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House on the Embankment

Moscow, Russia

THE CAKE
FROM THE SKY

06   /   02   /   2015

Curator: Ilya Budraitskis

 

Artist: Sveta Shuvaeva

«Cake from the sky» must be one of the most bizarre tales written by humanist, communist and inventor Gianni Rodari. A strange flying object is looming over the city of Rome, causing bouts of panic from adult citizens but igniting a burning curiosity among the children. While soldiers arm themselves, ready to defend their city against a suspected alien invasion, young boys and girls fearlessly approach the fallen object. Having come close enough to taste it, they realise they are stood before the biggest cake that history has ever known. After working their way through marzipan, whipped cream and moist sponge the children encounter the scientist that created the cake, and find out the truth. The mysterious object that disturbed the tranquillity of Rome is in fact an experiment gone wrong. Instead of making an atom bomb capable of destroying an entire city, the scientist accidentally made a cake that will bring joy to all the city’s children.

Rodari’s “Cake from the Sky” therefore deconstructs the usual metaphorical makeup of a fairy tale – it lacks the two parallel layers: a good moral lesson for the children, and a concealed nod to war paranoia for the adults. The dream of the former and fear of the latter are here united within one object – the suspicious cake. A cake that could turn out to be a bomb, or in fact a suspected bomb that turns out to just be a huge cake.

Sveta Shuvaeva’s “Cake from the Sky” continues and develops this complex relationship to an object found in a city space. It’s not a model of an industrial space, nor a humorous variation on the House on the Embankment as a building existing in reality. It’s more an attempt to visualise an object from the outside and the inside, all the while bearing in mind the violent clash between human fantasies, neither of which has a clear, existing, material form.

In 1966, when Rodari wrote his cake tale, the Cold War narrative of suspicion and tension had already lasted almost twenty years. Several times the situation came dangerously close to direct nuclear war between the Western and Eastern Blocs. The moral of this strange tale is in the optimism and hope that the next generation will overcome the aggression and prejudice of their parents, and be able to build a new world, free from fear. The fight for this better world is born out of imagination, and the future depends on which fantasy turns out to be the more powerful narrative. The object of conflict hovers right in the middle of the two, like a cake on a party table.

The meaning of each object is determined by the intense battles between human fantasies – were it mysterious, clandestine, or motionless in a city setting. These hopes and fears are able to imbue meaning into the object and give it new context. The Moscow House on the Embankment became a milestone of architecture in its first decade, having become part of a large continuing history. The personal destiny of the building is inseparable from the general history of the time. The fascinating and still unexplained position taken by Soviet socialism (and socialism in general) in the volatile imaginations of the citizens of the country and the planet. It seems that each new generation will again and again be doomed to leave their doubts behind and stretch out their arms towards the bomb, which may turn out to be just a gargantuan cake.

Ilya Budraitskis

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