The Piece as a Passage

On the Parisian World Premiere of Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s DAU Project

by Thomas Oberender

How do you produce a piece which, at the moment of its release, consists of 13 feature films, which at the same time only represent a single facet of a larger artistic project that was connected to a three-year installation by an artistic gated community on the outskirts of Kharkiv, and with its own internet portal, publication and merchandising series. IlyaKhrzhanovsky’s DAU project was initially a unique social experiment whose »by-product” is approximately 700 hours of film material. In essence, Kharkiv served as a location for an experimental society whose members led their lives under the conditions of the Soviet Union between 1938 and 1968 – they actually were and are renowned mathematicians, theologians and artists who lived, researched and practiced their occupations alongside laborers, security guards and street cleaners. They did so in a collective journey through time that took them through three decades of painstakingly reproduced Soviet history – from the great terror during the world war and the subsequent thaw.