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Well-known in Russian theatrical circles, Alexander Shishkin works under the pseudonym of Hokusai for his independent projects. In The New Versailles, his affinity to theater is apparent, in his use of absurdity, surrealism, and in the dissonance between the inside and the outside. Based on a mixture of references to popular culture and everyday anecdotes, his installations and paintings display an idiosyncratic sense of magic realism.
The New Versailles explores the relationship between the living and the dead based on the videogame S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter survival computer game. In the game, the player assumes the identity of an amnesiac man trying to find and kill the mysterious Strelok within the Zone, the forbidden territory surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The game is set after a fictitious second Chernobyl disaster, which has further contaminated the surrounding area with radiation, and has caused strange otherworldly changes in local fauna, flora, and the laws of physics. In Hokusai’s fantastical installation, he places human figures—cut from plywood and painted by hand—inside this digitally created post-apocalyptic landscape. Testing our physical and psychological limits, the artist is interested in asking if we are ready for a world completely transformed by the technology we ourselves create.