultaneously in their respective phases, the text below: “No one knows whose wings those are.”


In May 1991, a large artistic program was supposed to have been held, a unique kind of festival organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Utrecht by the name ‘Night Lines.’ The artists were supposed to create their compositions from various lighting objects, since everything, the entire show, the entire festival, was intended to begin and take place at night. The participants could choose the objects and places where they wanted to erect their works. I chose the wall of the city police department, a large old brick wall that was completely empty except for one window which I knew would definitely be illuminated at night – after all, it’s a police department. I conceived of a plot for a future installation that was appropriate for this place – a plot in which the main element would become a search for someone, something.



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1991Megan BartonComment