Soviet, Sacred, Sexual:
The Carnivalised Architecture in Khrzhanovskiy’s DAU
Keywords:Ilya Khrzhanovskiy; Mikhail Bakhtin; Denis Shibanov; Russia; Ukraine; Kharkiv; post-Soviet; DAU; heterotopia; grotesque; carnival; Soviet architecture; sculpture; Soviet material culture; body.
Before DAU the films, there was DAU the built environment, an architectural setting populated with flesh and bone, imbued with meaning, and endowed with agency. An eclectic, idiosyncratic, metamorphic and utterly sexualised architecture of nipples and vaginas, hands and legs, that both incarnates the Bakhtinian carnival and perpetuates it. Based on a series of interviews with the project’s set designer Denis Shibanov, the present essay explores the grotesque architecture of DAUniverse with its ‘carnal’ Institute and the ephemeral ‘City in the Sky’. Without necessarily posing problematics or drawing specific conclusions, it considers Khrzhanovskiy’s cinematic artwork through a Bakhtinian lens, providing insights into the potency of its material culture.
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