Works with Garbage
Until 1987, when he moved to the US, Ilya Kabakov had always worked on his creations at the attic of a 5-storey building in Moscow, which served as his studio. This was before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. For more than 30 years, Kabakov would arrive there at nine every morning, enter from the back door, and climb the stairs to his studio at the attic on the fifth floor, at the very end. All the way, garbage was always everywhere. Various kinds of garbage could be found at the entrance, in the garden, between two common kitchens on the second floor, and along the long corridor at the attic. At times, he would see a woman, still in pajamas, emerging from one of the common kitchens and throwing away leftovers into the rubbish bin. Constantly found discarded along the corridor of the attic were various types of furniture such as oak dinner table, large carved mirror frame and double bed frame. From time to time, Kabakov would take what others had dumped, carrying old furniture items back to his own studio for use. More often, though, he would search for paper in the garbage heap: flyers, old newspaper, magazines. Simply different types of paper.
Kabakov也將廢紙存在閣樓工作室，後來翻閱舊紙張（尤其那些具相當歷史）變成了他的樂趣。他會把紙張整理、拼貼並儲存在文件夾中。這並非因為他想保存入檔，而是從整理廢紙過程中，他看見心理上的另一個自己，那個不願放棄每一頁過去的Garbage Man。這些被棄掉的過去，後來變成了Kabakov的裝置《The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away》（1988）。裝置是間細而長的窄房間，像一條有兩道門的走廊，其中一道門經常關上。Kabakov把那些舊紙像在工作室般，以透明文件夾展示或懸掛其中，觀眾參觀時就像Kabakov在工作室般被廢紙淹沒。舊廢紙滿載了前蘇聯生活、精神、心理及實際環境上的種種面貌，當時的國度就像一個大垃圾箱，搜集並儲存就是 Kabakov對所謂家國感情的一種絕望投射，他不想面對卻一直存在。
Having also kept the wastepaper in his studio at the attic, he later on developed an interest in flipping through old pieces of paper, especially those with a long history. He would organize and make collage with them, and keep them in folders. It was not because he wanted to keep a record. Rather, while processing the discarded paper, he saw his other mental self — the Garbage Man who was not willing to give up any single page of the past. Later on, these discarded pieces of the past became Kabakov’s installation titled The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (1988). The installation consists of a small room, long and narrow, resembling a corridor with two doors, one of which is often shut. Just as he had done in his studio, Kabakov used transparent folders to display and hang the old pieces of paper inside the room. While inside, visitors feel like being inundated by the wastepaper, as did Kabakov himself in his own studio. The wastepaper recorded in rich detail about different aspects of Soviet Union, covering life, mental, psychology and actual circumstances. The country back then resembled an enormous rubbish bin. Through collection and storage, Kabakov was expressing a kind of despair towards so-called national sentiments. What he did not want to face up to existed all the while.
Such a mental state actually originated from Kabakov’s life. He was among the few Soviet Union artists spared from oppression. He was also a member of the then well-known Union of Soviet Artists. He would spend three to six months every year to draw illustrated books for children, obviously with a style of socialist realism. The remaining time, he would bury himself in creating his own work under a pseudonym. These pieces are all about the process of Soviet Union’s legendary rise and disappearance. Once the past is discovered, the layer of dust covering it will rise and disperse in the air.