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Sensors, Switches, Hooks: Why Permanent Exhibition Needs Fidget Toys

Sensors, Switches, Hooks: Why Permanent Exhibition Needs Fidget Toys

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

Alexei Ryumin, curator of the HSE Art and Design School's track in Animation and illustration has launched The Permanent Exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is being held as part of MMOMA's Young Art Support Programme can be seen until May 15.

Closed service doors, shafts, switches, alarms and sockets are rarely noticed but these take centre stage in Ryumin's exhibition. The artist invites visitors to take on the role of museum caretaker, navigate through the maze of a museum worker’s normal day and to sense the importance of every detail, even those as small as a crack on the wall. 'Visitors will see a lot of paint', says Ryumin, 'and get the impression of very few items on display. A visitor may then move on to see the last exhibit, thinking perhaps that it is the only one to see here. But they will find four exhibits instead of one and read the curatorial text – as agreed with Sergei Babkin (MOMMA curator and art critic - Ed.)'.

Alexei Ryumin
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

The Permanent Exhibition got its name, according to Ruymin, because the main exhibits are built-in items such as fire alarms, switches, lamps and hooks. 'They are like fidget toys for me – something you can use to relieve stress and anxiety'.

Fidget toys are handheld items – such as squishers, pop-its or simple-dimples – that can be squeezed and twisted for emotional relief.

Visitors can watch a short looped animation of a waitress coming to work time and again only to be fired and killed every night. The idea is to create a feeling of anxiety and insecurity. 'The video shows us the waitress' working day which ends badly, as her boss fires and kills her. But this may be just her neurotic imagination, because she always comes back to work on the next day and sees her colleague clean off a blood stain left from the previous night', Ryumin explains. ‘Several outstanding people have helped me with this project. For example, Peter Nalitch voiced the character in the animation and has perhaps forgotten about it, but I will remind him'.

It appears that the visitors appreciate this artistic concept. 'Alexey has certainly succeeded as an artist, because the most important role of art is to engage and influence the viewer', according to Angelina Ryzhenkina, a visitor of The Permanent Exhibition. 'The author takes us beyond the usual perception of art and museums. At the entrance to the display, one can see a text collage telling us about the typical, boring day of a museum worker. The artist then removes all other exhibits to give the audience a new perspective, so that we are forced to notice and appreciate things such as a chair or a plug socket, which we usually take for granted'.

Another visitor, Sofia Timchenko, admits finding the exhibition very strange at first: 'I went to the sound in the last room where the video was being screened. All the spaces were empty. I asked myself, is this all there is to see? A few minutes later, I realized that the exhibits were actually all around me. It turned out there were so many items I had not noticed before. We take them for granted in our everyday lives but probably shouldn’t. This is what the artist has set out to do: make us aware of the things we take for granted'.

Yulia Baranova
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

For the exhibition producer, Yulia Baranova, this is her third project with Ryumin: 'My role in these three projects has been to make sure that whatever the artist has created in his imagination turns out exactly as conceived. I have a kind of mantra which I sometimes say to artists: everything should be exactly as you imagine it, otherwise we will redo it right now'. Yulia also offers feedback every time Alexei shares his ideas about a potential future project, telling him how she feels about it. 'This particular exhibition feels unsettling to me, but I realise that it is what we need right now when so many disturbing things are happening around us which cannot be ignored', the producer says. 'While we were preparing the exhibition, I thought that visitors would experience a different kind of anxiety and I hoped that being momentarily transported to the artist's world would awaken new feelings in them – and it has worked out. There are not many items on display, but the main exhibit for me is the space itself, somewhere that has a whole new feel to it now that the walls have been painted our chosen colour'.

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