Nikolai Kozak

Nikolai Kozak is a Chilean | Argentine multimedia artist based in New York City and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).

Working with sculpture, video, projection, photography and performance, Kozak explores contemporary problematics of memory, lineage, traumatic events, repressive structures and archival documentation.

He has received numerous awards for his public works relating to political and social structures - most recently her Excellency Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo's Young Artist award and the Christo and Jeanne Claude Honorable Award for Public Art.

Kozak's work has been displayed both publicly and privately in New York City, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Montreal, Buenos Aires and Santiago.

Kozak is currently in development of two large-scale installation pieces for the Museum for Memory and Human Rights, and the House of Government in Chile respectively, as well as a series of works exploring contemporary structures of migration in relation to physical borders and international policy.

For contact and inquiries regarding sales, exhibitions, or commissions, please contact Cleo Smits in the UAE ([email protected]), or Isabelle Galet-Lalande in New York City ([email protected])


Artist's Statement

The first letter he showed me began with “I finally arrived in Santiago” and concluded with “on my way home I saw a group of men lined up against a wall”. The second letter contained only a few words: “A woman, a man, three children - rescued”. The first was dated 1973; the last, 1985.

Years later I found myself perched in the corner of a small room in a far-flung province, wondering why he had kept those words from me. In the same room, a man performed a quiet dance with his father, occasionally asking the elder man to read from a book he had kept since childhood, in the process kicking up dust that had lain forgotten for what seemed like centuries. My body wandered in and out of a trance, spurred on by the slow movements of the two men, their gazes riveted on each other’s eyes - I recalled asking my father if he remembered the color of his father’s eyes. After a cold silence he had replied “no sé…I don’t know”. It had taken me too long to reconstruct the story he had mutedly kept from me - a story of cold prison floors, of clandestine flights, corpses, victims, violations, occasional moments of joy and the constant drone of the syllables in the name “Pinochet”. The men moved faster now, their shadows crawling higher up the dirty wall as the sun of Chiapas began to set. For years I had slowly chiseled away at some dark pillar, a vacuous structure that held at its source a wound in time. Frustrated, I fixated on the hands of the filial bodies in front of me. The last rays of sun danced around a minuscule trickle of blood that ran down the criss-crossed fingers. It was impossible to tell if the source was the son or the father; not that it mattered. I have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. How does one remember thirst?

Nevskaya Stanitsa Oath

If I by intention or neglect violate the sanctity of the oath of allegiance to Kozakdom, may God’s punishment strike me, may my brother Kozaks expel me from their ranks, and may my name be committed to oblivion.

Story has it than when a Kozak is born, he is read this oath. The child is brought into the world carrying a variable burden of memory, an embedded mnemonic lineage. My grandfather uttered it to my father as they were fleeing Ukraine, my father read it to me in a sterile hospital room a few months after peace had been restored in Chile.

I am a member of the first generation born after the dictatorship - I understand the narratives and realities created by this dictatorship through the body of my father. For our generation the concept of memory is not enough: we transit in the realm of post-memory, memory that is not lived but is transmitted nonetheless. My work is an attempt at understanding the effects and affects of this post-memory on contemporary bodies and societies by recognizing the trauma embedded within my family and country as raw, sculptural material. In this attempt the analog organism merges with the unblinking digital gaze: the structure that allows for the dilation of time and detail, as well as for the re-contextualization of memory. It is by teasing out the memory implanted in disease, in musculature, in gesture, and in the corners of the body that I seek to render the haunting of the ineffable mnemonic wound - whether or not this wound can be healed remains the unanswered constant, the pressing tension behind the work. 


Selected Exhibitions / Awards

2014 Acumulación Breve, Museum for Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

2014 Cáfila, Hemispheric Encuentro 2014 (FOFA Gallery), Montreal, Canada.

2014 Migrant, XVA Gallery, Dubai, UAE.

2014 UDVSC, TISCH End of the Year Show, New York, USA.

2014 Honey, Commonwealth Council Collection, Los Angeles, USA.

2013 ROSTRO, Museum for Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

2013 Conflict, Gallatin School of the Arts, New York, USA.

2013 Así Llegó La Muerte, Berkman Center - Harvard University, Boston, USA.

2013 Suadade, ZUMEFF Middle East Film Festival, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

2013 Saudade, NYU Global Film Fest, New York, USA.

2012 Memoria 35000, Museum for Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

2011 Umm al Quwain, Gulf Photo Plus Gallery, Dubai, UAE.

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2014 Mohammed and Hoda Ibrahim Al Khamis Kanoo Young Artist Award, ADMAF.

2013 Christo & Jeanne Claude Public Art Honorable Award, Christo & Jeanne Claude Foundation.

2011 Premio a la Distinción Artística Social, MMHR.

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