Ilya Chichkan’s exhibition “Psycho-Darwinism. Practical humanism”


Ilya Chichkan’s exhibition “Psycho-Darwinism. Practical humanism”

The Museum of Odesa Modern Art will host an exhibition by artist Ilya Chichkan.

The new cycle of works is dedicated to the masterpieces of classical realistic painting. The artist ironizes the ideological influence of outstanding works of art and offers a new look at the cultural heritage of past eras. The exhibition is an imitation of a chamber museum hall, where works that “everyone should know” are concentrated. This model room is a caricature, a crooked mirror of the museum, where Chichkan mocks the museum pathos and rejects the tradition of worshiping the imperial canon and the imaginary complexity of art.

The artist himself talks about his long-term project:

“An intelligent, upright person enters a museum with fear and curiosity, as if he were a primate ancestor. Both are afraid of the unknown, because art is like a jungle: it’s easy to get lost, but it’s a little harder to find meaning.”

“Psycho-Darwinism” is a term that combines a vulgarized understanding of the works of Darwin, Marx, and Freud: it was not labor that made man into an ape, but sex and aggression.

“The pandemic has demonstrated the insurmountable equality of the homo sapiens species: the disease of a poor man in China has been echoed in the estate of the Prince of Wales. The problem of economic and legal inequality can now be defined as a biological threat. One of those that transforms our world from a globalized one into a global one where everyone is connected to everyone, whether we want it or not,” writes art critic Kostiantyn Doroshenko.

The Dutch scientist Frans de Wal published a study entitled Politics in Chimpanzees, which has been reprinted and studied in Western sociological institutes for forty years. It proves that hierarchy, manipulation of sexuality, and the struggle for power with intrigue and coalitions exist in primates beyond culture and civilization. Chichkan reminds us of these primal characteristics.

“In world culture, the monkey is almost always a caricature of a human being. Criticism of ‘nature’ breaks through ‘culture’, hence the ‘psycho-Darwinism’ in the project’s title. But in Chychkan’s work, it is impossible not to notice that the artist identifies with all the characters. By and large, all of his works are self-portraits,” says Marat Gelman.

The greatness of moral authorities and the unshakable value of cultural codes are being rethought in terms of real, practical humanism, which is based not on the ideas and models of anthropocentrism but on the right of every species to be itself.


Project curators: Marat Gelman, Andriy Siguntsov