Maxim Ksuta

russian artist, contemporary art, sculpture, installation, photography

Tag: Urban Calligraphy

Maxim Ksuta “Topsy-Turvy”

Maxim Ksuta is perhaps the only Russian artist who, from project to project, consistently  studies the technical and technological capabilities of photography: the focus for his interest lies not in the sphere of the photographic image as such (Ksuta, it seems, is not about the image and its suggestive characteristics), but in manipulations of the image received, the decomposition of the photographic process into separate stages and incredibly varied mechanical deconstructions of the image in order, from the artifacts resulting from that deconstruction, to recreate a whole, to reorder the pieces that have broken up and to establish new links.

Ksuta plays with reality, using his construction set on it, as it were, as if it can be put through a basic reconstruction as the player wills it; at the same time, he is motivated by another significant circumstance which, in one way or another, could be seen in his very earliest works.

Ksuta is categorically at odds with visible reality: at odds with it in the sense that he unavoidably seeks symmetry and order within it, a visual logic which even in its faults helps us to discover beauty.He is always searching for a certain structure, he often invents it, he “imposes” it on landscapes, people, objects; he embeds a skeletal framework into the mass of chance visual impressions.

In a similar way, in his project for Triumph Gallery, Ksuta purges reality, demonstrating in space the basic photographic principle of positive/negative.

At the same time, he distinguishes one state from another with a barely visible, almost transparent border. For Ksuta, the image of the border, of division, is in fact very important – it is a special space, around and within which we can find everything that exists, and reality (as if confronted by a certain danger) acquires a very concentrated form; the border is a manifestation of the essence, passing through it is always a symbolic act of changing one’s state, and Ksuta skillfully plays with this within the space of the gallery.

The Topsy-Turvy project (the ironic title does nothing to diminish the seriousness of the undertaking) returns the spectator to another consideration that is key to the history of photography: Where does its objectivity and “truthfulness” begin and end, how far apart are visible and photographic reality?

Frequently repeated doubts regarding photography’s ability to reflect what is happening or what exists (this can be seen most distinctly in the works of the artists of the Düsseldorf School) find their latest expression in Maxim Ksuta’s project.

He does not try to get to the essence of reality, nor to capture the transience of movement or the equilibrium of color; instead, he concentrates on the essence of photography itself, the photographic process, breaking the shot down into the positive and the negative, mercilessly laying bear the structure.

Ksuta is not drawn to the visionary, he is drawn to the laboratory type of approach, employing serious scientific apparatus and the required devices. And, intriguingly, it is in this that the artist’s real ethic is revealed, the honesty of the gesture, the coherence of the program that makes possible not just the creation of new photographic series but also the ability to think with space, with physical volumes where marvelous transitions and transformations take place.

Ekaterina Inozemtseva

My project is entirely devoted to a comprehension of a stunning technology discovered about 150 years ago that has become very commonplace and everyday in recent times thanks to its mass distribution as a very convenient tool for the conveying of information. I tried to lay out and note the striking semantic and spatial emphases that form both the process itself and the discussion around modern photography.

The series of works follows a principle whereby the experience of modern art is founded on contradiction, on non-conformism, and a thesis which maintains that every subsequent step rejects the preceding step. As a result of that, I’m continuing my experiment in the changing of “photography’s state of equilibrium,” taking it out of the sphere of a documentary reflection of events and into the space of the atmospheric and the purely sensual.

Exhibiting the project as site-specific art, I’m striving to get the spectator involved in the scene of the installation, further activating his sensitivity. “The border of the division” – that’s the main conceptual highway around which the body of the composition of the project is constructed. The constructive element is the direct negative and the large photo accumulation. Why specifically the “border”?

The “border” implies a broad range of opening horizons and vectors in notional tendencies. The border and marginality are fields that haven’t been studied in great depth In the photographic process. Photography is so objective that this super-reality firmly links us with stereotypes of interpretation, shackling the imagination. Nevertheless, it is the border of the “negative”-“positive” division that fundamentally links the concepts of before and after.

A key role in the installation is played by the unfolding story of a journey between realities that are both objective, as they have been through the obyektiv — the Russian for “lens” – and been captured, but there are qualitative differences in content, as they are elements in the world and anti-world – who or what lies on which side is for you to decide.

Maxim Ksuta

All photos … … … …


To fail to find a way in a city is an ordinary thing. Another matter is to lose
your way there, like you do in a forest. This requires practice.

Walter Benjamin “Childhood in Berlin at the Turn of the Century”


Losing your way in your own city is next to impossible: you need to possess Benjamin’s skills of a flaneur to stray from your habitual routes.  anging around without any certain purpose is a task hardly feasible for the modern city dweller. A lonely walk is, rather, an attribute of literature, a true companion of romantics and melancholics, not of people always in a hurry on some extremely important business. At the very moment when an imaginary city map with a fantastic topography starts to form in Benjamin’s mind, Maxim Ksuta shifts his gaze upwards, and his routes lie in a different plane where the sky of the city is lined with electric wires turning it into a graphic surface. Fussy reality seems to draw back, the space is cleaned to a near sterility — before us there are “sheets” which resemble either works by the American minimalists — from Agnes Martin to Fred Sandbeck, or the static compositions of the Russian constructivists.

The comparison with minimalism in this case is far from being casual: Ksuta’s works come in a series. The same theme can be endlessly and  aturally varied — the artist consciously uses his means sparingly, intensifying at the same time the effect of recognizing more than just specific electric cables in abstract lines and spirals. The serial nature of the works contain a different energy and another type of movement, the change of focus is dynamic, the viewer is led not by the logic of reality, but by the dimensional arrangement of each composition. In a certain sense, Ksuta does not build a photographic frame working with proportions, dimensions and density of real objects, but solves purely artistic tasks, as if he is free
to cover the sky of the city with lines of the required thickness, to build or to break the symmetry. There were few who allowed themselves the liberty to reshape visible reality: among them are Alexander Rodchenko and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who turned photography into a valuable artistic means which provided the artist with no fewer opportunities for imagination than traditional painting and drawing.

Ksuta skilfully maintains the balance between the specific and the entirely abstract. In his series you can even feel the almost imperceptible rhythm when in a row of ideal geometrical constructions are inserted images of a clearly identifiable landscape, of birds caught in the wires, of posts and other marks of the Moscow landscape. he doesn’t remove from the city its symbolic and visual essence which might express, indicate, determine. There is nothing exceptional in his attitude, no desire to make a grand gesture. On the contrary: his series develops steadily
and tactfully in relation to the viewer and, notably, not at all in the space, which is everywhere the same: the grey sky, the wires, but within time. All the photographs are marked with the date when they were taken, and one doesn’t even feel like seeking logic here: it’s hardly relevant, if there is any at all. It’s just that once you stray from what is familiar and come to see the previously unknown systems, structures and forms of life (as in the video ‘16072010’, which features in the exhibition), which are visible only to the perceptive eye of a flaneur. And the moths flying unbelievably fast around the lantern in Ksuta’s video turn into galaxies, clusters of strange, glowing objects. We lose our usual perception of gravity, scale and reality itself, falling readily for the power of the image which is capable of revealing a different, phantasmagoric space.

Ekaterina Inozemtseva