VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: alienation of labor of Oleksiy Sai
Oleksiy Sai is a mature Ukrainian artist with a fairly clearly defined range of interests and topics with which he works and which he explores. The word “research” is even better suited to the practice of Oleksiy, because sometimes his work bears little resemblance to an artistic one, but the author’s thoughts and philosophy often resemble almost scientific works.
Oleksiy Sai considers it his duty to be interested in politics and participate in the public life of his country, becoming an example in his actions, although he does not always do it in an artistic way.A red line through the art of Oleksiy Sai runs his interest in the concept of corporate culture from the moment of its appearance in Ukraine in the form of caricatured “working relations”, spied on in American films and ineptly copied.
Over time, the office-planktonic culture has transformed, the people in it have changed, the time has changed, and the local situation in general, reflecting in the work of the observant Oleksiy Sai.
Back in 2010, the artist, together with his associates, Ilya Isupov and Zhanna Kadyrova, made a kind of “office” out of the Karas Gallery – they arranged office tables, chairs, waste bins, even paper cups…
Spectators came to the gallery, saw these “workplaces”, turned around and left, thinking that the gallery was really closed, not realizing that this is an artistic statement. And even then the authors were concerned about the archetype and markers new to Ukraine, common signs of office life, which engulfed us.
If for Isupov and Kadyrova the topic of corporate culture has never been a priority, then Oleksiy Sai has been interested in it for a long time. He has been working intermittently in his proprietary Excel technique since 2004.
It is not uncommon to find formulations calling Sai the founder of the whole Excel-art direction, however, in modern, individualistic art, the directions seem to be already impossible.
As Boris Groys notes, it only seems to us that contemporary art opens up new opportunities, while in fact it constantly closes them down . That is, in fact, there is no dripping, there is only one Jackson Pollock.
And there is no color field painting, there is only Mark Rothko. It is about the same with Excel-art, which, even for its author, Oleksiy Sai, is not a decisive decision, but only a relevant tool.
Moreover, the artist himself regularly “abandons” the series of his works, not having the wish to become its hostage, but he also regularly returns to it, feeling its inexhaustibility and underutilized potential.
Oleksiy Sai emphasizes that while creating works in Excel spreadsheets, which are so familiar to thousands of clerks, he does not try to criticize or mock them. On the contrary, the artist himself has been in these shoes, working in an advertising agency and having experienced all the delights of office life for himself.
Sai’s reflections on what this type of work really is, which does not bring a visible, tangible result, partly corresponds to the philosophy of alienation of Marx , according to which a person who does not create anything for himself feels neither responsibility nor satisfaction, turning into the faceless gear of the global capitalist machine.
It is this feeling that Oleksiy Sai conveys, who himself has been creating his works for months almost mechanically, using a tool that is most inconvenient for drawing.
In addition to Excel-art, Oleksiy Sai creates both graphics and installations, but almost all of his art is somehow connected with the theme of bureaucracy, stereotyped, faceless corporate system.
The series of Statements seems to be very witty and at the same time painfully understandable, embodying at the same time the senselessness and despair that accompany each of us in a collision with the ruthless Leviathan – a state structure.
Another insightful work is the installation Time To Sai Goodbye, which resembles a space set from a Kubrick film, but is actually made of the cheapest “armstrong”, structures that many of us see in offices and schools, pressing on us with their artificiality, the sameness. bureaucracy.
Oleksiy Sai deliberately chooses materials and tools that he does not like, with which he needs to fight, in order to convey to the viewer this feeling of inconvenience, slight disgust, recognizable irritation.
At the same time, Oleksiy Sai, first of all, is not a critic of the social structure and social relations, but, of course, an artist. Therefore, all of his works are imbued with a unique aesthetics. In addition to the conceptual component, they are also visually beautiful, which makes the art of Oleksiy Sai really valuable and, we hope, deservedly appreciated.
 Alienated Labor – Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844
 From an online conference with Boris Groys at Kyiv Art Week, 2020