OBJECTS. 2006-2017.

Vladimir Kozin is one of the most paradoxical artists of St. Petersburg who reinterprets the world of art history with irony. He is a member of the artistic group The New Stupid, the creator of the Mousetrap Museum of Contemporary Art, and founder of the PARAZIT gallery.

Kozin is known for practically having a patent on the use of materials such as car tires and plywood in contemporary Russian art. The cheap household material that seems unsuitable for creating high art in the traditional sense is the basis of his sculptural compositions, objects, and installations. 

Kozin believes that poor art began with Van Gogh. Van Gogh's Boot is dedicated to the most famous pair of boots in art, painted in 1886. It was this painting that served as the basis for Martin Heidegger's reflection on the difference between a thing and a piece of art in The Origin of the Work of Art.

Kozin is a star of Russian Povera (an exhibition organized by Marat Guelman that marked an important trend in contemporary Russian art). The artist transforms everyday objects from lowly to lofty, using tires to create monuments to a teapot, an iceskate, and a razor... This tradition originates in the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, and Kozin repeatedly references this artist, along with Picasso, Malevich, and Tatlin.

High and Low. Picasso's Guitar with a Fly Swatter and a Mousetrap demonstrates the alogism discovered by Malevich in Cow and Violin (1913), when incompatible objects are combined in a single work and the artist abandons normal logic. Matyushin, Malevich, Filonov the Mousetrap and Tatlin the Snare is homage to the main characters of the early twentieth century, while at the same time it is a dispute with the avant-garde, which declared war in art. Kozin is a pacifist who takes mousetraps and snares out of circulation as weapons of murder. 

So, for the Mousetrap Museum of Contemporary Art that he founded in 2000, he bought mousetraps and distributed them to his artist friends to create works of art, thus transforming the art of war declared by man against the animal world into the history of art. In contrast to Claes Oldenburg's Mouse Museum (1965-77), it symbolizes not a heroic Disney mouse, but a weapon for destroying its living prototype. Reconstruction: A Trap for Mice is a conceptual work and a protest against murder, just like Little Pacifist – a child's shirt made from a car tire and hung by the sleeves with two mousetraps.

The snares and mousetraps placed along the artist's path are part of an ongoing theme for Kozin – finding one's place in the history of art. In a series of photographs taken in the toilet in his workshop, he posed the question: What makes me any worse than Rembrandt, Malevich, Kuindzhi, or Kabakov? 

Exercise Equipment: Kill Your Inner Kabakov (the name was suggested by the sculptor Boris Orlov) is addressed to the work of the founder of Moscow conceptualism and one of the most famous Russian artists. Kabakov's fly depicted on enamel is set to be killed with a rolled-up Pravda newspaper. This ironic work conceals a frightening question-statement that was asserted in Kabakov's early text and in his installation Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future (2001). Kozin's response is Everyone will be taken into the future. However, this future is not a cloudless paradise, but a terrifying ideological hell: a series of plywood skulls pierced by ideology – the Soviet sickle, Trotsky's ice ax, Pol Pot's scythe... The plywood vanitas fit on the letters THE END as at the end of a film. 

Plywood – the poor material used for displaying propaganda and making crafts at home – is also used to make the Portrait of Van Gogh With His Ear Cut Off as a Birdhouse and a Bird Feeder. This portrait recalls both cubist models, and Peter Pavlensky's Severance performance (2014), when he cut off his earlobe as a protest against the use of psychiatry in politics. 

The artist touchingly attends to the utilitarian nature of his works. In the large-scale plywood Landscape with Salvador Dali's Persistence of Time and the Skull of Oleg the Prophet, the skull can serve as a home for amphibians. The wooden stool chained to the landscape includes the viewer in the work, not allowing you to leave the area of visibility. The changing viewpoint on art is what the modern artist has inherited from previous eras. He can pray to the Suprematist Diptych Icon, turn Morning in a Pine Forest into a lamp, electrify Black Square, and freeze Beuys' rubber Fat Chair with a refrigerator lightbulb, aware of the fact that Everything Has Its Time. This is the name of a series of vanitas played out with plastic skeletons on the theme of unmistakably recognizable works of art, whether it is Goya's Horror of War, Picasso's Girl on the Ball, or Mukhina's Worker and Kolkhoz Woman.

The artist is a viewfinder, and his purpose is to direct the point of view. Portable Viewfinders, which Kozin has been doing since the time of The New Stupid, let you look through the prism of visual images and the intersection of coordinates to see the artist's dream of great and pure art. This dream breaks up and argues with the famous statement of Theophile Gautier, who defended the ideal of pure art: Nothing is truly beautiful unless it cannot be used for anything; everything that is useful is ugly because it is the expression of some need, and those of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and infirm nature. The most useful place in a house is the water-closet. It was actually Kozin's rubber toilet that was recently added to the collection of the Russian Museum, which stores the works of his heroes, the artists of the Russian avant-garde. 

Olesya Turkina


The mousetrap has long been an object of attention and focus of creative efforts for Vladimir Kozin. 25 years ago, he founded the museum “Mousetrap of Contemporary Art”. The artist asked his colleagues to use ordinary rodent traps as a basis for their works. The result was a picture of the artistic scene from the late 90s – early 2000s, recording personal ties, stages of creative paths and types of artistic thinking.

A device for killing mice was transformed into a tool for capturing time and recording changeable memory. Ever since, the mousetrap as a medium and a metaphor has never left Kozin’s artistic arsenal. A new version of this theme, presented to viewers as a “Museum for mice”, also features a selection by the artist, but this time it includes truly classic international artists of the 20th- 21st centuries. The list was made according to the principle of personal preference – the history of art which the artist would like to share, to take to a desert island. Every “big name” is presented in Kozin’s pantheon by a mouse trap homage, which maintains a sometimes direct and sometimes associative link with the legacy or authorial style of the celebrity prototype. The artist himself explains his gesture as follows: Russian art lacks scale, owing to material circumstances. Russian viewers should imagine that they have shrunk to the size of mice, so that when they look at these gigantic mousetraps they feel the magnitude and

grandeur of contemporary art.

The image of a mouse timidly scratching away somewhere behind the skirting board, and evidently organizing a museum there, is revealed

in the new configuration of Russian culture from an unexpected side. Contemporary art and all contemporaneity along with it regain the status of a suspicious, semi-underground territory, a risk zone. The heretic mouse, hanging up its homemade contemporary icons, demonstrates a quiet act of fidelity to the international artistic process. And in this situation, Damien Hurst’s work of chewed wooden buns is not perceived as a cargo cult practice or a ritual self-mockery. This is now an important effort of memory, an act of resistance, preserving and vindicating one’s own system of values. Including spiritual ones.

Техт: Alexander Dashevsky


Viewers often associate an artist with one method or material, despite a long creative path and a diversity of practices. Manzoni is associated with excrement, Beuys with felt, Uecker with nails, and Christo with wrapping fabric. If Vladimir Kozin is to be reduced so mercilessly, then he is associated with rubber. His works made from the inner tubes of car tires appeared in museum and private collections all over the world, and continue to roam through numerous exhibitions, highly appreciated by connoisseurs of Russian contemporary art.

If in the past the rubber objects functioned in the exhibition space primarily as a large sculpture, now they have a background and have

turned into mountain reliefs, gloomily shining like beetles’ shells. The austere items are placed on a background as black as Malevich’s

square, as if they had frozen on the threshold of eternity. The perception gradually shifts from the “poor” subject and material into the unexpectedly majestic inner space of the work. A bra, a pubic louse, an axe, a pair of scissors come to resemble religious symbols. And even

the “moonlight” that seems cheerful at first glance, the cross-section of a rubber inner tube with an electric lamp placed inside it, at second

glass it starts to seem mystical. The unconcealed simplicity of the method only adds to this somewhat malevolent effect. Half of the objects presented in this series are weapons or tools for causing suffering. The artist has displayed automatic weapons, knives and pistols before, but they were exhibited in wire cages, like captured predators. Now they have been freed from restrictions and calmly demonstrate their full presence in contemporaneity.

The name of the project is not just a reference to the famous suprematist primary source. In the avantgarde and subsequent modernist movements, there was frequent discussion of the light emanating from a picture, which was not only reflected but also created by it. Kozin inverts this concept so that objects radiate darkness. By saying that black is white, the artist literally visualizes one of the most characteristic features of the experienced historical moment.

Техт: Alexander Dashevsky