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“Psychodarwinism. Practical humanism” by Illya Chichkan


An exhibition of artist Illya Chichkan will take place in the Museum of Modern Art of Odessa starting from July 16. A new series of works is devoted to masterpieces of classical realistic painting. The artist is ironic about the ideological influence of outstanding works of art and offers a new look at the cultural heritage of past eras.


The relevance of artistic expression with real time is connected unpredictably. Created in the midst of a conflict, on the topic of the day, at the forefront of work trends often fade next to the events that provoked them, dissolving in the information flow. On the other hand, a new turn of public interest actualizes works of art and practices that seemed familiar, forgotten, even boring.

The exhibition is an imitation of a chamber museum hall, where works that “everyone should know” are concentrated. This exemplary hall is a caricature, a crooked mirror of the museum, where Chichkan ridicules museum pathos and rejects the tradition of worshiping the imperial canon and the imaginary complexity of art.

Ilya Chichkan is a provocative Ukrainian artist, whose works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as in galleries and museums in Europe, South and North America. The most expensive painting by Chichkan (“It”) was sold at the Philips de Pury auction for $ 70 thousand.

The artist himself says about his long-term project:

An intelligent upright man enters the museum with fear and curiosity, as if his ancestor-primate. Both are frightened by the unknown, because art is like a jungle: it is easy to get lost and a little harder to find meaning.

Illya Chichkan
Illya Chichkan
Photo: Ivan Chernichkin

Psychodarwinism is a term that unites a vulgarized understanding of the works of Darwin, Marx, and Freud: in the process of human evolution, it was not labor that made ape, but sex and aggression.

Dutch scientist Frans de Val has published a study “Politics in chimpanzees”, which has been republished for forty years, studied in Western sociological institutes. It proves that hierarchy, manipulation of sexuality, power struggles with intrigues and coalitions exist in primates outside of culture and civilization. Chichkan reminds us of these primary features.

In world culture, the monkey is almost always a cartoon of a man. Criticism of “nature” breaks through “culture”, hence “psychodarwinism” in the name of the project. But in Chichkan it is impossible not to notice that the artist identifies himself with all the characters. By and large, all his works are self-portraits.

Marat Gelman

The greatness of moral authorities, the unshakable value of cultural codes is rethought in terms of real, practical humanism, which is not based on ideas and examples of anthropocentrism, but the right of every species to be itself.

Project curators: Marat Gelman, Andriy Siguntsov

The opening will take place on July 16 at 5 pm.