Dmitry Kupets, Import/Export
Import/Export is a portrait of the livelihood of Dmitry Kupets as a merchant. The objects used in the work are actual commercial goods which the artist sells on a daily basis. For example, the artist ships unwanted chicken feet to China where a plateful of ‘Phoenix Talons’ is considered a delicacy. In the West chicken feet are considered a lowly thing (In 2008 the U.S. exported $677 million worth of chicken to China). They scratch in the dirt and shuffle over crowded cage floors. This is of no concern to the merchant. One person’s loss in another person’s gain. And so goes the story of commerce. The story of the modern world.
And in this vast spatial enterprise the figure of the merchant fades to the background as the object of consumption becomes the symbol of commerce. Kupets challenges this aphorism with his self-portrait by undermining the role of the object. The objects on display, whilst being actual representations of the commercial goods themselves, are unmistakably artificial. Through abjured paint strokes and bric-a-brac techniques of construction his artistic effort takes precedence over the realisation of the object itself. In so doing, Kupets portrays himself as an artist-of-a-kind and rejects the literary traditions of depicting merchants as well-presented, honeyed-speaking upstarts.
The portrayal of the merchant Kupets settles upon is depicted as a precarious construction of miscellaneous cultural objects, as he makes an ironic point about identity itself in a capitalist society. This is reinforced by the deceit in choosing to close off the inside of the boxes and the use of a closed cage. The merchant no longer should be imagined as base insofar as they are constructed by the capitalist machine that found its home in cultural spaces. The exhibition of deceit means that it must be shared as opposed to being owned.
The precarity of each construction not only points to the Kupets’ own habit in courting danger from authorities it also signifies the instability of consumption itself. This is reinforced by the alienating presentation of the cultural objects. Whilst in reality the chicken feet and beer are consumed, their representations are useless. The works ironically inhere a role-reversal whereby the merchant earns his place on his high horse as he moralises about the consumer's role in consumption and about what is important. In so doing the merchant carves out a new space for himself to be portrayed viz. the void between the real and artificial, the meaningful and the meaningless.
But as with all paradoxes they leave a trace of their inconsistency and Kupets does so in the object Stem Cell for here the artist addresses his own experience in trying to broker a development in stem cell research for a renewable source of replacement cells. As capitalism comes to the realisation of its own falsity, the merchant must find other modes of exchange. And so, he spoke his reasons solemnly.