Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky

Igor Kopystiansky (b. 1954, Lvov Ukraine) and Svetlana Kopystiansky (b.1950, Voronez, Russia) are New York based artists who work in various media. By integrating the point of view of the camera and the play of time, they have created a dialectical process through which the viewer engages in active looking and creates meaning out of moving images. Their work is an aesthetic text that is haunted by memory stimulated by found footage, chance recordings of discarded objects blowing along on the sidewalk, the movement of people on the street, or the rediscovery of scenes from well-known movies. Their works are included in the collections of MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, London, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Centre Pompidou France, and others.

For TRACE, Igor Kopystiansky installed The Golden Age of Painting (1999) at the Walker Art Gallery. He worked with the image of a wall in the Poussin room and created simulacra of paintings that might reasonably be included in that collection. These immaculate copies had been cut into strips, then rolled up into tiny scrolls. The scrolls were quite small, perhaps 20 cm by 10 cm. They were hung with the existing paintings and labelled in the same manner as the rest of the collection.

Svetlana Kopystiansky arranged a performance in the international reading room of Liverpool Library. The performance, A Play in Seven Acts, took place over a period of seven days.

Volunteers and friends of the artist were asked to participate as actors. During the performance, the actors were asked to act as if they are normal visitors to the reading room. Actors, wearing their usual street clothes, were present in the reading room every day together with normal library patrons.

Two different spaces merged in fact: a space of fiction and a space of reality. While all actions were visible, differences of consciousness were invisible. It was difficult, perhaps impossible to distinguish actors from regular readers and visitors of the library. Each simple gesture, like opening a book, could be seen as a meaningful theatrical action or just as an everyday gesture not worthy a notice.

A Play in Seven Acts (1999) was recorded by two video cameras for total of 89 hours. Only short fragments of the play were used in producing the film version. Various actors and library patrons were seen in the film.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky at Liverpool Biennial 1999

A Play in Seven Acts, 1999
Courtesy of the artist

Incidents, 1996/7
Video Installation (colour/sound) 
Courtesy of Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky

The Golden Age of Painting, 1999
Courtesy of the artist