Helsinki! 09.02.2018 – 29.07.2018: Exhibition Stardust from Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe . For the second part of our trip in Finland (catch up with part one here), in its most renowned contemporary art museum Kiasma, artist Fleur Helluin chose the exhibition Stardust. Curated by Jari-Pekka Vanhala, it shows a selection of the works of the Russian drag artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (1969-2013).
As RuPaul’s All Stars season 3 is airing at the moment, the fans of the Art of Drag gather once again. The art form has been growing more and more mainstream and, as Mama Ru points out regularly, it is of the utmost importance to know where it comes from and to understand the legacy of the individuals that have been engaging in this practice. Mamyshev-Monroe’s works cover the optimism awakened by Gorbachev’s reforms (perestroika), the collapse of Soviet Union and critical stances towards Russia in the 2000s. This is when he bloomed.
At first very CindySherman-esque, the portraits in drag are medium sized photographs presented in three rooms. In the first room, a series of photos made in a professional studio, with professional and quite polished make-up and costumes. Next, a hilarious series of Communist party officials whose photo has been dragged. In this body of work, Mamyshev-Monroe shows the first quality that distinguishes him from Sherman : the hand job. Besides the pun, his painting work is noteworthy and establishes very different kind of aesthetically connection than Sherman. This underlines an aspect of the Art of Drag that is often underestimated: Make-Up is paint, and making-up a face is basically painting.
A hilarious video shows Mamyshev-Monroe impersonating Brigitte Bardot. As a French, I was specially touched by this work. He’s so on point and of course his makeshift French is to die for. Oddly enough, he starts carving out an image in the background in the middle of the video. I didn’t really understand the gesture, but really appreciated to see his hand at work.
It’s a very touching exhibition. Of course, there’s a good part of humour in all the works, and I’ve enjoyed extremely seeing all the details in the most seemingly extemporaneous photo shoots.
We’re born naked and the rest is drag.
WHAT? Exhibition Stardust from Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe
WHERE? Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum in Helsinki
WHEN? 09.02.2018 – 29.07.2018