31 Jul – 14 Sep 2015

TRIAL is an exhibition inspired by the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, which took place between February 2009 and December 2010. Rather than attempting to reconstruct the trial, the exhibition aims to expose the inner mechanisms of the Russian legal system and the atmosphere of court proceedings.

In their works, Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, and Fedor Dostoyevsky have all described the tediousness and absurdity of court proceedings. Yet these seemingly absurd proceedings often have serious consequences. Those who persecute the protagonist of Kafka's Trial, Josef K., have a goal, which they also achieve. The system works according to its own logic, which is usually concealed from outsiders. This is precisely what Mikhail Khodorkovsky wrote about in his article "Legalized Violence".

The second Khodorkovsky-Lebedev trial became a pivotal moment in Russia’s contemporary history. A number of court proceedings that followed in 2011-2015 illustrated the depth of the systemic crisis into which Putin's regime has plunged Russian society. Unwarranted administrative penalties and criminal prosecution of participants in protest meetings, marches, and the events on Bolotnaya Square events in Moscow of 6 May 2012 showed the world not just the rapid deterioration of the Russian court system as an institution, but also the overall moral bankruptcy of Russian society.

The exhibition’s documentary foundation is a series of comic strips by Russian cartoonist Alexander Kotlyarov depicting the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev trial. During the trial, these comic strips were published weekly on the Ezhenedelnyi Zhurnal website ( for a year and a half.

Exhibition curator Anton Litvin created an installation whose protagonists are not the specific individuals who took part in the trial, but prototypes of participants in court proceedings: Judge, Prosecutor, Lawyers, Witnesses, Defendants. Exhibition visitors become part of a strange and emotionally charged ritual that bears little or no resemblance to legal court proceedings.

Curator: Anton Litvin

Drawings: Alexander Kotlyarov

Video: Anton Litvin
Exhibition Partners: