Frederic Chaubin: CCCP
Tuesday April 24, 2007 – Saturday June 16, 2007
Over the past five years, during the course of his travels in the former Soviet Union, French photographer Frederic Chaubin has documented an extensive collection of startling architectural artifacts born during the last two decades of the Cold War. Architects in the peripheral regions of the Eastern Bloc countries, working on governmental commissions during the ‘70s and ‘80s, enjoyed a surprising degree of creative freedom. Operating in a cultural context hermetically sealed from the influence of their Western counterparts, they drew inspiration from sources ranging from expressionism, science fiction, early European modernism and the Russian Suprematist legacy to produce an idiosyncratic, flamboyant and often imaginative architectural ménage. Unexpected in their contexts, these monumental buildings stand in stark contrast to the stereotypical understanding of late Soviet architecture in which monotonously repetitive urban landscapes were punctuated by vapid exercises in architectural propaganda.
The subjects of Chaubin’s photographs, scattered throughout Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, were all constructed during the last two decades of the Soviet era. Very few of their designers achieved anything more than local recognition, and until now these buildings have never been collectively documented or exhibited. The authors of many works remain unknown, and some have been destroyed since Chaubin’s photographs were taken. Concieved and executed during a moment of historical transition, they constitute one of the most surprising and least known legacies of the former USSR.
As well as presenting the architecture itself, CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed traces the intellectual and political undercurrents that act as a backdrop, and at times inspiration, for the work of these Soviet architects. The exhibition, a compendium of film stills, drawings, magazine articles and historical timelines, maps out the complex genealogy of this overlooked but compelling chapter in the history of 20th century design.
Frédéric Chaubin in Paris, France. He is editor in chief of the French lifestyle magazine Citizen K.