Elena Kovylina (b. 1971) is a Russian performance and video art artist, curator, and pedagogue. She studied with Rebecca Horn and is a graduate of the Berlin University of the Arts.
The artist received recognition in Russia and internationally in the 2000s, with her most radical performances and video works dating back to that period. They include Waltz (2001), Kidnapping of the Assistant (2003), Live Concert (2004), Boxing (2005), and Would You Like a Cup of Coffee?, or Burn the World of the Bourgeoisie (2009). She has traveled extensively across Europe and has lived and worked in Moscow, Zurich, Berlin, Paris, and Los Angeles. Kovylina also initiated a number of social art projects, including Theater of Homeless Youth (2002–2003) and The “Red Abode” Committee (2002–2004). In the 2010s, she founded Moscow’s first performance school, PYRFYR, where, along with theoretical classes, she conducted workshops on performance and personality development. In 2020, she curated the archival exhibition Len, You Used to Paint Better! featuring artworks, documentation, and biographical records that formed the basis of her archive, which subsequently became part of Garage Archive Collection.
Kovylina participated in Manifesta 10 (2014), Cetinje Biennial (2002), The Biennale of Sydney (2006), and Sharjah Biennial (2009). She is a recipient of the Innovation Prize (New Generation, 2006) and the “Against the Current” State Prize of the Russian Academy of Arts (2014). She lives and works in Moscow.
Elena Kovylina’s archive collection was acquired by the Museum in 2020.
The collection, comprising more than 8,000 items, covers almost thirty years of the artist's life and practice (from the late 1980s to 2017).
It provides an idea of Kovylina’s artistic practice, sources of inspiration, and interactions with the group Radek and people on the art scene in the 2000s and 2010s.
The media archive contains over 200 cassettes. It also includes video works, performance documentation (including early performances, beginning 1997), recordings of workshops, and videos from the family archive. These include video recordings made while studying at Berlin University of the Arts (2001–2003), Theater of Homeless Youth performances (2002–2003), and auditions for the film Love after the Cold War (2006).
Kovylina also donated to Garage Archive Collection a variety of publications (books, catalogues, magazines, and newspaper clippings) covering her artistic activities. She also handed over selected personal documents: family photos and videos, diary entries, extensive correspondence with Pyotr Bystrov, invitations to international events and residencies.
The archive contains studies for works (including early ones made while studying at Surikov Moscow State Academic Art Institute), drawings, and paintings. It also features artifacts and elements of costumes: the shiny red dress for the performance Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1998), a pack of cigarettes with bullet marks, and a Quran from the performance Shooting Range (2001); the dress and the model of a hut for the performance Caryatid (2012/2015); and the hat and the stool for the performance Equality (2014). A significant part of the archive (over 2,000 items) is composed of photographs portraying the artistic life of Moscow and Europe, the artist’s travels and meetings, and documenting her performances.