The Germany-based artist explores complex concepts of hybrid realities and utopian society in his latest exhibition at London's Hannah Barry Gallery
Day to day Viktor Timofeev is preoccupied with a blueprint for another world. City by city the Berlin based artist fuses histories idealised states and philosophers’ dreams of utopian societies into a masterLan; his own circuit board of paintings collected as exhibitions to the evident flaws but also innovation ever present in dream communities. On one level these are sublime images attentively styled with oil paints, on another they are heavily researched pieces of visual analysis that question logics boundaries.
Dazed Digital: Your first solo exhibition LOCAL_AREA_NETWORK[s] seemed to suggest the optimistic idea of a globalized village. Is MONSTROcity the antithesis of this vision?
Viktor Timofeev: MONSTROcity is the thirteenth subnetwork on the masterLAN that is the global village. I imagine it occupying a hybrid reality, where the virtual and physical blend. MONSTROcity isn't necessary an antithesis, more of an expanded narrative, exploring the further spaces of the masterLAN that were merely touched upon, or totally invisible in the LOCAL_AREA_NETWORK[s]. I made a more specific effort in MONSTROcity to blur black and white binaries such as positive or negative, embrace contradictions and ambiguities, and push vocabulary further along a linear logic, often resulting in mutations and distortions of previously established forms. It was simply necessary.
DD: The world you’ve imagined for MONSTROcity seems be full of abstract objects created by mankind, yet empty of people...
Viktor Timofeev: The lack of humans in MONSTROcity has a few reasons. The first relates to the definition of utopia and Piero della Francesca's paintings of the Ideal Renaissance City - barren arena-like piazzas, populated only by correctly proportioned architectures. I always saw these paintings as a statement on utopia - it is not possible with humans. However, I started populating MONSTROcity with characters of my own invention, hybrids. Some of them force anthropomorphic qualities on inanimate or immaterial things, some function as characters simply because of their multiplicity or scale. Humans don't need to see other humans to feel empathy. So I began to focus on this idea in MONSTROcity - telling stories using my own characters in my own world.
DD: Over time utopian architecture has often become a bankrupt symbol of dystopia. Mention Corbusier’s or Zaha Hadid’s and you’re likely to get a hateful cliché of a response. Do you think utopia’s are ever possible or merely a dream?
Viktor Timofeev: The way I studied Corbusier was never negative. I think people who criticize dreamers by pointing to clichés are generally misinformed. Sacrifices are necessary to make anything work. I have a dream of living in one of his Unité houses for example. I truly believe it would be amazing. Unfortunately, it is not possible to have the whole world living in Unité's or Villa Savoys. In that sense, utopia is yours, if you can afford it. I suppose this becomes the problem of a lot of contemporary architecture - any large scale project requires large scale funding, and more often than not, it is privately funded. The capital comes with its own set of agendas, which lead to compromises and eventually, a weakened, subdued result. That is not to say I don't believe it’s impossible. I think it is a long process with a lot of wrong turns. For example now we know that cars and TV's shouldn't let us dictate how we design out cities or living rooms. Maybe the 20th century really was a mistake in that sense. But we can only realize that having lived it. Also... I think that the greatest thing that utopian architecture can construct is in one's head. Nothing physical can compete with one's imagination, the desire to dream.
DD: You go into immense detail with your fictional universe; to the extent you define the rules of gravity. Does bending the logic of a fictional space allow you to question logic in reality?
Viktor Timofeev: The decision to invent my own context of course allows me to invent my own logical systems. However, just as the characters are created by augmenting or distorting objects from the physical world, so too are the rules of gravity or weather patterns. They always have a relationship to an exterior source, be it inverse or simply indirect, in turn creating meaning and allowing me to question the original. In this way, it functions just like sci-fi.
DD: We often associate fictional universes to sci-fi movies, the setting for a novel or a computer game world. Would you say as a craft your painting works in a similar way to these media or aims to have an alternative effect?
Viktor Timofeev: My paintings process both in the history of painting as being a window into a parallel world and the tons of new universes we have encountered via popular culture, including my own personal history with gaming and cartoons. In this way, I see them fulfilling an age old function, albeit using a vocabulary that has drastically changed.
Viktor Timofeev: 192.168.13[MONSTROcity], 15 September - 16 October 2011, Hannah Barry Gallery, 133 Copeland Road, London, SE15 3SN.