The Petersburg artist, on the other hand, submerges the viewer in a magical realism entangled in folklore and anecdote. In this sense he carries on the line of World of Art artists Nikolai Sapunov and Stepan Sudeikin, who take regular excursions into symbolic Folk territory. The simple mechanism of Shishkin-Hokusai’s installations seems like a distant relative of the carousel painted by Sapunov.

There is no plot to riding a carousel – just a whirlwind of excitement that captivates everyone from the least to the greatest. If Shishkin-Hokusai does write scripts for his objects, he keeps them a secret. Sometimes it is possible to logically and consistently retell the sequence of movements made by separate elements of the artist’s machines, but more often than not, any allegorical meaning behind his kinetic sculptures remains hidden. The contrast between the bare mechanical parts and the style of representing characters is pushed to the foreground, reminiscent of a metaphysical caricature of Garif Basyrov, Leonid Tishkov, and other graphic artists who started in the 1980’s. However, Shishkin is too interested in the process of animating figures to give them any lasting meaning. Here, mechanics are inseparable from the graphical image, which might be very simple – as a pot on the stove is taken apart and put together again in a domestic scene.

To a World of Art artist, the carousel is not just the ideal stage for a multi-person composition in a place rich in people types (a fair), but it is also a metaphor for sexual arousal that seizes the participants in pagan dances with mechanical stuffing. Shishkin-Hokusai also sees the connection between flight and the erotic: many of the objects in “12 Sounds of the Human Body” include naked women who seem to be caught in fragrante delicto. One of them is taking off for seventh heaven, others are waking a sleeping bear, and still others are taking pleasure in food and urinating at the same time. The association of levitation with this basic instinct is well-described in psychoanalysis and richly illustrated by the surrealists – we need only recall Salvador Dali’s photographs and still lifes with flying furniture and dishes. Flight strips us of shame and is strongly connected to fears. One of Shishkin-Hokusai’s works takes place on a bed. There is a chair standing right on the sheet, and under it is a basin for washing feet. On the chair, in the pose of a frightened Eros, a naked boy is jumping; next to him, there is a woman on a pitcher. Anthropomorphic characters in confusion: a dog has jumped on the bed, and the label “woof” leaps out of its jaws. It is not clear what stirred the dog – if it is incest, or a normal bedtime routine. The duality of the act emphasizes the idea, so valued by Shishkin-Hokusai, of the complete ambiguity and incoherence of the world. Everything on earth is no more than a pretext to build a new carousel, and reality just tosses in additional material for paradoxical mechanical toys. 


“Riverbank of Slaves” repatriates works made by the artist for the Russian pavilion at the Venice biennale in 2019, and supplements them with new items. Unlike the installation by Alexander Sokurov, Shishkin-Hokusai’s project was not shown at the Hermitage. This is understandable: the Hermitage in Shihskin-Hokusia’s version has the same relation to the museum itself as Heiner Müller’s play “The Hamlet Machine” has to Shakespeare’s original. The artist rejects the transmission of static symbols of major culture in favor of an active approach to the dramaturgy of museum display. Shishkin-Hokusai developed his own type of alarming Beings that disarm the audience. They are (usually) nude girls drawn with several lines on plywood. They are immersed in contemplation and interaction with (sometimes) invisible companions or objects. They either draw a harsh reaction to nakedness as such, or a feeling of shame in voyeurism, causing a breakdown in erotic markers: their poses and activities contain no hint of the act of seduction. The successors of the girls of the American outsider artist Henri Darger, the maidens of the surrealist Paul Delvaux and the heroines of Hayao Miyazaki, they act in such a way to stop all other movements and motivations around them. series of uncharacteristically blue sculptures, which seem to be a response to the calls for decolonization of

national museums. Portraits of female models from South East Asia and Africa are displayed with anthropomorphic bags tied up with ropes. But the story of these items is not a battle with forced exoticization. It is another consideration of the position of “living machines”, whether they are servants as robots, or overseers of the ideals of communities. Is a “museum of cruelty” possible, in which pictures are free from

consumer reflex, from the status of inviolable treasures, and from evidence in studying the manipulation of power? And what needs to be freed most of all, the viewer or the work? To find answers to these questions, Shishkin-Hokusai translates the museum ritual into his own language and discusses all the components of the process of interaction with art in one breath, practically in one line. This is the topography of ruins of our personal private Europe. A study in the form of a theatrical performance, where different forms of beauty are adjusted by tools of coercion – and vice versa. If cruelty is an idea in practice, then the ambiguity of an image, i.e. potential without realization, is the basis of the museum of cruelty.