He Lost His Mind, Undressed, Ran Away Naked

Concept drawing for the installation No 2

YEAR: 1990



Collection John L. Stewart, (installation No 1), New York

Collection of the artist (installation No 2)


He Lost His Mind, Undressed, Ran Away Naked, 6 Jan 1990 — 3 Feb 1990

Ridgefield, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
Adaption and Negation of Socialist Realism, 9 Jun 1990 — 7 Oct 1990 (only installation No 2)

Urbana-Champaign, Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion of Illinois
Ilya Kabakov. He Lost His Mind, Undressed, Ran Away Naked, 28 Feb 1992 — 5 Apr 1992 (only installation No 2)

Annandale-on- Hudson, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum
Ilya Kabakov: 1969-1998, 25 Jun 2000 — 3 Sep 2000 (only installation No 1)


Installation No. 1

The installation takes up the entire wall, from floor to ceiling. Furthermore, it extends onto the side walls by 1.4 meters and occupies part of the floor where there are old pieces of cardboard, old boxes scattered around, buckets of paint, and other such garbage. All of this represents part of some strange interior. The wall is decorated with a colorful panel-fresco, executed on paper and depicting typical subjects of Soviet propaganda on the theme ‘happy life in progress.’ Here there are young pioneers relaxing on the seashore, views of the construction of new buildings, and a landscape of the city of the future. Everything is in the style of Socialist Realism, but without any particular care. A few large white screens are leaning against the wall next to the panel: all kinds of schedules and plans written by hand in a precise clerical handwriting. There is a long barrier in front of the installation, and in front of it to the right and left are tables and benches. There is a placard on the table: on the left ‘For the intellectual;’ on the right ‘For the simple person.’ There are numerous notebooks of varying content on all of the tables: ‘On Conceptualism in Russia,’ ‘What does the ‘white’ mean in the paintings?’ ‘About this installation.’ Among these texts is ‘Nikolaev’s Story,’ which tells us why the hero ‘lost his mind, undressed and ran away naked.’

Installation No. 2

This installation in terms of construction and appearance almost replicates the previous one and is located in the next hall, so that there exists the most direct connection between them, namely: they are like scenes in a play, they follow one another.

Therefore, given the preservation of the main elements – the barriers, a cardboard floor, and wall painting (the idea is the same, but other themes are depicted) – there is a great deal that is new: trousers, shirts, raincoats, and similar clothing (articles from a ‘wardrobe’) are hanging on the walls or strewn across the floor. They are hanging on the paintings that are standing along the wall, on the nails hammered directly into them. Everything taken together has the appearance of total chaos, of a life catastrophe.

Light is falling only on the ‘viewers’ space, i.e., the barriers, tables, and benches, whereas the installation itself is immersed in semi-darkness, as it should be in a ‘sad’ scene in the theater.

The installation has one other quality. The paintings (and there are only 8 of them), even though they are executed carefully, are leaning up against one another. Only parts of some of them are visible, and some of them are facing completely backwards.


The impossibility of doing what you promised to do. I could never do what I promised to do, and I knew since my childhood that I had this trait. To carry out something promised, to do something for someone else, any small thing, to pass something on to someone – all of this presented for me an insurmountable, unsolvable task, and I would be left completely petrified in the face of such a situation. It was as though some strange force paralyzed me, sapping my will and energy. Often it would be some nonsensical thing that wouldn’t take any effort at all to do. It’s not that it was difficult, beyond my strength to carry it out – the cause rested on something entirely different. And it’s not that I would forget about my promise. I remembered absolutely everything, down to the most minute details. I would procrastinate, and at first, the deadline would seem to be infinitely far off. I would push it back as far as possible, sending the task to the edge of my consciousness, to the very farthest corner, and there in the distance, it didn’t seem to me to be so significant, important and obligatory. The implacable deadline would approach, and the beginning of my torments would approach as well. The final deadline would arrive when the promise had to be carried out, the morning of that day would arrive, and I would still put it off until evening, with a hypocritical consciousness that I would definitely do everything today. The evening would arrive. But the evening would also end. ‘I hadn’t done anything.’ The next day was exactly like the previous one. The morning of the next day would arrive, and of course, nothing got done. But this ‘not doing anything’ would leave, capsizing inside me, and would begin its own special existence already inside. The ‘undone thing’ would grow, like some sort of creature. It would spread, settling in my thoughts, consciousness, nerves, going nowhere, tormenting and gnawing inside no worse than a little fox in a Greek myth.

Primarily it lived in my imagination. I imagined with unbelievable clarity all the consequences of my ‘do-nothingness,’ and the longer it would go on, the more fatal and tragic outlines it would acquire. Other peoples’ fates would be ruined as a result of my ‘undone thing.’ And since it wasn’t that I didn’t do just one thing, but I almost never did anything, I became indebted to virtually everyone around me, and the guilt of ‘non-fulfillment,’ as far as I remember, filled me without reprieve, constantly tormenting and burning me. The rare ‘fulfillments’ didn’t change anything in this picture. On the contrary, I noticed clearly that when I would do something (suffering with unbearable guilt, like a burn) – such as answer letters, make calls – this was completely obvious – what resulted was something forced and dry. It would have been better if I hadn’t done anything. Everything would turn out nonsensically and like a formality, empty and cold.

I would experience the same torment of conscience, guilt, not only from unfulfilled deeds expected of me, but also from things that no one expected from me, but which I felt I had to do because of my own internal convictions. These unfulfilled things surrounded those things which I had earlier promised and not fulfilled like an external ring, adding new voices to the old ones, which in their severity were reminiscent of an ancient chorus.



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