• The Future of Russian Dystopia

    Spotlight on Vladimir Sorokin’s ‘Day of the Oprichnik’ Exhibition

In a bold convergence of literature and technology, renowned Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin introduces his latest project, “DAY OF THE OPRICHNIK – #cancelrussianculture” based on his eponymous dystopian novel. The novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, offers a satirical vision of Russia’s future under its current political trajectory, set in a 2028 Russia isolated by the Great Russian Wall. The story is rich with Sorokin’s signature dark humour and inventive narrative style.

At the heart of this exhibition lies Sorokin’s seminal work, “The Day of the Oprichnik.” Set in a not-so-distant future, the novel portrays a Russia that has regressed into a neo-feudal state, enclosed by an immense wall and governed by a brutal elite known as the oprichniki. Through the eyes of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga, a loyal oprichnik, Sorokin presents a chilling satire that critiques authoritarianism, nationalism, and the cyclical nature of history.

The narrative is both stark and surreal, painting a picture of a society where the past and future collide in grotesque harmony.Sorokin’s masterful storytelling is evident in his ability to blend the grotesque with the mundane, creating a world that is disturbingly plausible yet absurdly exaggerated.

His use of dark humour and vivid imagery serves not only to entertain but to provoke deep reflection on the political and cultural currents shaping contemporary Russia. Marat Guelman, a visionary art curator, proposed a parallel project to Sorokin’s latest exhibition, utilising artificial intelligence (AI) to bring characters from “The Day of the Oprichnik” to life.

This collaboration has led to an extraordinary exploration of the intersection between human creativity and machine learning, producing results that even surprised Sorokin. The AI has not only cloned literary classics but also endowed them with an autonomous existence, prompting a profound reflection on the evolution of literature in the digital age.

To balance the digital elements of the exhibition, Sorokin has also included his graphic works. He believes these pieces add a crucial human factor, grounding the technologically advanced aspects of the project with tangible, personal artistry.

“Looking into the eyes of my characters, brought to life by rapidly evolving AI, I understood that literature in our time has ceased to be a book that can be taken off the shelf, read, and placed back.

The 21st century challenges literature: can it correspond? Is it falling behind? Can it keep up? Or is it hopelessly outdated and now condemned to forever settle in second-hand bookstores, libraries, and philological articles?” Sorokin remarked.Sorokin’s exhibition invites viewers to engage with these questions and witness firsthand the dynamic interplay between traditional storytelling and modern technology.

By leveraging AI, Sorokin’s characters transcend the confines of their original narratives, reflecting contemporary societal issues and the ongoing debate surrounding the relevance of Russian culture in today’s world.

“DAY OF THE OPRICHNIK – #cancelrussianculture” is more than an exhibition; it is a thought-provoking journey into the future of literature and cultural identity. Sorokin’s visionary approach and Guelman’s innovative curation offer a unique experience that challenges perceptions and encourages dialogue about the ever-evolving landscape of art and literature.

Vladimir Sorokin / The Future of Russian Dystopia

Credits:

Text: AI
Artist: Vladimir Sorokin / @vldmr.srkn
Curator: Marat Guelman / @galerist
Gallery: Shtager&Shch / @shtager_shch
Editor: Maria Abramenko  / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci

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