Ives Maes has been working for several years around the notion of a 'Recyclable Refugee Camp', a biodegradable living unit following the regulations of the U.N.H.C.R., researching with a healthy dose of irony the capacity of art to intervene in the world. Over the last years his research has been focused on the relicts of World Fairs, often dilapidated remnants of outdated utopias.
His survey of all of these left overs since 'The Great Exhibition of all Nations and Industries' in London in 1851, was published in 2013 in a book to the occasion of his exhibition in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Ives Maes visited VDNKh several times before and even his not so old photographic observations became historical already, with images of the central pavilion still divided in split levels and housing wax puppets of the likes of the presidents Medvedev and Putin, pop singers or leaders like Stalin, Hitler and Napoleon. His work in VDNKh consists of stereoscopic images in which past and present overlap in a lot of sameness and some difference, taking photos from exactly the same angle as earlier photos had been taken from.
From 2008 to 2013 Ives Maes photographed worldwide the architectural remains of World’s Fairs and the sites on which they were built, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today. On several occasions he photographed the site of the “All Union Agricultural Exhibition” that opened in 1939 and is currently the location of the Moscow Biennial. After the collapse of the USSR the site became subject to deterioration. In 2009 Ives Maes registered the delapidated condition of these pavilions and its inhabitants; trinket shops and a wax museum in the Lenin Monument, a food market in the Montreal Expo 67 Soviet Pavilion, a rusty rocket in front of the Cosmos Pavilion and a disassembled Vera Mukhina sculpture that once stood atop the Soviet Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle de Paris in 1937. In 2013 he returned to record the reconstruction of the 1937 Soviet Pavilion with the restored “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” on top, holding hammer and sickle. This symbol of the Soviet epoch seemed to be an anomaly in time, to reappear a hundred years after its demolition. After 2013 a remarkable reintroduction of Soviet symbols has taken place, as well as a clean sweep of the exhibition grounds and a restoration of its grand architecture. In “Soviet Stereographs” archival images, personal photographs from 2009 and 2013 and new photographs from 2015 are juxtaposed through the use of stereoscopes. These images from different years blend together in order to form non-existing appearances of an in-between time. A moment between construction, deconstruction and reconstruction. A mediation of Communism, Capitalism and something undefined in-between.