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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A monkey and the essence

“Code of Mezhyhiria,” an exhibit of “artifacts” from Yanukovych’s residence, opens at the National Museum of Art
7 May, 2014 - 17:36
Photo by Oleksii IVANOV

Beauty is an extremely conditional notion. The host of the Mezhyhiria residence must have thought that the items he had accumulated for years were beautiful. Nobody knows how a few real works of art got there: a Pablo Picasso vase, canvases by Vasily Polenov and Ivan Aivazovsky, a Byzantine icon dated 14th century, Apostle printed by Ivan Fedorov (1547). But we won’t pay attention to exceptions, because we take interest in the diagnosis, i.e., the logic.

However, there is nothing new I can say. Starting with the thicket of gold chandeliers in the first hall and finishing with the guns on the walls on the last one, the “Code of Mezhyhiria” is a total paradox of devouring, like the lining of a huge mental stomach, which is trying to fill itself with the beauty it lacked in its youth, full of envy: faience, china, cut-glass ware, kitchenware, paintings depicting the good living of lords in the style of “Antoine Watteau’s death,” and abounding gilding – it seems that a miserable flat of the Soviet 1970s suddenly grew into a paradise of its own, reaching the size of a palace, but still remaining a poor hut.

The compilers tried to bring some order to this monster, infuriated by its own glitter, by putting a noose of irony on its neck. They called the exhibit “Code of Mezhyhiria” in the meaning of a code as a collection of books under the same cover, so the titles of different parts of the exposition sound like “The Book of Time,” “The Book of Water,” “The Book of Transparency,” “The Book of Courtesy,” etc; but the post-modernist tricks do not work here, because it is still about the same thing, which is defined by the title of one of the halls – the Book of Vanity. By the way, this hall is the most interesting: it gathers the portraits of the former president. I want to stay here for a while. I immediately recalled the words of currently quiet Hanna Herman when she said that she had heard much about Africa, but when she got there for the first time, she had to forget what she had known – so, Yanukovych is “just like Africa,” which means he has many faces, like an entire continent.

For example, the Yanukovych depicted by one of the most skillful painting cheaters, Nikas Safronov, does not look like real Yanukovych at all, and, in particular, he does not look like the Yanukovych laid out of rice, and the Yanukovych printed on a Chinese plate considerably differs from the obese man on a painting with an emotional orange background, a present of an Armenian delegation. There is also a small sculpture form: a 20-centimeter-tall bronze man with an ecstatic face stands on a pedestal with an inscription: “Together to our victory” is Yanukovych as well. On the same shelf there are diamond collar-studs with an inscription “Crystal of Dream” on the case. Dreams and stars always attract one another. In the far corner there is a certificate on inscribing to the one who promised to hear everyone one or two innocent stars. One star is called “Vira. Nadia. Liubov” (Faith. Hope. Love), the second one is called “Viktor Yanukovych.” Incidentally, there were reports that such certificates are worthless pieces of paper, and they have nothing in common with real celestial bodies. Near the stars there is a picture painted by a football star, another extremely specific man called Diego Maradona. At a French resort he, together with Russian artist Yulia Kosulnikova, copied a photo of the Ukrainian combined team. The No. 10 wears the uniform of the Argentine national team – this is Maradona himself, who has modestly, which is untypical of him, painted over his face. But we have been distracted.

Three canvases from Pshonka’s estate throw down a worthy challenge to the iconostasis of his former boss. Pshonka depicted like Kutuzov on a battlefield, and his face was cut by some admirer; the retinue includes his fellows from the Prosecutor General’s Office. A painting depicting Pshonka’s wife as Elizabeth of Russia is in a luxurious gold frame. A painting that shows Yanukovych and Pshonka together: this time someone has cut the face of the boss. But the most incredible in the hall of vanity is not the stars, Pshonkas, sculptures, but a life-size puppet of Viktor Yanukovych, wearing a sports suit, which is sitting at ease on the box which reads “Mail.” Apparently, the idea was to make a kind of a wax figure, but the result turned out to be a scarecrow, which is so funny that the idea suggests itself that the former leader had a great sense of humor, but taking into account the context, the only, although incredible, idea remains that everything was done with absolute seriousness.

The last hall is dedicated to hunting. As is known, the former president was a passionate hunter. Bronze horses and rhinos run on the glass wardrobe for the winner’s cup in the category “Best Hunter for Elk.” Only listen to this phrase: “Best Hunter for Elk.”

Under the glass there is also a fleece of the unborn lamb. This is a trophy as well. On a separate stand there are old books about hunting, one of which gives a pleasant understanding that the former head of state, among other skills, knew Latin.

There is also a crocodile skin in that hall. It was hardly the owner of the estate who killed him, because a crocodile is his own kin.

I could have written that it is the end of story, but there is something left.

There are numerous images of animals at the exhibit. They include four monkeys. The first one meets the guests among the golden chandeliers, trampling sham books with its paws, and holding a round lamp with its tail. The statuettes of two monkeys stand in front of a mirror in the courtesy hall: one is hitting the drum, another one is dancing on the drum. Finally, there is a painting of a tiny macaque in the same hall: it is sitting on a branch, eating grapes, for delectation of two ladies in splendid dresses.

Yanukovych did not have time to hunt after monkeys. His collection does not include any stuffed monkeys. These several sculptures and a picture are all he had. This is another element of philistine bestiary.

However, everything in this collection is symbolical. A small group of primates, creating a dotted line of implications, leads us to a nice finale of the tour.

… but man, proud man,

Drest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he’s

most assured,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before

high heaven

As make the angels weep; who,

with our spleens,

Would all themselves laugh mortal.

(Shakespeare, Measure for Measure)

By Dmytro DESIATERYK, The Day