Allegoria Sacra is a very jarring piece of work. It takes place in an aesthetically beautiful airport filled with lots of different groups. There is a centaur, minister, homosexual families, Africans, Indians, Asians, and Caucasians all waiting together. All of these people look like models, they move slowly, in a crisp but almost faulty way. The piece mixes many different elements of fantasy and reality through the fantastic locations like the vast desert, arctic tundra, and otherworldly planet that the scenes take place in. There are also individuals fighting with one another in a dance-like manner and a baby with a reptilian foot. The flow of the video works to bring the audience through the airport; there are many different people to walk by and encounter, as well as moving through the different terminal areas that take the viewer to these amazing places.
This piece by AES+F takes the Italian Renaissance art piece Allegoria Sacra in order to show a modern representation of perjury. There are political and religious tones but there is not an overt statement trying to be made. AES+F are asking their audience to take a deeper look at how we see the Western and Eastern worlds, and how all people are judged. The original Allegoria Sacra is a piece that has never been completely understood by art historians, this is an element that AES+F wanted to continue, to be able to pull out and understand some elements of the work but not all. Francesco Lamendola successfully explains that in Bellini’s piece, “the more you contemplate, the more it feels sucked into an atmosphere of mystery, vision, almost a dream.” Lamendola, Francesco (2012, November) In "Sacred Allegory" by Giovanni Bellini the enigma of a hidden message.
The artists, when reflecting on their work, “imagined ourselves as an elderly Chinese artist with a semi-fictional, semi-real biography, who studied in the USSR, who left to the provinces at the time of the Cultural Revolution and who was discovered anew in our time.”Ardia, Xuan Mai (2013, November) A new Silk Road: Russian art collective AES+F’s on “Allegoria Sacra” in Asia – interview
Growing up in the USSR the artists have a very interesting perspective to look at different classes, cultures, and these different societal ideals. Some of the main characters in the video include ‘westerners’, muslims, ministers, Asian, gay couples, their children, Africans, a centaur, and so on. Though these people come from different cultures, they all seem to be disconnected with the airport around them. There are some battles, militaristic scenes, and family interactions, but none of the individuals seem to have any life within them. AES+F want their audience to take a closer look at the values of these different civilizations, and how their different lives at still leading them all to unhappiness and purgatory.
"Subverting the documentary-like nature of photography, and finding inspiration in everything from high art to mass media, Caravaggio and antique classicism to Hollywood allusions and video games, AES+F’s work centres around elements of the hyperreal and surreal." Weinstock, Tish (2014, November). mixing the hyperreal and the surreal with russian art collective AES + F
The Feast of Trimalchio is another piece by AES+F, and follows a similar aesthetic to Allegoria Sacra. This piece questions understandings of class and race represented by the role of hotel worker and vacationer gradually flipping throughout the piece. The scenes and way the two pieces are created are very similar as well, both taking place in whimsical locations, and the people in the pieces look like they are made up of changing photographs instead of videos.
Another piece of video art that works at comparing gender and society is Shirin Neshat's Turbulent. She is another artist who forces her audience to reflect on gender and race . In Neshat’s video the audience is able to see the differences of how men and women are seen and heard but unfortunately in her pieces those roles cannot be flipped. The audience has to choose to either experience the man singing or the woman. These artists both accomplish juxtaposition but in completely different ways. AES+F in a mystical way and less straightforward way while Neshat's is more realistic and something that could experience; both are able to accomplish these similar goals.
Allegoria Sacra was shown at the following exhibitions:
- The Liminal Space Trilogy
- Aeroplastics Contemporary, Belgium
- Collateral event of 56th Biennale di Venezia Magazzini del Sale, Magazzino 5 & Vitraria Glass +Art Museum, Venice, Italy.
- Port Adelaide, Australia
- Kicik Qalart Gallery, Baku, Azerbaijan.
- Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany.
- Central Exhibition Hall Manege, Moscow, Russia.
- Seoul Photo Art Fair, Seoul. South Korea.
- Sergey Kuryokhin Modern Art Center, St-Petersburg, Russia
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
- Triumph Gallery, Moscow.
- “Art Moscow 2011” Art Fair, Central House of Artist, Triumph Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
- A special project of 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia.