Olga Chernysheva's video piece "The Chekhov House Museum" speaks to the memorial apartment museum — a widespread phenomenon in Russia. Delivered in an amateurish manner, the video resembles a tour through the museum with its subjective vague tone of voice being counterposed to the museum's rigorously regulated life. Established in Soviet times, many memorial museums, just like the Chekhov House Museum, conform to the canons of Soviet museology and at the same time reflect the very narrative style considered appropriate for the greatness of Russian culture and science. This style's distinguishing feature is that it transforms one's biography into a monument, canonical and unalterable, frozen in time. Many of these museums have remained unchanged for decades, functioning as both time machines and timeless spaces — the air of the famous resident's era, the Soviet perspective on the figure's historical significance and the contemporary interpretation of his or her legacy amalgamate in one space.
In many ways, the video deals with the issue of the preservation of historical memory (particularly challenging in the Russian context), without which it is impossible to retain the memory of an individual and his or her life. Chernysheva takes a critical look at a person's story rendered as a formal bureaucratic narrative, calling into question the relevance of a certain fixed format for biography and pointing at the inevitably subjective, judgmental and notional character of any biographical narrative.
At the same time, as always with the artist, whose main object of study regardless of media is humans and human condition, her story revolves mainly around visitors and the museum's employees and to a lesser extent around the Chekhov family. The artist's camera wandering around the museum captures scenes and dialogues from the everyday life of the museum as though borrowing them from one of Chekhov's short stories. The artist's legacy as revived in these scenes has much more vigor and truthfulness than as presented in the timeless and partially impersonal display where the individuality of one's life is overshadowed by the conventional description of one's epoch, class and family.
The video contains a lot funny and dramatic moments as well as tension scenes which, being natural and simple, are devoid of pathos. Altogether they once again emphasize the duality of public figures' biographies, encouraging the notional narrator and his or her listeners to retain the complexity and the depth of a person's life and avoid reducing it to his or her social function (in the case of Chekhov, a doctor and a writer) for it not to turn into a "monument".