In 1935, the daily paper Pravda (“The Truth”) commissioned the Soviet writers and frequent collaborators Ilya Ilf and Evgeniy Petrov to embark on what would become a legendary voyage across the United States of America: the two boarded a mouse-gray Ford and traversed the widely vaunted land of milk and honey and putative stronghold of the class enemy. After ten thousand miles on the road, the conclusion they reached in their travel novel One-storied America (published in English translation as Little Golden America) was that “if America were Soviet it would be paradise.”
Eighty years later, The Fearless Four—the moniker stands for the artists Jana Müller (b. Halle an der Saale, 1977; lives and works in Berlin) and Alexej Meschtschanow (b. Kiev, 1973; lives and works in Berlin), the writer Felicitas Hoppe (b. Hamelin, 1960; lives and works in Berlin) and the cultural scholar and naturalized American citizen Ulrike Rainer (b. Vienna, 1947; lives and works in Hanover, New Hampshire)—set out to revisit the scenes of the two Russians’ voyage, retracing their route leg by leg. The online project 3668ilfpetrow.com contains a comprehensive record of what they found, now complemented by a conceptual printed work whose design is reminiscent of Aby Warburg’s approach. The travelogue combines photographs, a conversation with the artists, excerpts from Hoppe’s novel Prawda: Eine amerikanische Reise (2018), quotes, historic documents, and register entries for a cartography that brings America to life. A shot of Las Vegas’s Trump Tower, ornamental carpet patterns in dingy motels, the barren landscapes along the Mexican border: juxtaposed with Ilf and Petrov’s experiences on the road, the pictures and texts in The Making of Prawda suggest ways in which the earlier book speaks to today’s social issues and illustrate how stories and myths are perpetuated and take on new meanings.
Size: 23.5 × 31.5 cm, 136 pages
Publisher: Distanz, 2019