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In 1968 Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote that “beauty will save the world”. One hundred and fifty years later, it remains to be seen; but one thing is for sure, it can definitely distract us from the outside world during the global pandemic.
Now that people around the world are forced to stay home, they are looking for creative ways to keep boredom and melancholy at bay. A special photographic challenge has spread like wildfire on social media: recreating famous works of art using common household objects.
Surgical masks and thermometers, symbols of the COVID-19 pandemic, are outstanding props in recreations. A man with a chinstrap mask, his open mouth drawn with a marker, poses in a domestic version of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Rolls of toilet paper (another symbol of this era) serve as a toupee for a man sitting in front of the piano, who imitates a famous painting by Mozart. They are some of the examples of the inexhaustible creativity of the Russian Facebook group “IZOIZOLIZACIA”. It is not an exaggeration to say that the page has become a national compulsion.
– Vogel (@ Artwings31) April 21, 2020
The group's name is a composite of the Russian words “isolation” and “visual art.” To date, it has more than 500,000 members and more than one hundred publications per day. Despite the fact that the majority of the members of this cheerful group are Russians, it connects people from all over the world in these times of increased uncertainty. Izoizolyatsiya's motto says to everyone: “a community of people with limited mobility and an imagination without limits.” The founder of the Facebook group, Katerina Brudnaya-Chelyadinova, 38, has a few rules: props should be made from whatever you have at home, photos are not allowed to be edited, and there will be no Black Square-style interpretations of Kazimir Malevich, unless they're really fun.
For example, Brudnaya-Chelyadinova, who works for Russian digital giant Mail.Ru, started the challenge when she posted on Facebook a photograph of her husband wearing a straw hat as Vicent Van Gogh. When his friends asked his friends to post their own interpretations of famous paintings, many joined the challenge. To consolidate the huge number of submissions, on March 30, he created the Facebook group. To date, they have more than 2,500 members.
In an April 17 interview in the Russian news channel RBK, Brudnaya-Chelyadinova revealed that she is not alone in managing and leading the group, with great popular growth in April 2020. “Now we have 11 moderators who are keeping it going. the group at every moment of the day, from the United States to New Zealand, “he said. “It is an immense effort from friends around the world.”
International membership reflects the fact that Izoizolyatsiya is just one of the many incarnations of the viral art challenge. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, social media has had several art galleries around the world that have launched similar initiatives.
It is not surprising that the members of Izoizolyatsiya have a special love for famous works of art from Russia and the former Soviet Union. “It seems like we were a little more ironic with ourselves in this group,” Brudnaya-Chelyadinova admitted in an interview for RuNet Echo.
Certainly, many of the images that are published are very creative and self-critical in their re-creation of the most valuable Russian paintings. Vasilii Vereshagin's mountain of skulls in “The Apotheosis of War” is rethought as scattered Lego heads. Another image characterizes a cat that imitates Lenin's greeting. Ivan Shishkin's iconic bears in “Morning in a Pine Forest” are represented by cookies with a lettuce background.
There are also some famous interpretations of foreign works of art. “The Last Supper” is recreated with nurses instead of apostles; In Leonardo Da Vinci's “Savior of the World” a model of Jesus appears holding a jar of pickles instead of the globe. Some wearers put on a tutu to recreate Edgar Degas' famous ballerina paintings, others wore a Russian fur hat with ear flaps, Ushanka, to reproduce Van Gogh's self-portrait after the accident.
The restriction of the challenge has prompted many participants to experiment with the everyday objects they have in their homes. A user from Israel posed as Salvador Dalí, decorated with intense makeup and melted clocks made of paper. One woman recreated “Pandora” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, only the gold box of the painting was replaced with the McDonald's takeout wrap. A Jackson Pollock painting was depicted with a pile of branches.
One of the group's most popular publications, by Natalia Shevchenko, represents “Dance”, Henri Matisse's masterpiece from 1940, recreated with shrimp and walnuts in a plastic bag. Earned over 39,000 LIKES.
Many of these reimagined works are also selfies of amateur models in their homes during quarantine. In many, spouses, partners, pets, grandparents and babies appear. Izoizolyatsiya's Facebook page is full of lonely faces looking for a connection and it is evident that they found it.
Like all social media trends, the challenge raises its own questions: Are reenactments of famous art just new or is there a deeper need to connect with art and with each other? Brudnaya-Chelyadinova believes in the latter. “On the one hand, it is true that the challenge of art is a game, but there is also another way to connect and draw attention to timeless art and thus find comfort in society,” he concludes.