HERO MOTHER is an international exhibition of 30 women artists from 20 countries. It is part of MOMENTUM’s program for 2016, consisting of a series of events, residencies and exhibitions called BEYOND BALAGAN, which inquires into contemporary art and its relation to life. HERO MOTHER follows on from the major exhibition BALAGAN!!! Contemporary Art from the Former Soviet Union and Other Mythical Places curated by David Elliott, which was held in three venues in Berlin from 14 November till 23 December 2015. “Balagan” is a popular and much used exclamation in contemporary Russia and the places Russian culture has spread to, that describes, with celebratory gusto, a farce, a mess, the most unholy of cock-ups, and at the same time the most joyful of celebrations, the most unrestrained debauchery, the ‘functional dysfunctional’.
The title of the exhibition HERO MOTHER is derived from Soviet, or rather Stalinist practice. The honorary title “Hero Mother” and the medal bestowed with it, established on 8 July 1944 by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, was awarded to Soviet women who raised at least ten living children. Before it was abolished in 1991, upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more than 430,000 women had received this state honor. In 2008, the Russian Federation replaced this award with the “Order of Parental Glory”, downscaling the honor to celebrate the smaller accomplishment of only seven children. This award is also still given to mothers in some post-communist states, such as Belarus or Kazakhstan. What was originally conceived as an incentive to repopulate a country ravaged by war and to encourage women in their patriotic duty to their motherland, today sounds like an absurd punch-line of a Soviet joke.