Artist Paid 400 Participants To Live In A Stalin-Era Research Institute For Three Years For An Art Project

A Soviet-sponsored youth rally in the Lustgarten in Berlin, Germany, 1st June 1950.
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Described by The Guardian as the Stalinist Truman Show, an artist paid 400 people to live in a fictional Stalin-era research institute for three years as part of an art project.

Artist Ilya Khrzhanovsky created a facility in eastern Ukraine that modeled facilities that once existed in the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1950s. The experiment, which took place from 2008 to 2011, has also been made into a movie that will premiere at an art installation in Berlin this October.

The facility housed 400 people who relived 30 years of the Stalin-era in three. The participants wore the same attire, ate the same food, and adhered to the same rules and customs that existed during the time period. There were also 14 children conceived during the three years.

Khrzhanovsky was inspired by Soviet physicist Lev Landau’s story when creating the facility and named the project DAU after Landau’s nickname.

Executive producer Martine d’Anglejan-Chatillon spoke about the project, writes The Guardian.

“It is really to show how people are, it is not particular to that culture or that time. It is about looking at what human nature is capable of, under a microscope, and the capacity for beauty and intellect and optimism and change or a capacity for the opposite. In a way what Ilya created was an encyclopedia of human relationships and human nature and how things develop over time in people.”

East Berliners climb onto the Berlin Wall to celebrate the effective end of the city's partition, 31st December 1989.
  Steve Eason / Getty Images

The installation in Berlin will feature a large rebuilt section of the Berlin Wall on Unter den Linden boulevard. Visitors will have to purchase visas before entering and will be forced to leave their phones at the entrance. On November 9, exactly 29 years after the 1989 event, the wall will be torn down.

Various performances and live interventions by artists, including Brian Eno, will also take place during the installation. Eno spoke about his anticipation of the event.

“You often hear things described as ‘ambitious’. Nothing I’ve ever encountered comes close to the ambition of DAU. It’s the most extraordinary and multi-layered art-project I’ve ever heard of, involving many thousands of people – artists, actors, musicians, artisans, lighting designers, editors, cinematographers, officials, cartographers, scientists, shamans, and thousands of ordinary humans – and it’s still growing.”

The installation will be hosted in various cities around Europe. In Berlin, the Berliner Festspiele arts festival will feature the installation and in Paris, it will be hosted by the Theatre du Chatelet. Details about London’s location are due to be announced soon.