The exhibition Air Flight. Body Shock by St. Petersburg photographer Valery Katsuba is more than just an exhibition dedicated to the aerialists and acrobats of the Moscow Circus School. It falls within the genre of “art about art” and reaches what Wagner considered a peak of creativity – a synthesis of art. Black and white classic photography, video with music composed by Simone Spagnolo, and large-scale color photographs create a marvelous show, a space that glitters with many meanings, lures the viewer and creates within him empathy.
The author when choosing circus performers as his topic – not a very fashionable topic in contemporary photography – did so expressing his own feelings without irony or distance. “Circus aerialists and acrobats, they are favorites from my youth. In a sense, to me, this project is a dream come true. I aspire to go there, where everything is light, beautiful and clear.” The human dream to fly likely does not derive from bird watching, but evolves from the experience in our dreams, as well as from the well-known internal freefall. Flying is an unconscious desire, explored even by Da Vinci and Freud and is enclosed in the evolution of the memories of our body and brain as a potential opportunity.
The circus brings with it tales of ancient mysteries and sacrifices that are usually associated with extreme physical practices that violate our familiar balance and orientation in space. Romantic tradition sees the circus not as a comic farce, but as an allegory of the universal human drama, an enthusiastic fatal whirlwind of passion and fantasy of the supernatural and beautiful, also concepts that have always been part of the appeal of the circus. During the post-war neo-realism period, the circus was characterized by performers who lived on the margins of society, under extreme circumstances and existential suffering. In the USSR, the circus became one of the Soviet “Wonders of the World,” and the romantic ideals of the circus again blossomed.
Valery Katsuba structured his project so that it emphasizes the sublime and classical nature of the trapeze artists and acrobats. This additional element turns the gym into great art. In these works, the emphasis is not on the trick
- the foundation of the traditional circus - but rather on, one might say, the aerial ballet. These works are a hymn to the beauty and power of the human body. Perfectly still gymnasts soar in the air like statues, balanced and finished ornamental compositions. In the video, the trampoline gymnasts perform, carrying out the dynamics of unexpected angles of a fluid body. In one of the Body Flight works, Dante’s Paolo and Francesca – two cuddling shadows floating together who do not part even in the hellfire – appear in an elegant composition built of young bodies. We are watching spiritually harmonious people who have actually achieved the magical state of weightlessness in the abstract cosmos of beauty. In reality, the modern domestic gymnasts perform under severe physical stress, suffer under grimace and all the while appear as epic heroes and stars of mass culture. In this sense, this exhibition brings together several forms of art and artists and is about elevated things, in terms of ideas, gravity and feelings.