Yuri Leiderman

The Ukrainian artist and writer Yuri Leiderman entered the art scene in the 1980s by way of close encounters with Moscow’s conceptualist circle, which strove to subvert socialist ideology through a conceptual approach and appropriative strategies. Leiderman’s artistic thinking was tied to this group until the 1990s. Often drawing inspiration from themes of national identity, his artistic work seeks to transform such issues into abstractions, thereby testing their resistant qualities while foregrounding their unexplainable character. From 1982, he participated in a number of exhibitions held at private apartments in Odessa and Moscow. The “Apt Art” movement of which this was part embodied a phenomenon that could be traced throughout the former Warsaw Pact countries. Alongside these artistic activities, Leiderman graduated from the Moscow Institute of Chemical Technology (MCTI) in 1987. That same year, he joined forces with Sergei Anufriev and Pavel Pepperstein to found the artist group “Medical Hermeneutics”, a group which he left in 1990. Since hermeneutics relates to an area of knowledge pertaining to the interpretation of literary texts, this group created installations and performances that experimented with language and meaning. They began doing so at a time shortly before Glasnost was about to open up the former Soviet Union to the West. The group described Glasnost as being something like a psychotherapeutic experience, in which “the sky opens up” towards new frontiers and promises of a new beginning. In keeping with its name’s medical metaphor, the group’s works of pseudo-healing had a fairy tale-like character to them, drawing on Western visual culture and usually featuring a happy ending. Being an artist group, “Inspection Medical Hermeneutics” (as they were also referred to) blurred the boundaries between what could be viewed as disease, as treatment, and/or as cure. According to Pavel Pepperstein, they created “a thick mumble—white noise and other incomprehensible, unclear things.”

Another group that Leiderman briefly joined, doing so along with Moscow conceptualists Andrei Monastyrski and Vadim Zakharov, was the “Capiton” (also “Corbusier”) group (2007 to 2008). From 2007 to 2015, he collaborated with Andrei Silvestrov on the long-term film project Birmingham Ornament. And since 2014, a large part of his artistic activity has taken place in Ukraine, where he and Silvestrov presented the chapter Odessa, Fragment 205 at the 2015 Kiev Biennial―improvising “an absurdist poetics to compete with the constant pressure of political phantasmagoria.”

Leiderman is the author of several books including essays, prose, and poetry, and he is a member of the editorial board of the Ukrainian online literature and art magazine Prostory. In his work, literature and art always enter into a close relationship.



1963, Odessa / UA


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