Prague houses first exhibition of oligarch trial outside Russia

Photo: Kirill Shchelkov

The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague is currently hosting an exhibition called TRIAL, inspired by the second trial with the Russian businessman and oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which took place between the years 2009 and 2010. It is the first time the exhibition is being shown outside of Russia. I asked Michaela Šilpochová of DOX to tell me more about it:

Photo: Kirill Shchelkov
“The TRIAL exhibition is inspired by the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial but it’s not a real reconstruction of the event, it rather aims to expose the inner mechanisms of the Russian legal system and the atmosphere of court proceedings. So it is inspired, it is based on the trial but it is not really a reconstruction of what was going on in the proceedings.”

How exactly does the exhibition expose the mechanisms of Russia’s legal system?

“The documentary foundation of the exhibition consists of reports from the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev trial, which are presented as a series of comic strips by the Russian artist and caricaturist Alexander Kotlyarov.

These are enlarged and are presented as greater than life-sized comic book characters so they form kind of an installation of these characters which are about three to five metres large.”

Photo: Kirill Shchelkov
Can you tell me something about the curator, Anton Litvin, and his relationship to Mikahil Khodorkovsky?

“There is not really a clear line saying these are the good guys and these are the bad guys. But obviously it is clear that the criticism is aimed against the Russian legal system.

“The judge and the other characters on the side of the Russian legal system are the people who are caricatured, who are portrayed as figures who are manipulated and manipulating.

“Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev are rather portrayed as those who try to explain, who try to present all kinds of documents and explanations which are not being heard. So it is presented as two streams of conversation which never actually meet.”

I understand the exhibition was originally to be displayed in Russia but it was denied by several galleries out of fear of repercussions. Is that right?

Photo: Kirill Shchelkov
“That is correct. Anton Litvin, when he first made this exhibition in 2010, offered it to several galleries in Moscow and was rejected each time. But finally he and the team of organizers rented a former gallery which today is the multifunctional Flacon space in Moscow where they presented this exhibition and that was the only time when this exhibition was presented in Moscow. And at DOX we are hosting this exhibition in its premiere outside of Russia.”

The exhibition TRIAL will run at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague until mid-September.