The video work "The Black Square" deals with the painting of the same name by Kazimir Malevich from 1915, its effect in art history, and its reception today. Using the example of this famous painting, the role of art in authoritarian regimes is reflected on here. "The Black Square" is a work about censorship, but also about the power and freedom of art.
Malevich painted several versions of the motif. And although these are held in the three most important Russian art museums, the Black Square motif is removed, censored from Russia's state publications.
The structure of the film refers to the silent film aesthetic of the early 20th century, recalling the moment when Malevich first exhibited "The Black Square" in 1915 and the emergence of the Suprematist movement in art.
"The Black Square is an iconic painting by Kazimir Malevich from 1915. Part of the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
[I]n the year 1913, in my desperate attempt to free art from the ballast of objectivity, I took refuge in the square form and exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than a black square on a white field [...]. This was no “empty square” which I had exhibited but rather the feeling of non-objectivity.” — Kazimir Malevich, (The Non-objective World , trans. Howard Dearstyne, Chicago: Paul Theobald and Company, 1959, 68.)
After the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in 2022, Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media, warned explicitly against using symbols that are “ambiguous” — flags of foreign nations (blue–yellow), birds (the white dove), or black squares. Roskomnadzor meticulously monitors all publications of state-sponsored institutions, and the background to these censorship measures is that Malevich’s artwork is being used (and had also been used in the recent past) as a symbol to criticize the censorship agency, and the Black Square itself was painted over another artwork and thus represented the disappearance of art.
“For the world lies, so the thought, and painting lies even more: It only offers cosmetically improved, colorful deceptions, which, on top of that, are intended to serve those in power. But none of it is real.” — Kazimir Malevich."