Critics’ Picks

Taisia Korotkova, “Dark Forest, (1),” (detail), 2018, black liner on tablecloth, 9' x 2“ × 21' 4”.

Taisia Korotkova, “Dark Forest, (1),” (detail), 2018,
black liner on tablecloth, 9' x 2“ × 21' 4”.


Taisia Korotkova

New Tretyakov Gallery
Krymsky Val, 10
April 19–June 13, 2021

The word stalker comes into the Russian language from the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 sci-fi classic Roadside Picnic. In the book, the neologism refers to those who enter the forbidden zones of bygone alien visitations. These days, the term has come to mean an “explorer” or “seeker” and, more specifically, those who engage in a certain, legally dubious practice of exurban exploration: trespassing on and documenting the abandoned sites of Cold War–era top-secret paramilitary science-research facilities.

Exhaustively chronicled on blogs and social media accounts, the results of these “stalkings” served as the nucleus for Taisia Korotkova’s exhibition “The Dark Forest.” In a series of felt-tip-pen-on-oilcloth drawings that are at once immersively panoramic and minutely scrupulous, the artist combines elements of the stalkers’ findings into enigmatic topographies, repopulated with thoughtfully researched depictions of plant and flower thickets carefully selected for their preternatural properties.

Fairy tales are another key reference point for Korotkova. Notions of the transformative forest quest inform the artist’s Tarkovskian landscapes, which suggest hidden shrines and secret sacrificial sites, places of worship and dark initiation. Extensive wall texts provide a detailed guide to both the plants and the buildings throughout, helping to identify the Don-2H missile-defense radar station in The Dark Forest Series (1), 2018, and the cluster of candelabra linden trees sheltering the sound mirrors in The Dark Forest Series (2), 2018.

All of the pieces are executed on the back sides of jauntily patterned waxed tablecloths, a ubiquitous feature of the (post-)Soviet kitchen. Through this gesture, Korotkova knowingly redirects the heroic lore of her subject matter into the inescapably feminine, gemütlich modality of associative reception, proposing hospitality in place of alienation and humility in place of intrusion.