Legalize niches. The Leonid Talochkin Collection of Nonconformist Art as Soviet cultural heritage
Art historian Sandra Frimmel explores Leonid Talochkin’s (1936–2002) collection of unofficial Soviet art, which was listed as national cultural heritage in 1976. The article is based on Frimmel’s research at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Archive Summer program and is published here for the first time.The Leonid Talochkin Collection of Nonconformist Art was registered as a "cultural monument of all-union significance" in 1976. In the middle of the Stagnation period under Leonid Brezhnev, the state thus accepted a double impossibility: on the one hand, the Talochkin Collection should not have existed at all, because private (art) ownership in the Soviet Union had been banned, with collections seized, and nationalized in 1918, immediately after the October Revolution; on the other hand, the unofficial art that had emerged during the Thaw had no right to exist in the eyes of the state. Yet the 1970s were also a time of negotiating and gradual opening of cultural spaces. To gain insight into this extraordinary episode in Soviet art and cultural history, the following article will focus on the question of how state recognition of the Talochkin Collection came about, in what cultural and political circumstances it took place, and what consequences it had for the collector and his holdings.How the Talochkin Collection was registeredIn 1976, the wooden house in the central Tverskoy district where Talochkin lived was due to be demolished and the collector, with all the works of art he had gathered since 1962, was to be relocated into two tiny rooms in a communal apartment on the outskirts of the city. The collection, which at that time already consisted of around 500 works, including Oskar Rabin's Optimistic Landscape, Lev Kropivnitsky's Blue Way, Youri Jarkikh's Birth–Death, and Evgeny Rukhin's The Danish Flag [1], could not have accommodated there, which put its existence in danger. To escape the threat of relocation and to request suitable premises for himself and his collection, Talochkin, on the advice of artist friends, including Dmitry Plavinsky, turned to Aleksandr Khalturin, then head of the Department of Fine Arts and Monument Protection at the Ministry of Culture. After Talochkin appeared in Khalturin's office unannounced, an almost fantastic story happened. The collector recounted it in various post-perestroika interviews: "Khalturin gets up from his chair and says: 'Leonid Prokhorovich, if I'm not mistaken?' I was amazed. I had a folder containing a letter and pictures of my collection. 'So, what do you have there?' I forgot everything I needed to say and held out the pictures. He looked at them, they were all unsigned, so he knew the artists. 'Well, well, Vasily Sitnikov, Nemukhin, Plavinsky, Weisberg! And you know, we have a proposal for you.' My eyes opened wide. 'Let's register your collection as a cultural monument. We're just about to release a law on cultural monuments protection, and it would be awesome to list your collection that way. After all, we are always being accused of persecuting artists.' Of course, I was lucky: it was time for an apology after the Bulldozer Exhibition. [...] A mere ten days later, the collection was registered. After a couple of days, they called: 'Tell Talochkin that he's been offered a two-room apartment'.”[2]  It was in this apartment on Novoslobodskaya Street, very close to Talochkin's old home, that the collection was housed—or rather piled up, as it grew over the years to 1,939 items—until it was partially relocated to the Museum Center of the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU) in 2000.“Headquarters” of the exhibition in the Beekeeping Pavilion, “set up” in Dmitry Plavinsky’s studio on Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Street, Moscow, 1975. Photo: Igor Palmin. Garage Archive Collection New spaces for nonconformist artThe Bulldozer Exhibition that Talochkin mentioned in his interview was an exhibition of nonconformist art organized in 1974 by Rabin and collector Alexander Glezer in an open field in Belyayevo. It was thwarted by KGB forces using water cannons and bulldozers [3]. Like the open-air exhibition in Izmailovsky Park that followed a few weeks later and the exhibition in the Beekeeping Pavilion at VDNKh in 1975, the Bulldozer Exhibition was emblematic of how artists ignored by the official art establishment sought to break out of private gatherings and apartment exhibitions into public spaces. Those efforts achieved limited success in 1976, when the Painting Section within the Moscow City Committee of Graphic Artists was founded and an associated exhibition hall on Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Street opened. The section and the hall granted the unofficial art scene public visibility for the first time since the Manège Affair of 1962—Nikita Khrushchev's angry rant at the jubilee exhibition celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Moscow Union of Artists,[4] which had led to a division (by no means impermeable) of the art scene into official/state-sponsored and unofficial/non-state-sponsored “sides.” Talochkin, who did not limit himself to collecting but also extensively documented the unofficial scene, photographed, archived, organized exhibitions, and also published texts in samizdat, viewed these processes with mixed feelings: "[A]part from revenge and reprisals for the defeat, the bosses started to think of how to organize and control the artists who had emerged from nowhere and had declared their existence so potently. Since the Union of Artists had shed all responsibility for them, saying that it did not want to know anything about them, the authorities turned to the City Illustrators’ and Draftsmen’s Union, which could be forced to cooperate, especially since some of the artists involved in the September battles were already members of this organization, being part-time book illustrators, and, most importantly, had a trade union roof over their heads, protecting them from charges of parasitism."[5]  The state’s concession in the case of both the creation of the Painting Section and the registration of the Talochkin Collection was not simply a response to wide international disapproval accusing the Soviet Union of human rights violations as a result of its actions against the Bulldozer Exhibition. The USSR had signed the CSCE Helsinki Final Act in 1975, which stipulated, among other things, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Accordingly, the creation of an official exhibition space for nonconformist artists, or the concomitant “officialization” of what had previously been unofficial, also enabled the state authorities to strengthen control on their part.Collecting in the Soviet UnionGeorge Costakis and Leonid Talochkin, Moscow, mid-1970s. Photo: Igor Palmin. Garage Archive CollectionAccording to Talochkin, Khalturin explained his almost unbelievable move by saying that after the radical action of the KGB against the Bulldozer Exhibition, the Ministry of Culture had to prove internationally "that it didn’t mind such art."[6] However, against the backdrop of the Soviet state's treatment of private collections, this explanation, which at first glance seems quite plausible, falls short. After all, hundreds of private collections—whether of fine art, icons, porcelain, etc.—had been confiscated and expropriated in 1918. But there was still a loophole. A few art collections and valuable individual objects remained in private hands, with a state-registered Protection Certificate being granted to the collectors. Such rare Protection Certificates had been issued mainly to those aristocratic-bourgeois collectors who were engaged in Soviet cultural policy and cooperated with the Bolsheviks.[7] At a time when collecting was forbidden by decree, Protection Certificates guaranteed the continued existence of the collection and prevented its confiscation by the state. They also facilitated state access to the collections, because anyone who was "registered was identified as the owner of a collection,"[8] as Waltraud Bayer writes in her comprehensive treatise on private art collectors in the Soviet Union. In this way, despite the legally precarious situation, some private collections continued to exist after the October Revolution, as long as their owners displayed good political behavior and kept silent.However, according to Bayer, during Khrushchev’s Thaw and the early Brezhnev period, which also marks the start of the Talochkin Collection, there was a "strikingly close and diverse cooperation between the collectors’ community and the state cultural bureaucracy, which manifested itself, among other things, in museum foundations, donations, jointly organized exhibitions, in publications, and in increased museum purchases from private holdings."[9] Thus, some private collections of icons and also paintings became publicly accessible through donations, foundations, publications, and exhibitions, and some private art collections even received their own museums, e. g. the Felix Vishnevsky collection, which served as a basis for the Museum of V.A. Tropinin and Moscow artists of his time, established in 1971 in Moscow. Official cultural policy, as Bayer writes, used this turn toward excluded art primarily for the purposes of foreign policy and tourism. The liberalization of the Thaw and the attempt to consolidate foreign relations allowed and even demanded a reassessment of previously discredited art (avant-garde as well as nonconformist), which had survived only in private collections and had found its niche there.[10] That is when the state, both openly and indirectly, signaled its willingness to cooperate.  The Talochkin Collection probably also benefited from this sometimes rather half-hearted reassessment, which included in the official canon art that had long been marginalized.Talochkin also speculated that the economic problems of the Stagnation, in addition to the ostensible attempts at legalization and integration, were the catalyst for considering disfavored nonconformist art as a foreign currency earner: "Apparently, they wanted to make something useful out of our artists; to trade it to some Hammer for rusty locomotives. To achieve this, they had to promote the artists accordingly. Andropov's 1971 decree on the 'possibilities and conditions of sales of modernist artworks to foreign customers' also speaks to this."[11] This decree deals with stopping the purchase of "formalist" artworks by Western "bourgeois propaganda agencies." Andropov ordered colleagues "to explore the possibilities and conditions of sales of modernist artworks produced by some creative professionals in our country to foreign consumers. Such a measure would help to close illegal transaction channels between our citizens and foreign buyers and to establish greater control over artworks export abroad. The West’s speculations about 'persecuted artists in the USSR' would lose their footing, at least to some extent."[12] Against the backdrop of this directive, which helped shape the cultural policy of the 1970s and even led to the Soviet government's partial funding of a nonconformist art exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum in 1977,[13] the conciliatory attitude toward nonconformist art may have been aimed less at integrating art and its artists into society than at addressing the financial situation in the face of declining economic growth.New control mechanismsAccording to Talochkin's memoirs, the new Law on Protection and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments that Khalturin mentioned seems to have played an equally significant role in the state's recognition of the Talochkin Collection as polishing up the image of the Soviet Union in matters of artistic freedom and obtaining foreign currency. Khalturin had been instrumental in the drafting of the law since the mid-1970s, and since 1987 he had been involved in the creation of the Unified System of Record and Storage of Historical and Cultural Monuments[14] for the entire Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries. Both the law and the database dealt explicitly with privately owned cultural monuments. In 1978, in a speech to the Ministers of Culture of the Socialist Countries, Khalturin mentioned the listing of "monuments privately owned by citizens, i.e. in private collections"[15] as an important stage in the development of the database. What had begun on an institutional level with the establishment of the Painting Section in the City Committee seems to have continued here in legislation, namely the ostensible legalization and thus also increased monitoring of the unofficial and private art and collector scene. Collections such as Talochkin’s were legally registered under the Law on Protection and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments of 1978 (the first version dates from 1976), which aimed to provide "the most complete identification of monuments and assistance in their preservation."16 Special attention was paid to privately owned cultural monuments. The State Control and Advisory Committee of the Department of Fine Arts and Cultural Monuments under the USSR Ministry of Culture, which specialized in the acquisition by museums of artworks held for personal use by citizens (State Advisory Committee-II),[16] was established in 1976, prior to the adoption of the new law. This commission "aimed to contribute to the replenishment of art museums’ collections with valuable works of native and foreign classics, Soviet and foreign modern and progressive fine and applied art"[17] and aimed to purchase private collections for state museums.After registration certain obligations arose both for the collectors (Talochkin, in this case) and for the monument protection authority. Khalturin told Talochkin at the time, "You will need to let us know of any movements in your collection. If you intend to sell an artwork, we will exercise our right of first refusal. But if we can't agree on a price, you can sell it to whoever you want. If you know who you are selling it to, advise us of the buyer. If you plan to exhibit an artwork, then you also need to let us know. For our part, we can help with restoration, with the premises."[18]  At first, these conditions seemed to benefit both sides. However, according to Article 29 of the Law on Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments, collections whose private owners did not comply with the rules for the “protection, use, accounting, and restoration of monuments” could be confiscated. This was especially true if the owner used the collection "for the extraction of unearned income." Such "small print" could have easily led to the nationalization of the collection under any pretext. But in the case of the Talochkin Collection, it was a paradox that the nonconformist art the state disapprove of was suddenly officially acknowledged as a cultural monument bearing artistic and cultural value. The formerly ostracized works now constituted, as it was formulated in the law, "an integral part of the world's cultural heritage"[19] and "testified to the enormous contribution of the peoples of our country to the development of world civilization," although just a few years earlier nonconformist artists had been "stopped on the street by KGB officials and threatened with court cases, physically attacked, beaten up in the course of interrogations, harassed by anonymous callers, urged to denounce their colleagues, accused of fictitious crimes, and briefly arrested,"[20] as Bayer elaborates. A similar, albeit far greater, valorization of suppressed art and its inscription in the art historical canon, in this case the avant-garde, occurred a year later in 1977 with the state acceptance of the Costakis Collection donation, which Khalturin also facilitated to a significant extent.[21]Ultimately, at least on paper, the Law on Protection and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments seems to have created a measured give-and-take situation between state authorities and private collectors. As Talochkin recalled: "The report they demanded was a formality. If I said that the work had gone and I didn’t know the buyer because he hadn’t given his name, that was kind of enough."[22]Canon, control and criminalizationVisiting Leonid Talochkin, Moscow, 1986. Photo: George Kiesewalter. Garage Archive CollectionAs a result of Andropov's order, the establishment of the State Control Committee, and the new law, the situation for private collections, especially of unofficial art, changed in the 1970s and became more advantageous. However, Leonid Talochkin's collection seems to have been one of the few collections of nonconformist art that were registered by the state in the 1970s, and it certainly benefited from this registration. Nevertheless, state support of unofficial art does not seem to have been long-lasting and probably decreased with Khalturin's appointment as director of the State Picture Gallery of the USSR and his consequent departure from the Ministry of Culture in 1979. As Talochkin recalled: "All of this was respected until the Ministry transferred such contracts to the Mossovet [Moscow City Council] Head Department of Culture. They ruined it all. Shortly after this transfer of contracts, Vera Rusanova, also a good collector, applied to the Department with a request for suitable premises (her house was also destined for demolition). The same department sent her a letter saying that her collection had no artistic value. And she has an excellent Weisberg, Nemukhin, Masterkova, Plavinsky, and many others."[23] The Rusanova and Nutovich collections of unofficial art were certainly known to the Ministry of Culture, especially Khalturin, but were not registered.The new Soviet cultural policy by no means brought such positive effects for other collectors as it did for Talochkin. Especially in the early 1970s, some collecting disciplines had been criminalized on suspicion of "foreign exchange speculation." The 1970 trial of Boris Gribanov for trading in paintings and antiquities at inflated prices ended for the collector with a ten-year prison sentence. The Tropinin Museum, which housed Vishnevsky's collection, could not open until much later than planned because of the collector’s arrest and subsequent trial, which ended in an acquittal; and the St. Petersburg collector of nonconformist art Georgy Mikhailov was even sentenced to forced labor[25] for the "unlawful sale of photographs, slides of paintings, and speculation with works of art."[24] Although, as Bayer also writes, the strategic overtures of Soviet cultural policy to previously suppressed art movements led in some cases to the sudden promotion of "others" and their inclusion in the official canon, there was obviously a flip side: control, appropriation, even absorption—for example confiscated works never being returned, as  happened with the Mikhailov collection—in order to subsequently suppress dissent.[26] Despite these still precarious circumstances, in 1976, with the registration of the Talochkin Collection as a "cultural monument of all-union significance," nonconformist art, which was just beginning to enter the consciousness of the Soviet public, was granted "artistic cultural value"[27] by law and state contract. It was thus confirmed by the state that this art "served the purpose of cultural development" and "aesthetic education."[28] [1] Tatiana Wendelstein, Facebook post, August 22, 2017. I thank Gianna Frölicher for our discussion of this text.[2] "Mne prosto darili kartiny. Interv’iu Nikity Alekseeva,” Inostranets, 9, March 7, 2000.[3] See Victor Agamov-Tupitsyn, Bul’dozernaia vystavka (Moscow: Ad Marginem Press, 2014).[4] See Yuri Gerchuk, Krovoizliianie v MOSKh, ili Khrushchev v Manezhe 1 dekabria 1962 goda (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2008).[5] Irina Alpatova, Drugoe iskusstvo. Moskva 1956–1988 (Moscow: Galart, 2005), 202.[6] Fedor Romer, “Dissidenty vsesoiuznogo znacheniia,” Itogi, March 7, 2000, 60. [7] See Waltraud Bayer, Gerettete Kultur. Private Kunstsammler in der Sowjetunion 1917–1991, Vienna: Turia & Kant, 2006), 15, 58.[8] Ibid., 59.[9] Ibid., 185.[10] Ibid., 185.[11] Fedor Romer, op. cit.[13]  Bayer, op. cit., 210.[14] A.G. Khalturin: "Protection and use of historical and cultural monuments, 6.06.1978, Suzdal (text of his speech at the meeting of Ministers of Culture of the Socialist Countries), Manuscript Department of the State Tretyakov Gallery, f. 249, storage unit 3, 12 pages., p. 6.[15] Ibid.[16] See: Minutes of the Advisory Committee of the Department of Fine Arts and Monument Protection, Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, f. 2329, inventory 41, storage unit 346, 11 p., p. 1.[17] Ibid.[18] Fedor Romer: RELIQUES. THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE PENNY, AND SUDDENLY THERE IS A DIME.[19] LAW ON PROTECTION AND USE OF MONUMENTS OF HISTORY AND CULTURE, December 15, 1978.[20] Waltraud Bayer: The Art of Survival: Private Art Collectors in the USSR 1917-1991, Vienna 2006, 209.[21] See: Irina Pronina: "Gift from George Costakis", in George Costakis. To the 100th Collector's Anniversary, Moscow, The State Tretyakov Gallery 2014, 384-391.[22] Fedor Romer: RELIQUES. THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE PENNY, AND SUDDENLY THERE IS A DIME.[23] "Other art" Leonid Talochkin. Interview with the collector. INA MAHARASHVILI. Russian Thought №4316, May 4—10 2000, 15, Garage Archive.[24] See Bayer, 213f.[25] See Bayer, 279.[26] See ibid., 210.[27] LAW ON PROTECTION AND USE OF HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MONUMENTS, December 15 1978, Article 1.[28] LAW ON PROTECTION AND USE OF HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MONUMENTS, December 15 1978.
Frimmel Sandra | 17 August 2021
Igor Kholin. Bio-Inter-View. Video by Sabine Hänsgen
This is a transcript of a bio-inter-view with poet and novelist Igor Kholin (1920–1999), a member of the Lianozovo Group and a representative of concrete poetry in Russian literature. The interview was recorded in 1996 by Sabine Hänsgen to document the Moscow art and literary scene of the time, and is stored in her personal archive. I had heard a lot about Igor Kholin before I met him in person in the mid-1980s.Poet Igor Kholin was a cult figure in the Moscow conceptualist circle, to which we German Slavic scholars, who had come from West Germany on an academic exchange program, were rather close at the time. If I remember correctly, it was Andrei Monastyrski and Vladimir Sorokin who took me and Georg Witte[2] to Kholin’s apartment near Kolkhoznaya metro station,[3] in Ananievsky Lane by the Garden Ring Road. We were told that Igor Kholin was an icon of the Soviet 1960s underground, who had left the art scene and stopped writing a few years earlier and devoted himself completely to bringing up his daughter Arina after her mother died in childbirth. Kholin immediately made a great impression on me. He was a very modern and open person: he was interested in everything that was going on in the world, including in our country, and particularly interested in fashion and new technology. We shared this interest in technology. At the time, we were audio and video recording poetry readings, artist conversations, and performances in the Moscow conceptualist circle in order to document the specific forms of artistic communication, life in the underground—we wanted to preserve for the cultural memory what we believed might be destroyed, repressed, and forgotten. Kholin showed us his audio recordings of apartment poetry readings that he had organized in the 1960s and 1970s. Later, when in 1992 we were working on the anthology Lianosowo, Igor allowed us to include his recordings of readings by Evgeny Kropivnitsky and Yan Satunovsky in the media package that accompanied the anthology. We could not have recorded them ourselves: when we arrived in Moscow they had already passed away. Igor Kholin, mid-1990s. Photo: Sabine HänsgenWe started seeing Igor Kholin regularly. Thus began a friendship that continued until his death. Starting from the late 1980s, Kholin visited us a few times in Germany for a number of cultural events: in 1989 he came to the festival Hier und dort at Museum Folkwang (Essen)[4] and in 1992 to the exhibition Lianozowo[5] at the Bochum Art Museum (curated by Günter Hirt and Sascha Wonders[6]), followed by a tour of three Russian poets (Igor Kholin, Genrikh Sapgir, and Vsevolod Nekrasov) around Germany.[7] In 1998, Kholin came to Germany for the last time, for the exhibition Präprintium. Moscow Samizdat Books[8] at New Museum Weserburg in Bremen and the exhibition Moscow—Düsseldorf. Russian Art from Samizdat to the Market[9] at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, organized by Gudrun Lehmann[10].In the 1990s, Kholin was very excited about the new opportunities for free travel. A couple of times he and Arina visited us in Bochum, and then traveled on to see their friends in Cologne and Paris. In fact, this might have been one of the reasons behind Kholin’s decision to transfer most of his archive to the Research Centre for East European Studies in Bremen.[11] Perhaps he wanted to give Russian researchers who gathered materials on him a reason to visit Europe like he did. In 1996, as part of my years-long project documenting the Moscow literary and art scenes on video,[12] I offered to make a recording of Igor Kholin. In front of the camera, Kholin spoke about his life. A host of legends circulated around him: that he had been a street child; an officer severely wounded in WWII; that he became a poet while working as a guard in a prison camp outside Moscow; that he wrote poetry about the barracks of Lianozovo.[13]Kholin himself spread many of those legends. These stories at the intersection of truth and fantasy grew out of his conversations. Talking about his life, Kholin retold various rumors and versions of events. As he put it, it is hard to speak of something with compete certainty…My video was screened at the exhibition Kholin and Sapgir. Manuscripts at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art[14] in 2017. That is when the interview was transcribed and translated into English.[15] Sabine Hänsgen, 2021 Igor Kholin: I don’t really like talking about the past. First, I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve had more bad than good things in my life. I often ask myself if there was anything good at all. So, remembering the past is always traumatic. Then, I doubt there’s a man who could tell everything about himself. I believe even Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Confessions avoided certain painful episodes he did not want to share with the public. The story of my life is not going to be long. It’s best to start with the day I was born.[16] I don’t remember that day of course. But I have some confused memories of my existence, so I’m going to tell you about that.My mother was from Moscow. Well, almost from Moscow—she lived in a village near Istra. That’s where the New Jerusalem Monastery is located. People who lived there were tailors. They made coats for Moscow. In those times, one village made boots, another made coats, yet another made trousers or suits, and so on. They were really good tailors: they had actors and aristocracy among their clients. My mother was a seamstress—she made undergarments. And then, I suppose, she got married and moved to Moscow. I am her fourth child. I don’t want to bring disgrace on my mum, but all her children were from different fathers. She had been officially married to her previous husband, but not to my father. I was officially the child of her previous husband who had been shot in 1918. And as you know, I was born in 1920. Nothing is certain though, as my sisters were such liars that I couldn’t believe a word they said. Katya, for example, told me that my father’s family name was not Kholin but Lvov and that he was from around Samara—perhaps, he had some land there. I never found out. He was an officer in the tsar’s armed forces, a colonel, and then, after the Bolshevik coup, he joined the Red Army and stayed in a reserve unit in Orel. That’s where I must have been born, and then I was taken to Moscow as a baby. Why? Because my mother already had three daughters. I was adopted by some people who seemed to be merchants. They had a lot of things that pointed to that: whalebone crinoline underskirts and such. They had no children, so they adopted me. Then my foster mother must have broken up with her husband, who took to drinking, and was left alone. Besides, she finally gave birth. So, I was left at an orphanage. Lianosowo, 1992. Photo: Sabine HänsgenThe orphanage was outside Moscow, in Malakhovka. I must have had some psychological problem, because I kept running away. I ran away and they caught me. I lived on the streets, was a tramp. I was left at the orphanage in 1927, when I was seven. Where did those ideas of running away come from? I was at several orphanages. The last one was a children’s work camp in Solotcha near Ryazan. It was a former monastery, which they converted into an orphanage for minors. I had committed no crime, like most kids there, but we were considered difficult children. I was deeply impressed by that monastery. Perhaps, it was one of the reasons I started writing later. Imagine kids of 8 or 9 living in a space covered with religious murals. The image I remember the best is the one where they have beheaded John the Baptist. It was very realistic: somebody’s holding the head and his blood is dripping. There were scenes of Judgment Day too. We were looking at all that and we were scared. Then in 1932, the hunger began,[17] and children’s homes were very much affected. They stopped feeding us. It may be that some supplies did come from Ryazan but were stolen by the teachers. So, we stole food from the neighboring villages. I wonder how I survived. It was minus twenty-five or minus thirty, we had no proper clothes—some torn coats—and so we scavenged around villages. Villages were burning, there were fires everywhere. How does this happen? When there’s war, suddenly a lot of things emerge. When there’s hunger, there are fires, villages burn. To a 10- or 12-year-old it was horrifying. Then, in 1933, a new director was appointed. I even remember his name, Lazarenko. He managed to set things right. He got some land from the local authorities—we worked there growing wheat, potatoes, turnips. They started feeding us a bit. He even bought a stallion and was taking money from the villagers for inseminating their mares. That was one entertainment we had. They’d bring a mare, and we would gather and watch. I lived there until about 1934. Then, when I was 14, I was sent to Kryukovo, near Moscow, to work in a glass factory. I really didn’t like working there. I ran off to Crimea and lived as a tramp: sometimes I’d steal and sometimes people gave me things. In Kharkov I was picked up by a military school and joined their music group. I had learnt a bit of music in the work camp. The new director of the camp bought some instruments for us and all the kids started playing—everybody wanted to play and they didn’t take me, as I was not very musical. But after a while, other kids no longer wanted to play and I still did, so in the end they took me and I did learn certain things.At the military school in Kharkov, we were several kids aged 14 to 16 in the music group. Then, in 1937, I started working at a power plant in Novorossiysk. First, I was learning and then became an assistant engineer. In 1940 I had to join the army. Once again, it was music that saved me. When we arrived at the regiment, the man in charge of music asked us what we could play. We were several recruits and three of us from Novorossiysk. We had been in an amateur orchestra and had even played at weddings and funerals to make extra money. So, we said we were musicians, and we were assigned to the musical troop and that’s where I served until 1941. I don’t remember which month it was, but not long before the war. There was this tension in the air. You could tell something was about to happen. We didn’t know what, of course. I really wanted to get out of there. But you can’t just leave the army—you could get shot for that. When they were recruiting people to go to a military school, I volunteered and they sent me to an army school in Gomel, and that’s where I was when the war broke out. I never finished that school. In 1941, we were sent to the front line not far from Moscow. I got my first wound near Dmitrov. I was sent to the hospital and then to a reserve division, where I did a short course to become a junior lieutenant. I became an officer. In 1942, I was badly wounded on the Don, and then after I got out of the hospital I continued fighting until the end, until 1945, until victory. Where I was, the war was still going on May 9. It was near Olomouc in Czechoslovakia. Our division stopped near Prague.[18]After the war, I was sent to work at a local military commissariat to teach young people before they joined the army. But as it was in Western Ukraine, Bandera’s militia[19] was there. They were fighting a war similar to the one that going on now in Chechnya. They lived in the mountains and had the support of the locals. They were not “gangs,” as we called them at the time. It was quite a big organization. We had a local committee of the Communist Party, and they had their own local committee. In 1946, I was helping organize the elections and I can tell you they were totally rigged, because I, as a member of the election committee, was going around villages in an armored car with machine guns. You enter a house and of course the citizen has to vote the right way. Naturally, they did not want Soviet rule in the West of Ukraine! They killed people. Although the head of our military commissariat survived, the bullet hit his spine, so he lost his legs. When I saw that, I decided to leave the army.I’ll tell you about one episode that you might find funny, or you might find it sad. I was preparing the papers to leave Korets in Rivne Oblast where I was serving. Suddenly an officer turns up from the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “I’d like to talk to you.” I say, “Alright.” We walk into a room, and he asks if I would like to be transferred to Internal Troops. I ask what position they would offer me, and he says, “We can offer you the post of military court secretary or military court commandant.” Do you know what a military court commandant is? It’s an executioner. He executes people. I knew what a military court commandant was. I even wrote a short story published in the Abandoned Corner,[20] where a battalion commander is executed. And directing the execution is a military court commandant. It was a horrible execution, because they could not kill him. They must have shot him at least ten times and he was still alive. So, the commandant rushed to him with a gun to put a bullet through his head, but the gun didn’t fire. Then the guys from the commandant’s team grabbed him by the legs and dragged him into the grave—the pit they dug to bury him. You see what I have witnessed! Our polished films about heroes and all… people were slaughtered! That’s what we need to remember when we think about the war, and not heroism. Although in that war no man could prove he acted as a hero, because it was a war of masses: aviation, artillery, tanks—how could one be a hero? Nonsense. Anyway, I served until I was a captain and I quit. Now I’m going to tell you what you’re most interested in—how I started writing. I started writing late, in 1949. I was thirty. For an insignificant administrative crime, I got two years in a labor camp. At the camp, I met a mate from the army. He was in charge of assigning jobs to prisoners. He saw my name and called for me. We could not greet each other and give each other a hug, of course, but he arranged for me to work as a prisoner-guard. They picked out some prisoners to work as guards—gave us rifles and put us on watchtowers to watch over other prisoners. We did not live in the camp, we lived outside and could walk around freely—it was not prohibited. I had to spend a lot of time on the watchtower. They really exploited prisoner-guards and sometimes you had to stay on the tower for 18 hours with no break. So, as I was standing there, I started to write poems in my mind. They were rubbish, of course. I can’t even remember anything now. Still, I became full of myself, and I thought I should learn something. I decided to go to the nearest village—Vinogradovo[21] —where they had a library. I walked in and said, “Do you have anything by Alexander Blok?” The librarian gave me a strange look (as I found out later, Blok was not to be given on loan). Then she asked me if I was writing poems. “Yes, I write poems,” I said kind of proudly. “My husband is an artist and writes poems, too,” she said, “come visit us.”The librarian was Olga Ananyevna Potapova, the wife of Evgeny Leonidovich Kropivnitsky, who is now a well-known artist. She is also a wonderful artist. On a day off, me and a mate, who also was writing poems, went to visit them. It was not far, in Dolgoprudnoe village—we just had to cross Dmitrovskoe Highway. We were shocked. It turned out that Evgeny Kropivnitsky lived in a room of about 8 square meters with his wife, his daughter with a baby, and a granny. All in a tiny room with a wood stove. I reckon it was even worse than what we had at the camp. We talked, he asked us about our life. I read some of my poems, and my mate read some of his. Our poems were very bad, but he was a great teacher and didn’t show us that he didn’t like them. He said, “Of course, you should write, I believe it’s going to work.” So, I started visiting him, and my mate never went again. He must have thought Kropivnitsky lived too poorly for an artist. But I started visiting and became a regular there. Evgeny Leonidovich was always telling me about Genrikh Veniaminovich Sapgir, who was serving in the army at the time. He showed me his poems and sent mine to him. When Sapgir came back from the army, we already knew each other, we were friends even. Around the same time, the daughter of Evgeny Leonidovich, Valya Kropivnitskaya broke up with her engineer husband and married Oskar Rabin, a former student of Evgeny Leonidovich from the Palace of Pioneers in Leningradsky district, where Genrikh Sapgir had also studied. Oskar came to stay with them and married Valya. So, we had a small group of three poets and two artists (because Evgeny Leonidovich was a poet and an artist). That’s how it started. Later, Oskar got a room in Lianozovo,[22] as he was working there at the railroad, and our cultural hub (although we were still visiting Evgeny Leonidovich in Dolgoprodnoe) moved to Lianozovo. I agree with Vsevolod Nekrasov, who says that the life of the circle began at Evgeny Kropivnitsky’s place and then moved to Oskar Rabin’s, even though Evgeny Kropivnitsky still played a huge part in it. We did not know what was going on in Moscow. We had our small group and that was that. Evgeny Kropivnitsky’s son Lev came back after 10 years in prison. It’s a long story. He got convicted for nothing, There was no crime, nothing. So, he came back. Then Boris Sveshnikov,[23] who did time with him, came back, and then Arkady Shteinberg,[24] who also did time with him, came back. As you see, our circle was getting bigger. Those people knew other people, so our small circle grew into a bigger cultural group. What was even more important was Evgeny Kropivnitsky’s teaching job at different Pioneer Palaces, where he taught kids art.[25] That’s where he met one of his students Yuri Vasiliev,[26] who was already an artist, a member of the Moscow Union of Artists, but a “left artist.”We went to see his works and they were a big influence on us—on Oskar who was still making realist paintings at the time. On Lev, too. Many people will disagree now, but that’s what I think. Yuri Vasiliev knew other people: Natalya Egorshina, Nikolai Andronov. Thanks to the fact that our group was growing, we also visited some of the older artists: Alexander Tyshler, Alexander Osmerkin’s widow; the family of Artur Fonvizin showed us his works. Those visits changed our perspective on certain things. As you understand, it was all underground art: by this time Vasiliev had been expelled from the Moscow Union of Artists[27] for his experiments. However, in 1959, the first exhibition of “left artists” took place at the Central House of Literature[28] and to us it was a revelation—just like Ely Belyutin, who we met then. He ran a big studio.[29] He was an amazing, interesting person. He had up to four hundred students, and they had it going on such a scale that they could rent a steamboat and to sail down the Volga and paint landscapes. Why am I talking about Belyutin? Oh yes, it was the second exhibition of “left artists” and many artists were his students: Boris Zhutovsky and others—and Belyutin himself was a wonderful artist. Anyway, that’s what was happening then. People started having exhibitions in apartments, in studios. We met Ilya Kabakov, Vladimir Yankilevsky, Oleg Vassiliev. We had more and more connections. Finally, there came a moment where “everyone in Moscow” knew us and we knew everyone. I mean the art world, of course. In 1959, we met Ivan Bruni at an exhibition at the Central House of Literature. He was an artist and he introduced us to the newly appointed head of Malysh [a publishing house specializing in children’s literature].[30] Genrikh Sapgir and I began writing poems for kids, for which we got paid. I wrote children’s poems[31] until 1974, and then I stopped. Life was tough, we were poor. When we got together, we’d put together our small change and buy some vodka, a couple of bottles of wine, some potatoes, and some herring. Although it was wonderful, we were very poor. Only a few amongst us were rich—either the kids of rich parents or those who got big commissions from the state, like Mikhalkov and Markov. Of course, now they are all pretending they were such good people, such democrats, but that’s not how it was. For most artists, it only got a bit better when foreigners started buying paintings. However, they were not buying our poems, so we had to look for other ways of making money. Genrikh Sapgir[32] and I wrote poems for children.You also had other jobs. You worked as a waiter, for example.When I came back from the camp, I got a job as a waiter at the Metropol Hotel. It paid very well—sometimes I’d get 10 or 15 rubles in tips. At a time when a qualified worker in an institute got 110 rubles a month, it was good money. I lived quite well, although I only had a room in a barrack, which I shared with my first wife and my daughter Lyuda. It wasn’t a big room, 8 or 9 meters, but compared to the room Evgeny Kropivnitsky shared with 4 people it was luxury. In 1957 or 1958 I quit that job and focused on writing. At first it was very hard, but then it got better. Could you speak a bit about the general atmosphere of the 1960s?I did not like the general atmosphere then. I knew a lot of dissident writers—Andrei Amalrik (the main dissident), Alexander Ginzburg, Pavel Litvinov—and I did like them, but there was something irritating about them. Now, looking back, I understand that they must have been scared. They were being watched and they could be arrested at any moment, so they were always cautious. They were not only suspicious of the authorities, but also of people they knew quite well. So, you came to see Ginzburg, and he was thinking, “Is he a snitch?” You know? That’s what the atmosphere was like. At the same time, I can say that it was a great time for art. And I don’t know if it will ever be the same again. Perhaps, only Vladimir Sorokin and Viktor Erofeev and a few other people are now working like people did then. And then it was this great moment. Art was the only thing people cared about, because they were poor. Editing and commentary: Valeriy Ledenev [1] The term “bio-interview” is borrowed from the futurist poet Sergei Tretyakov. However, if Tretyakov’s bio-interview (his spelling) suggested a confident view directed towards the utopian future, we in our bio-inter-view (our preferred spelling) wanted to move away from the perspective of the historical avant-garde and toward a more complex retrospective view of a twentieth-century person. At the same time, we were aware of the fact that the very situation of a conversation recorded on camera determined the mode of the speaker’s self-presentation. (Sabine Hänsgen)[2] Georg Witte is a German Slavic scholar, literary historian, translator, and expert on Soviet unofficial art and culture. He is also known by the pseudonym Günter Hirt.[3] Renamed Sukharevskaya in 1990.[4] The festival of Russian and German poetry Hier und dort [Here and There] was organized as part of the Essen Days of Literature, December 8–10, 1989, at Museum Folkwang (Essen). See the exhibition booklet: [5] Lianosowo—Moskau. Bilder und Gedichte, Bochum Art Museum, June 27–July 26, 1992. The exhibition was also shown at the State Museum of Literature in Moscow (March 27–April 26, 1991) and at Sparkasse, Bremen (August 3–28, 1992).[6] Sascha Wonders was a pseudonym of Sabine Hänsgen.[7] “The exhibition Lianosowo—Moskau. Bilder und Gedichte and the release of the Lianozovo publication was followed by a German tour of three Lianozovo poets: Igor Kholin, Genrikh Sapgir and Vsevolod Nekrasov. The tour included readings/performances in several cities: Bochum, Cologne, Frankfurt, Bremen, Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden. The trip to Germany made a great impression on the three poets: Nekrasov described it in his book Deutsche Buch, while Kholin donated part of his archive, including his diary manuscripts to the archive of the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. In Bremen, the Lianozovo poets met German concrete poets Franz Mon and Gerhard Rühm.” Sabine Hänsgen, notes to the foreword, Lianosowo. Gedichte und Bilder aus Moskau (Munich: S-Press, 1992).“In the summer we had the Lianosowo’92 program in Germany: an exhibition in Bochum and Bremen; readings in Bochum; readings in Cologne, Frankfurt (am Main), Bremen, Münster, Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig. The three of us were reading our poetry: Kholin, Sapgir and me. With us we had Lianosowo—a new collection of poetry by us three, as well as by Kropivnitsky and Satunovsky who did not live to be there, translated by Wonders and Hirt, and an audiocassette. Over 15 reviews in 12 German periodicals and one Swiss. In Bremen, at the Bremen Museum: 3 OST + 2 WEST—a joint reading with Franz Mon and Gerhard Rühm—the living legends of German concrete poetry.” Vsevolod Nekrasov. Deutsche Buch (Moscow: Vek XX i mir, 1998), 71.[8] The exhibition Präprintium: Moskauer Bücher aus dem Samizdat took place at the Berlin State Library (May 14–June 27, 1998) and New Museum Weserburg, Bremen (November 7, 1998­–March 7, 1999). Curators: Günter Hirt and Sascha Wonders.[9] Moskau–Düsseldorf — Russische Kunst vom Samizdat zum Markt at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf (1998).[10] Gudrun Lehmann is an artist, art and literature historian, and translator. From 1974 to 1981 she studied art in Münster and Düsseldorf and later trained in Paris and Melbourne. From the 1980s, she visited the USSR and then Russia and the former Soviet republics several times. She has written a number of essays on the culture of Eastern and Central Europe. In 2010, her book Fallen und Verschwinden. Daniil Charms — Leben und Werk [Fallen and Disappeared. Daniil Kharms—Life and Work] was published by Arco (Wuppertal).[11] The Research Centre for East European Studies in Bremen [Forschungsstelle Osteuropa] is a research institution at the University of Bremen founded in 1982 to study the former Eastern Bloc nations (primarily the USSR, Poland, and Czechoslovakia), their specificity and cultures. URL: [12] In 1984, I brought the Blaupunkt VHS devices from Germany to the Soviet Union and started recording events in the Moscow conceptualist scene on video. Parts of those recordings were published in Günter Hirt and Sascha Wonders, Moskau. Moskau. Videostücke (Wuppertal: Edition S Press, 1987); Günter Hirt and Sascha Wonders, Konzept — Moskau — 1985. Eine Videodokumentation in drei Teilen. Band 1: Poesie. Band 2: Aktion. Band 3: Ateliers (Wuppertal: Edition S Press, 1991).These video pieces were featured in the exhibition Ich lebe – ich sehe at Museum of Fine Arts Bern (June 11–August 14, 1988) and are scheduled for reissue in 2021. Some pieces were published in the international video magazine Infermental (5, 1986; 6, 1987; 8, 1988). In the 1990s, I continued gathering the video archive as part of the MANI project (Moscow Archive of New Art). As exhibits, those videos were first featured in my exhibition MANI Museum Video Archive at Obscuri Viri in Moscow (March 30–April 4, 1996) In the decades that followed I continued to make videos as part Collective Actions’ practice. I also documented the trips of Russian artists to the West, including the series Lecture Performances by Moscow conceptualist poets and artists at Lotman Institute of Slavic Studies and Russian Culture, Ruhr University Bochum.See: “Moskovskii kontseptualizm 80-kh: interv’iu s Sabinoi Khensgen (Tsiurikh),”, 17.10.2016,; Antonio Geusa, “Videotvorchestvo i khudozhestvennoe soobshchestvo. Istoricheskie paralleli mezhdu SShA I Rossiei,” Moscow Art Magazine,[13] Until the early 1960s, Lianozovo was a barrack settlement outside Moscow, and in the 1960s it became a village of Moscow. In the early 1950s a circle of poets and artists formed in Lianozovo, who organized apartment exhibitions and poetry readings. This circle came to be known as the Lianozovo Group and its members included Evgeny, Lev, and Valentina Kropivnitsky, Olga Potapova, Igor Kholin, Yan Satunovsky, Genrikh Sapgir, Vsevolod Nekrasov, Nikolai Vechtomov, Oskar Rabin, and Vladimir Nemukhin, among others. [14] The exhibition took place at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art from May 20 to August 17, 2017 and was curated by Sasha Obukhova and Ekaterina Lazareva.[15] For the centenary of Igor Kholin’s birth in 2020, the small German publishing house Aspei (Bochum) produced a three-part German publication of his works, which included this bio-inter-view. See: CHOLIN 100. Eine Werkauswahl in 3 Teilen ((1) Es starb der Erdball. Gedichte, Übertragung: Gudrun Lehmann; (2) Ein glücklicher Zufall. Prosa, Übertragung: Wolfram Eggeling; (3) Bio-Inter-View, Videoaufzeichnung und Transkription: Sabine Hänsgen) (Bochum: Edition Aspei, 2020). Graphic design by Martin Hüttel. [16] January 11, 1920.[17] The Soviet famine of 1932–1933 spread across vast territories in the Kazakh Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic, Central Black Earth Economic Region, the North Caucasus, the Volga Region, the Urals, and Western Siberia during mass collectivization. See: Famine in the USSR. 1929–1934. Volume. 1: 1929—1932,[18] The Moravia–Ostrava offensive was an operation by the Red Army against the German forces in Czech Silesia (where the city of Olomouc is located). From May 6 to 11, 1945, Soviet forces continued the Prague offensive—the Red Army’s last strategic operation in World War II.[19] The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) was headed by Stepan Bandera from 1940 to 1959. After WWII, the organization continued as a guerilla movement in Western Ukraine (some OUN members lived in emigration outside the Soviet Union). The last traces of the movement in the Soviet Union were destroyed in the 1950s. See: Serhii Plokhy, Chelovek, snreliavshii iadom (Moscow: AST, 2019). [20] Igor Kholin, “Zabroshennyi ugol” in Izbrannoe (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2000), 86–88. [21] The village is located north of Moscow, near the town of Dolgoprudny and Lianozovo, see footnote 13. [22] From 1950, Oskar Rabin worked as a foreman unloading trains at the construction site of the northern waterworks near Lianozovo station on the Savyolovskaya railroad line. As a worker, he was provided with accommodation near the construction site in a former prison camp barrack. See: A.D. Epstein, Khudozhnik Oskar Rabin: zapechatlennaia sud’ba (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015).[23] Artist Lev Kropivnitsky was sentenced to 10 years in a prison camp in 1946 and released in 1954, without the right of return to Moscow, so he remained in Kazakhstan. He was fully rehabilitated in 1956. He spent his first year in prison with artist Boris Sveshnikov, who was arrested the same year. See: A.D. Epstein, Khudozhnik Oskar Rabin: zapechatlennaia sud’ba (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015).[24] Artist, poet and translator Arkady Shteinberg (1907–1984) was arrested twice—in 1937 and 1944—and spent around 11 years in prison. After his release in 1954 he settled in Tarusa, where his circle included Konstantin Paustovsky, Boris Sveshnikov, and Nadezhda Mandelshtam. See P. Nerler, “Nashe glavnoe tvorenie—my sami…,”[25] In the 1940s, Evgeny Kropivnitsky ran an art studio in the Pioneer Palace in the Leningradsky district of Moscow, where Oskar Rabin and Genrikh Sapgir met during the war. See. Sabine Hänsgen, “Lianozovo: Periphery Aesthetics,” [26] Yuri Vasiliev-MON (1925–1990) was a Soviet artist and sculptor. He studied at the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Art (1948–1952) and the Surikov Art Institute (1948–1952) under Vasily Yefanov. He was an unofficial student of Evgeny Kropivnitsy. See:[27] According to the publication Yuri Vasiliev-MON (1993), Vasiliev was accepted into the Moscow Union of Artists in 1954, but the catalogue for the exhibition Other Art. Moscow 1956–1976 (1990) suggests a different date—1955. After his acceptance he took part in a number of Union exhibitions, including 30 Years of the Moscow Union of Artists in 1962 at the Moscow Manege. There is no mention of his expulsion from the Union in any sources studied. [28] Kholin must be referring to the exhibition of the artists of the City Committee of Book, Graphic, and Poster Artists that took place at the Central House of Art Workers in 1959, and in which Ely Belyutin’s studio took part. Artists included Aleksandr Sysoev, Ülo Sooster, Leonid Lamm, and Vera Preobrazhenskaya, among others. [29] Ely Belyutin (1925–2012) began teaching in 1953, when he became a Candidate of Arts and an invited lecturer at the Professional Development Studio of the Institute of Print. The first exhibition of Belyutin studio’s artists took place in November 1959 at the House of Textile Industry Models in Moscow. In 1959, Belyutin was accused of “formalism in art” and dismissed from the Institute. In 1958, his students started training outdoors and from May 22 to June 6, 1961, the studio went on their first “sailing art course” on board the rented river boat Dobrolyubov, which sailed from Moscow to Gorky [now Nizhny Novgorod] and back. See Drugoe iskusstvo, Moskva: 1956–1988 (Moscow: Galart, 2005); Studiia “Novaia real’nost’” (1958–1991). Transformatsiia soznaniia (Moscow: Maier, 201. [30] In 1954 Yury Timofeev was appointed head. [31] Igor Kholin’s published children’s books include: Zhivye igrushki (Moscow: Detsky mir, 1961), Zhadnyi liagushonok (Moscow: Detsky mir, 1962), Eto vse avtomobili (Moscow: Malysh, 1965), Kto ne spit? (Moscow: Malysh, 1966), V gorode zelenom (Moscow: Malysh, 1966), Chudesnyi teremok (Moscow: Malysh, 1971), Vertolet (Moscow: Malysh, 1972), Vstalo solntse na rassvete (Moscow: Malysh, 1974), and Podarki slonenku (Moscow: Malysh, 1978).[32] Children’s books by Genrikh Sapgir published during his lifetime include: Skazka zveznoi karty (illustrated by Alisa Poret, Moscow: Detsky mir, 1963), Zvezdnaia karusel’ (Moscow: Detskaya literatura, 1964), Zveriatki na zariadke (Moscow: Fizkultura I sport, 1970), Chetyre konverta (Moscow: Detskaya literatura, 1976), and Liudoed i printsessa (Moscow: Podium, Vse zvezdy, 1991). Genrikh Sapgir’s children’s books continued to be published posthumously. See:
Hänsgen Sabine | 6 September 2021
Apartment Galleries: An Experiment in Non-Critical Research
Anthropologist Vita Zelenskaya and I began our study of apartment galleries as independent researchers in autumn 2016 by interviewing five apartment gallery curators in St. Petersburg.[1] In December 2017, we presented our project at the program Weekend Faculty at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. In summer 2018, Garage invited me to take part in the program Archive Summer, where I studied the archive of the research and exhibition project Open Systems. Vita came with me and for a couple of weeks we worked together. We never stopped discussing the research, and although I am writing this text alone it is essentially co-authored by Vita.[2] In this text I focus on two galleries, drawing on the materials that Vita and I collected in St. Petersburg as well as on materials from the Open Systems project.[3] Egorka Communal GalleryExhibition view, Support Group for Those Perturbed by Eros, Egorka Gallery, St. Petersburg, 2018. Garage Archive CollectionEgorka Communal Gallery is a project by the the artists and curators Nastya Makarenko and Anya Tereshkina. The gallery is located in a three-bedroom communal apartment in Egorova Street in St. Petersburg. The gallery space grew over time. Today it occupies two rooms (Nastya’s room has become the Small Gallery, and Anya’s the Big Gallery), the long corridor, and the kitchen. The third room in the apartment is not part of the gallery.Egorka opened at the end of 2016, when Anya and Nastya moved into the rooms they bought (Anya) and rented (Nastya). The first exhibition took place in Anya’s room and the second in Nastya’s. At the time, third room was occupied by an elderly neighbour, Vladimir Aleksandrovich.The first project (and the only one in 2016) was a group exhibition of Anya, Nastya, and their friend Pavla Markova. In 2017–2018, Egorka showed four large group exhibitions, as well as an exhibition by the Gallery’s research department (a sub institution within the gallery devoted to the translation and study of feminist texts on art).The last exhibition at Egorka (at the time of writing) was Support Group for Those Perturbed by Eros (October 27–November 23, 2018), the most representative show in terms of artist numbers and geography. It focused on the states of infatuation and anxiety. During work on the first exhibition (which opened on December 8, 2016), the gallery team formulated the first part of the “Egorka Principles” (a second part was added later). The story of their creation is so closely tied to the history of the gallery and its exhibitions that we can use it as a guide to understanding the gallery’s ethos. Ethos here refers to practice, lived ethical principles, ethics-in-action, a worldview that takes shape in action, the everyday permeated by theory, art, and values, the connection of small and hardly visible that has difficulty gaining a voice, that which is most important. This was the special aspect (hard to catch and requiring great sensitivity), the constitutive trait that I searched for through work, conversations, observations, and discussions at Egorka. Ethos is “what” [is being done] merged with “how” (pragmatics) and “why” (values).The gallery’s “principles” are one way it represents itself in the public field. It is easy to see that they are not addressed to a third-party reader but to the organizers of the gallery themselves. Turning of the private and intimate into something public is a facet of the politics of vulnerability: by sharing their doubts and uncertainties and openly speaking of traits that the culture connects to “weakness,” the Egorka curators talk to the viewer as a friend, the personal tone shortening the distance between them.The friendship that is at the heart of the curators’ interactions at Egorka defines the relationships inside and outside the gallery. The boundaries between private life and work are blurred and communication practices are stitched together to become hybrid forms: friendship-as-work and work-as-friendship.Apart from the tension between the private and the public, art practice and curating, Anya and Nastya are interested in the tension between the individual and the collective, and Egorka has become a space where this tension becomes tangible, a space of potential conflict and the search for balance.Marina: I’ve got a silly question. Because it is called Egorka [a male name], because of the way it sounds, the gallery, which is feminine [in Russian], has turned into some sort of a queer subject in my mind.[4]Nastya: When we last came to FFTN, Ira Aksyonova[5] met us with the words “Here’s Egorka,” so you see people think of us as a single organism, a subpersonality. Conversations that take place here turn into exhibitions, into friendships that also become exhibitions of a sort. […] I understand this kind of friendship very well, for me it’s a form of connection between people. The subjectivity of Egorka is formed through language and through media (social media posts, announcements, avatars, and memes). The anonymization of the curators’ speech on the gallery’s public pages on VKontakte and Facebook might not deceive anyone (since there are only two possible authors), but it supports the building of the collective subject.  Egorka talks to us from the web pages, thus becoming increasingly recognizable. The ambivalence of the name is used playfully in the gallery texts, where it occurs as a toponym (“At Egorka…”) and as the name of a subject (“See you Tuesday. Yours, Egorka” or “Egorka is looking forward to your visit”). This principle became most apparent during the preparation and showing of the group exhibition Support Group for Those Perturbed by Eros, when Anya and Nastya announced a closed call, inviting artists they knew to take part in an exploration of infatuation and anxiety.Nastya: Originally it was meant to be an exhibition of no more than ten artists from the feminist support group.[6] And then, I don’t know, I guess we just talked a lot about the idea and it resonated with people. So, in the end we had many more participants. Curatorial StrategiesHere we look at what is usually referred to as curatorial strategies. The closed call, as opposed to an open call, is one of them. The number of participants through the “closed call” increases, but without the loss of immediate contact: I trust you to invite an artist you trust. The same close relationship and trust show through the curators’ texts for the exhibition Support Group.“—The idea for the exhibition emerged from the synchronized, anxious infatuations of the gallery’s curators.—Infatuation is anxiety, whether your feelings are reciprocated or not. It always destabilizes you, creates this turbulence in the background. […]—One is anxious both in the presence and the absence of the object of one’s affections.—You can close your eyes and not look.—You get relief from a long walk and a talk; from writing texts or songs about it; from drawing or photographing it.—We are looking for support from those who are anxious like us, and we want to support them as well.”[7] Another important principle is the dedication to flexibility and changeability that is an extension of practices of self-care. Tired of open calls, the two curators invented a “closed call;” they keep changing the opening hours, giving themselves time to rest and space for experiments with quasi-institutional formats of work/leisure (for instance, Egorka has a translation studio and a film club).The gallery’s political principles are inseparable from its ethics. Marina: Does Egorka have a particular political stance?Anya: I believe it does. We as people have political principles. Hmm… Well, first, we are feminists… I am very into… Marxist and anarchist theories and the people who put them into practice… the questions that are discussed in those circles. Polina Zaslavskaya’s words really stuck me when we talked about doing art politically instead of making political art. What I mean is that instead of saying “feminism” ten times in a text, one can produce a work or an exhibition in accordance with its principles, without offending anyone or trying hard to show something that is invisible.”[Talking at the same time]Anya: We want to support women artists.Nastya: We also show works by people who do not consider themselves artists and whose main occupation is elsewhere, they simply make art works. Their status is of no importance.Anya: It’s true, friendships matter. If someone we don’t know asks us about having a solo exhibition in our gallery, it’s not easy for us to agree to that, so in the end we say no.Nastya: …because it’s our private space and we cannot let in someone we do not know at all.  Affective StrategiesWhat I call affective strategies are not intuitive but conscious efforts to preserve and grow emotions that are valuable to those living them. They are an example of strategies of self-care and care for one another. These strategies occupy an important place in Anya and Nastya’s curating activities. An exhibition can be seen as a reason/occasion for joy, togetherness, and support and it can be organized to be so. This is hardly possible in a more professional context, where emotions and affects are seen as unwanted obstacles to work and are seldom considered. At Egorka, attention to the emotions arising during the making of exhibitions are part of the curators’ strategy, as it is precisely attention to one’s own emotional state that often brings ideas for exhibitions, and attention to one’s emotional balance and tiredness/burnout as curators leads to the adjustment of the working process, the rhythm of exhibitions, and the format of artist selection.Nastya: The birth of an exhibition, working on the idea, writing the text makes us happier. It’s like exhausting childbirth, with a partner.[Laughing]Nastya: Yes, I realised, more than ever during the latest exhibition [Support Group for Those Perturbed by Eros], that I want as many people as possible to see our projects. When we had solo shows, sometimes no one at all would come for the opening, and that felt very hurtful. […]Marina: What else do you find particularly satisfying in your practice? Nastya: I enjoy the process of organizing the display, when we finally get together and decide what will hang where and how it will go together. That’s like writing a symphony. [Laughter] And it turns out that interesting connections can be made between works, that if you sit with them and move them about for a bit you get an interesting and beautiful story. Everything is very organic. Feminist Ethics as a Key to Understanding EgorkaThe transfer of the feminist practices of mutual support—such as support groups—into the exhibition format (as in the case of the exhibition on anxiety and love) is far from accidental. Indeed, it formalizes the principles of feminist ethics and politics discussed above. I have been unable to find a single aspect of Egorka activities that were not feminist. Exhibition view, No Complaints, Egorka Gallery, St. Petersburg, 2017. Garage Archive CollectionEgorka knows how to protect its boundaries. Its practices are not subversive, mimicking—or aiming to evade—the rules of the game in the “big world” outside its walls. Instead, it is the making of a separate world where a different kind of action is possible. Of all the apartment galleries that Vita and I have visited or studied, Egorka may be struggling most with turning a private apartment into a public space (as one of their texts points out, “the people living here are introverts who like to make things happen”). It is precisely this effort, this difficulty that makes the gallery project so important and well thought-through, but also stubborn and persistent in asserting its difference. It is also important because the private, the political, and the creative are merged into one in their space, practices, and relationships. The dedicated attention to one’s own state and the resulting flexibility and willingness to change have turned from a personal and therapeutic practice into a curatorial strategy. During my work in Moscow for Archive Summer I came up with the image of grass—a quiet but persistent growth that softly conquers its territory—which explains everything important that I sensed in Egorka. It seems to have been a gift from my intuitive search.[8] Indeed, what we see here is the ethos of the grass that does things its own way: weaving into and not fighting; quietly growing and not expressing; listening and not asserting itself.Anya: I guess we created the gallery searching for our comfort zone in the world of contemporary art… and maybe we continued by partially getting out of our comfort zone. Nastya: Yes, this boundary has somehow shifted.Anya: We continue to explore the boundaries…Nastya: … of our refuge…Anya: …whether it is private or public… The refuge does not only react to triggers from the outside, but has its own policy, whose relationship to the outside world (both institutions and self-organized initiatives) Anya sums up as “doing equally” and “doing differently.” Brown Stripe GalleryBrown Stripe was a gallery founded by Pyotr Zhukov and Ekaterina Gavrilova in an apartment in Altufyevo, Moscow, in December 2006.[9] In 2014, after Ekaterina Gavrilova left the project, the gallery was renamed the ex-Brown Stripe Foundation. On May 1, 2016, Brown Stripe launched its side-project, 7th Floor Radio. Pyotr Zhukov, co-founder of The Brown Stripe Apartment Gallery, speaking at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the project Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000–2015, November 7, 2015. Garage Archive CollectionThe gallery’s more than ten years of existence roughly coincided with a particular stage in the development of educational (and other) infrastructure in the field of contemporary art in Moscow, which had a direct influence of the lives of Pyotr and Ekaterina. Pyotr, who was a physicist by education, went on to study at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art and Rodchenko Art School—two of the key educational institutions that formed the landscape of emerging art—and briefly attended the Open Studios school at Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Ekaterina Gavrilova was initially a classically trained artist who studied at the Surikov Institute and the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (Animation Studio of Sergey Alimov). She also completed a program at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art. By the end of the 2000s, having studied in various institutions and maintaining the connections from their previous circles, they had a very good idea of art education in Moscow. Their curating activities began long before Brown Stripe. Ekaterina curated her first exhibition in 2001: a show of student works in the small town of Podolsk. A variety of projects in all sorts of places followed: libraries, children’s drawing clubs, and city-run exhibition spaces in various areas of Moscow.Their experience of curating exhibitions in experimental formats and unusual spaces off the contemporary art map of Moscow, as well as in those integrated into the system of contemporary art, is crucial for understanding the blurriness of the boundaries between institutional and self-organized spaces and the emergence of “gray areas” between them. While city-run exhibition spaces, libraries, houses of culture, and various children’s and youth clubs are formal institutions, they have little to do with contemporary art. Such spaces are not among the legitimized or legitimizing (through their prestige, history, recognition, benefits offered) institutions in contemporary art. These strange enclaves and strange unions (such as between the young artists and the exhibition space in Podolsk) create hybrid, flexible forms of interaction between many actors precisely because they are unnoticed by Big Brother. In the 2000s, such spaces, inherited from the Soviet administrative system, were discursively and functionally left outside the newly developing institutional system of contemporary art; beyond the hierarchies and inner boundaries of the art world. Nobody needs them, explains Ekaterina, so they have turned into spaces of great freedom.[10]Their freedom in choosing spaces and strategies seems to define the position that Pyotr and Ekaterina occupied in the art scene, that of a flâneur who is aware of the boundaries but consciously ignores them and goes wherever they want to. The boundaries in question include those between classical and contemporary art; visual and audio mediums, movements and schools. Their versatile education informed the great variety of styles, genres, and exhibition formats in their practice. Brown Stripe showed painting, graphic art, photographic works, video art, object and sound art, and installations that took over the entire space. It organized screenings of animation, concerts, performances, and poetry readings.The solution—the overcoming of boundaries—consists, in this case, in the simultaneous presence in multiple zones and their non-contradictory merging within their own biography, the exhibition space or the apartment gallery.The first exhibition at Brown Stripe was a group show in 2006.  Ekaterina: The first exhibition was a real hodgepodge. Vika [Lomasko] took part, as did art historian Nadya Plungyan, because she also paints… But it was a “here are a few works, let’s discuss them” kind of thing. And then we thought that a room that size is not great for group projects and started offering our friends who might like the idea to have a solo exhibition at our place. Pyotr: But the first exhibition was an improvized group show. Me, Katya, Nikita Pavlov, Lyosha Dorofeev, [Maria] Aradushkina, [Viktoria] Lomasko, and Nadya Plungyan came… someone else…[11]—seven or eight people total—and every one brought a work or two. […] Later, almost all our projects were solo exhibitions.  Boundaries and the Space Where They are LiftedExhibition view, Alexandra Sukhareva. Still-living, The Brown Stripe Apartment Gallery, Moscow, 2008. Garage Archive CollectionAbove I have already outlined the questions that proved to be central for Brown Stripe and that Ekaterina and Pyotr keep returning to in the interview: the idea of the gallery grew out of a desire to overcome the boundaries between various artistic communities and the potential and specificity of the space itself (the room, the apartment, the district, the city).It is interesting to see how the space of the gallery and its location are discussed in the context of the gallery’s “mission;” howsquare meters are loaded with meaning. Pyotr: It was a curious thing how a rather large community formed there. The group of people that had existed before the Rodchenko School expanded when I went to Rodchenko and communicated somewhere. Then other people joined in from different circles… and later because two or three circles came together—but did not clash—within one space, a certain conversation emerged.Thus, the space becomes the key to understanding the initiative, regardless of the scale. The space becomes the axis around which meanings, connections, and references are formed; the space becomes enveloped in myth and connected to history; being located in a space can be interpreted both as violence and as fate.Regarding scalability in the description of spaces, whatever scale we choose, the space is poeticized and mythologized in descriptions by (primarily) Pyotr and Ekaterina, who explain its significance thus:1. The room (the gallery itself), its small dimensions, a single window and the view from it.2. The apartment is located in the middle of a standard multi-story building;3. The building itself is“strange” yet typical.4. The district of Altufyevo is “the arse of the world” and the heir to the tradition of Lianozovo, thus sacralized by its connection to the history of unofficial art.5. Moscow itself. The RoomPyotr: It was used as a kind of studio, so it was filled with stuff: an easel; paintings; a table; other things. Before the opening we would take everything out and hang the works. I guess it took us an hour or two, depending on the number of works, but it was all done pretty quickly. It was funny, as Katya also has students who came to our apartment. So, the room kept changing. We take everything out and we bring everything in and put it in the same places, only in a different order… a “schizospace.”Ekaterina: It was a blank canvas for experiments. People like Arseny Zhilyaev did there what they would not do in galleries. Because they had complete freedom. Pyotr: Conceptually I experienced it a as kind of cave, you know. At the time I was really  interested in Abrahamic discourse, early Christianity, catacomb churches… But somehow everybody felt very minimalist about it: emptiness, minimalism, these walls, the experience of one’s path…The District/The CityPyotr: There was this aura, this fascination with Moscow Conceptualism.Marina: Were you influenced by that part of the history?Pyotr: Of course. Pivovarov’s Grey Notebooks were published around that time. I lived in Altufyevo and the barracks of Lianozovo, where Oskar Rabin and other wonderful people had lived, were just round the corner. Once I went to a shop and saw a banner that said, “Lianozovo. Worth Painting!” [Laughs]Ekaterina: I don’t know how familiar you are with the geography of Moscow. Altufyevo is the arse of the world. We are right by the metro, but it’s the last station in the north and people really need to make an effort to get here. Strangely, at times we had a lot of people at Brown Stripe, I mean really, a lot for an apartment. […]Pyotr: There was this aspect that I worked with a lot, that when viewers have to travel far their attitude changes. It’s not that they start seeing art differently, but they need to justify spending so much time… The location and the space inspired certain curatorial strategies. With the collective Vverkh![12] we organised a series of complex conceptualist seasonal exhibitions connected with the ideas of travel and moving. We organized the summer exhibition Nemi in Altufyevo. It was in three parts. At Brown Stripe, a performance took place in the gallery, with visitors watching a very distorted broadcast of it in the kitchen and hearing some sounds from behind the door. Then there was a trip through the Lianozovo Forest, also with Vverkh! I gave a historical tour and there were some objects and performances. Finally, there was a walk under the Moscow Ring Road, where a river crosses it through a sewer and a tunnel… In the denser forest on the other side of the road we built a dugout and made a cosmist altar. We sacrificed the only copy of the performance video documentation there.Ekaterina: Sasha Sukhareva, made an exhibition with the things she found in the space. She moved them about and lit them up, so she didn’t even need anything special to create it.Marina: You mean, she used objects from the apartment? Ekaterina: Yes, such as the old Finnish sewing machine, similar to a Singer, with a table and with legs. She used it as a table and placed her photograph on the shelf. She made black-and-white blurry photographs. We showed another photographic series, actually. Anton Kuryshev photographed everything that Brown Stripe visitors never saw—things from the rooms that are closed during exhibitions because they are filled with stuff and messy. So, he photographed that mess and kind of inverted the space. Pyotr: The name 7th Floor Radio…  I grew up in this apartment. In his autobiography, The Words, Sartre says that he he grew up on the sixth floor, over the rooftops of Montmartre, and theat sixth-floor perspective remained with him throughout his life. At some point in my life, I felt that the view of Altufyevo has burnt into my eyes. It’s like a house you cannot leave and the space affects you… it sucks you in. This experience of the space, of the presence in the space, encompasses and merges together the physical (the long journey from central Moscow, the walk from the metro) the cultural (the memory of the Lianozovo group), the infrastructural (periphery, marginality), the visual (typical box houses), the personal (the view burnt into the eyes), and shared elements (heterogeneity and number of visitors). This strong experience of the space is the key to the ethos of Brown Stripe, its philosophy, its “energy and atmosphere” (Ekaterina), and its catacomb-ness (Pyotr). This particular experience of space has to do with its sacralization, and in the case of Brown Stripe it might be difficult to say with certainty whether it is playful, subversive or serious. Discussions of exhibitions often touch upon rituals and the ritualistic foundations of art, its magical and mystical aspects, both in general and in relation to the particular artworks on show at the gallery.  The Ethos of Brown Stripe: Sacred FunOne might assume that art understood as a ritual has to look serious and be taken very seriously, but in fact the ethos of Brown Stripe is an ethos of fun, simplicity, drive, and ease: everything seems to happen naturally. For example, their decision to have one-day exhibitions was based on the “obvious” reason of convenience. The fact that Moscow audiences only come to private views is criticised, yet immediately taken for granted and made into a rule for the organization of exhibitions.The combination of a serious approach that elevates art, its making, experience, and discussion to the level of sacred on one hand and drive, fun, joy, and a carefree attitude on the other form an essential aspect of the gallery’s activities. There are, of course, many other important things, such as the incredible discursive density and fury of the Brown Stripe nights: endless debates, critique, the birth of theories—serious or not—active engagement in the conversation, the passion for discussion.…In apartment galleries, personal connections, experiences, characters, and traits determine or influence everything. But those personal aspects are in each case presented differently. Brown Stripe is focused on the tradition of Moscow Conceptualism, the institutional system, discursive strategies, various schools of contemporary art, theoreticizing and conceptualizing one’s art, including through the ideas of the Russian Cosmism and cultural theory. In the case of Egorka, the institutional context is of less importance (in St. Petersburg, of course, it is less pronounced). Their personal is built on different ground, including feminism, activism, and anarchism, whose ethical and political stances the curators appreciate, and to a greater extent based on the practices of active remodeling and living of the everyday: the introduction of the everyday to curatorial strategies and artistic contexts.Or: Pyotr and Ekaterina grew up in Moscow, whereas Anya and Nastya only recently moved to St. Petersburg and their connection to Omsk is very important to them. And if the Altufyevo view has burnt Pyotr’s eyes, to Nastya curating Egorka is a “way of getting to know the city.” Brown Stripe needs to find its place in an existing and strong field (the Moscow art scene), whereas Egorka is creating its own.Both galleries are interested in overcoming group/clique boundaries, bringing together people of different schools, movements, and aesthetic choices. Perhaps, this points to a general tiredness with markers such as diplomas from contemporary art schools, different as they might be. A huge difference is found in the ways in which apartment gallery curators draw the boundaries between public and private: from real spatial borders to symbolic ones. The common aspect is that, however the borders are drawn, they are the topos of self-analysis and are explored in the exhibitions. The notion of ethos, which I here use very liberally, helps me show the interweaving connections between the everyday, the pragmatic and material aspects of curatorial practices, and axiology—various methods of constructing value and assigning significance to the events that take place in an apartment gallery (and in one’s own life). The methodology of this text is based on the intuitive capture and interpretation of what I have heard, as opposed to classification; on the hope for proximity and therefore understanding. Such embodied research relying on emotion as much as on the rational was made possible by the specificity of the subject itself, and I am grateful to my informants and their living and working spaces.  Notes [1] Marina Maraeva (Intimate Space Lab), Anna Isidis (Intimate Space Lab, Bobo Gallery), Maria Nikolaeva (Morpheus Gallery), Anya Tereshkina and Nastya Makarenko (Egorka Communal Gallery).[2] This article is an abridged version of a text written after the Archive Summer project in 2018–2019. [3] In this text I juxtapose various kinds of material: amateur ethnographics in the study of Egorka Gallery that I occasionally visit, and the study of the video archive and texts of Brown Stripe Gallery, which ino longer exists. I did interview Pyotr Zhukov and Ekaterina Gavrilova, but the retrospective view from quite a distance is a different thing. It was a different context, of course, a different time. The only possible solution was to compare what is comparable, for example the texts and the analysis of the interviews, and to speak of the incomparable separately, subverting methodological continuity. In other words, to write different texts within one. The key element that is at the core of my interest in apartment galleries—their ethos—can be grasped through video as well as through text and of course through nostalgic retrospective speech.[4] Here and further, excerpts from an interview made during work on this research project. [5] Self-organized gallery FFTN (named after the fifteen visitors that it can host at a time) and its curator irina Aksyonova. [6] Nastya explains the support group the following way: “It’s a group of artists and activists that formed over a year ago around Sasha Kachko’s exhibition Joy 2.0 Tenderness. We gather every once in a while. Our practices vary. The main idea is to support each other through the discussion and co-production of works and in private matters. The group is formed and semi-private.”[7] Curator’s text for the exhibition Support Group for Those Perturbed by Eros. See the online catalogue:[8] “In the past few days I’ve been fixated on the idea of sharing—of the things we can share that through this sharing can connect us. One can share a bed, sadness, loneliness, ideals, a lunch, property, dreams, but most often with one other person, not many. And if we share with many, do we need one? Perhaps, if communes created by the calling of the heart were indeed possible, our habits of sharing with one person would be completely redefined. I see it in my mind as vegetation being rapidly covered with the tumours of mould that join everything into one; sparks of commonality that transform bodily structures and volumes and creates intricate and fragile, unstable queer communes. Oh mould of commonality, come cover our bodies! Meanwhile, I am currently studying self-organized initiatives, and in particular, apartment galleries, and at this stage my most important discovery is that Egorka Gallery is essentially grass—it is grass in terms of ethics.” Post from my private Facebook page, 10.07.2018. URL:[9] I came across Brown Stripe while studying the archive of the project Open Systems. At the time of my research the gallery had already closed. I had never heard of it before and for me it was a real discovery. In the archive I found just over six hours of videos documenting its activities, and from the first few minutes I knew I wanted to study it and write about it. What was it that excited my interest? It is both easy and difficult to answer this questions. I saw people in the bedroom, in the kitchen, by the window, talking about art; and somehow I knew that something important was happening there and that I wanted to be there. I was instantly charmed by the space. [10] These “gray zones” or “transit spaces” may be one of the most exciting objects for research in contemporary art and they require further study, with a particular focus on the analysis of their structure and the underlying social connections and economic conditions. [11] The complete list of artists was as follows: Maria Aradushkina, Ekaterina Gavrilova, Aleksey Dorofeev, Pyotr Zhukov, Viktoria Lomasko, Elizaveta Makhlina, Nikita Pavlov, Nadezhda Plungyan, Andrey Chizhin.[12] The name of the collective Vverkh! [Up!] formed by Rodchenko School graduates and Brown Stripe regulars (both as artists and viewers) reflects their love for paradox and puns. Their original name, Rossiya, Vverkh! [Russia, Go Up!] was a response to the omnipresent slogan slogan of the 2000s and 2010s [Russia, Go Forward]. The upward movement referred to the ideas of Russian Cosmism. In order to remove obvious political connotations, the collective dropped “Russia” from the name, leaving the pure utopian call. 
Israilova Marina | 16 August 2021
Denis Stolyarov, 'JB-4-3-V7393'
“So this is an office at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art,” says Joseph Backstein off-screen as he begins video documentation of the exhibition Between Spring and Summer: Soviet Conceptual Art in the Era of Late Communism in November 1990. “What I want to show illustrates a simple fact that there is a lack of space everywhere. The tightness is, so to say, monstrous.” These thirty seconds serve as an epilogue to an hour-and-a-half-long recording, which, in terms of structure and content, could have been a film if the author had chosen to call it that. Subjective video sketches surpass the bare necessity of a video archive with their fascination. The camera catches an innumerable number of expressive micro-narratives that expose the feelings and hopes, doubts, delights, and fears of those members of the artistic community who get into focus.Between Spring and Summer was conceived as a part of a cultural festival accompanying a sporting event (The Goodwill Games), held in Seattle as a celebration of friendship and peace between former Cold War enemies. In 1990 the games were held for the second time—and for the first time in the United States. A museum in Tacoma (a city fifty kilometers from Seattle) invited curator David Ross, who had been in Moscow before, to prepare an exhibition of contemporary Soviet art. Ross, director of the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, invited his deputy, Elisabeth Sussman, to participate in the project, as well as two Russian curators: Margarita Tupitsyn and Joseph Backstein. The exhibition was assembled in Tacoma in the summer of 1990; after that, it traveled to the East coast, to Boston; and from there to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1991.Tupitsyn had lived, studied, and worked in the United States since the mid-1970s, and therefore had a good grasp of contemporary US academic discourse; Backstein was a close friend of many artists and lived in Moscow, and therefore better understood the inner dynamics of cultural discussions taking place in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Some artists went to Tacoma, some to Boston, Backstein was present with his camera in both places, recording everything, but it was the Boston film that turned out to be an unexpectedly expressive piece of moving image.There is no pre-conceived narrative in the film: it develops by itself, over time. Formally, the recording consists of scattered scenes, long shots and close-ups, casual conversations, and random meetings.Backstein films artist and architect Alexander Brodsky continuously for twenty seconds while the latter fixes some camouflage netting construct onto the stair railings. “You should record more interesting scenes, more!” says Brodsky to Backstein. “More?” Backstein asks in bewilderment, not understanding what Brodsky means.For a whole minute, he films an American woman applying some putty to the wall. “I want to show the Soviet audience how real American laborers... and female laborers work,” Backstein explains to someone off-screen, clearly following the logic of Soviet production cinema.From the same canon is the utopian scene of a communal lunch. The bell rings, calling everyone to the table. “Lunch!” someone informs Backstein.- Where? Lunch?- Yes, lunch!Backstein takes the elevator, enters a room in which a dozen people are sitting at a long table, there is a case of beer on the table, people are eating soup from cardboard cups. Everyone is happy to see Backstein and his camera. “Here he comes!”, Applause. The camera finds Brodsky.- How's the soup, comrade commander?- Great! Very competent soup.- A soup from a bag?- A very good soup.- Then I am going to eat, and then again maybe...Backstein puts the camera on the table; the lens is obstructed by a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. It's hard to imagine that this is not on purpose; the frame is extremely symbolic. Off-screen, Backstein hums contentedly at the delicious food. The Americans cast worried glances at the camera and at the Russians. The Russians are discussing the influence of spicy Thai cuisine on digestion at that moment; the conversation, in Brodsky's own words, is “not for the mealtime.”Sometimes the film turns into “slow cinema”: minutes pass in a daze, capturing the monotonous process of installation or a noisy opening party. The camera slowly slides past tense people; many of them are uncomfortable under its gaze.The key episode is a meeting with Ilya Kabakov, already an international star, whose large solo museum exhibitions have been held in Switzerland, Germany, and the USA. Kabakov has already taken part in Les Magicienes de la Terre by Jean-Hubert Martin, and in a year, he will be one of seven artists defining installation as a genre in Dislocations by Robert Storr at MoMa in New York. Kabakov walks into the exhibition preparations in street clothes and immediately pays attention to the equipment in the hands of Backstein:- It's so small.- You have exactly the same one.- No, mine is larger.- No, you have exactly the same camera, with small cassettes.- Yes? Yes, with small ones, but ...- But what? Remember, it's exactly the same.- Yours in the size of your palm, and mine...- It seems so to you, but it's the same. The one I saw in Washington is exactly the same. It's just that the battery is located differently, on the side.- Yes, on the side, so it looks thicker.- Well, it's thicker.- Although in fact, it is the same.Immediately, without pausing, Backstein asks:- Well, do you think this is a good exhibition?- It's wonderful.- In my opinion, it's very good. Here is the work Children's [by Elena Elagina], in my opinion, it's very expressive. Really good, in my opinion.- It's fine, yes.Quickly changing registers, switching from everyday language to theoretical, Backstein and Kabakov begin to vividly discuss Kabakov's already built installation Sixteen Ropes, a dark room in which ropes hang with pieces of rubbish tied to them and scraps of conversations written on pieces of paper— verbal details of communal life. You can only see what is happening inside by using flashlights, which will be placed nearby.- So no one will go there—Kabakov says, disappointed.- Do you think so?—Backstein answers.- Or maybe they will—the artist changes his mind.- Well, will there be those flashlights?- There will be flashlights, yes... They will go with flashlights, won't they?- If you put a few flashlights on this table, then, it seems to me, they will.- Maybe they will.- Yes, they might.The artist and the curator encourage each other, persuading each other in the correctness of decisions that have already been made. Kabakov explains the meaning of the spatial design of the work:- It is a room which you have to enter, but you cannot enter it because there is a heap of garbage hanging. This is the game. The door is the symbol of entrance. But you can't enter, because someone already lives there. There is collective life. Come in, but you cannot enter. It's fine.The conversation quickly becomes completely abstract.- It's not bad at all—says Backstein.- Well, in general, life is a success—sums up Kabakov.- Do you think? In what sense?- No, there is such an expression. There are two such ambiguous, capacious expressions that can cover almost the entire universe of being. These are two such expressions: the first is “life is a success,” and the second is “to the warehouse.”- Well..?—Backstein repeats discouragedly several times: in their community, they do not usually argue, as any thinking needs to be supported and developed; there is a discursive space of freedom. - Who or what?- “To the warehouse.” Well, what I am saying is that this is a completely overarching concept. “Life is a success”—and you can immediately understand that everything is lost and gone, but on the other hand—you should not care about it. What does “life is a success” mean? This is a nonsensical phrase. How can it actually be a success? “Have you had lunch? Well, fuck you. Let's go home.”- That is, the condition is not recorded in any way. It moves on and is not fixed.- Yes. There is no specific point.- Meaning is a special effort to introduce meaning.- On the other hand, this is a very contact phrase because it kind of means “well, fuck you” in that sense. That is, “How's life?” Indeed, in essence, many greetings, “okay” or “alright,” mean “well, fuck it.” “You have asked? - Well, go your own way.” A huge number of expressions are the protection of a person from others. “Is everything all right?”—“Amazing!” This is the form, so to speak, “I see you, goodbye”; “what business of yours is it how I live?” It seems to me that the same thing happens here.- This exhibition—does it confirm or refute this observation?- Which exactly?- Well, there, “let's move on.”- “Let's go further,” yes, everything is passing.- There is such a feeling.- On the way. Let's go. There is no truth or meaning anywhere. Like a full, final meaning. Everything is tourism.Kabakov formulates one of the basic principles of postmodernism, the rejection of absolute values and universal principles. Backstein tries to clarify:- Well, well, if meaning is a procedure of adding meaning to something ...- No, no, the fact is that it's impossible to know the meaning at all. But here's the trick, “it's not in this place.” That is, the meaning is not rejected at all, but it says, “do not look for it in this particular place.” Modernism was focusing on some place, in which it was believed that “the truth was precisely in that place.”Kabakov confidently operates with concepts from trendy contemporary philosophy. The camera focuses on his face. “Modernism” and “postmodernism,” “structuralism” and “scientific”—the artist gets visible pleasure from juggling terms. He comes to a description of the exhibition:- The same is with this exhibition. It's amazing. But one does not need to look at it, neither at individual objects nor at the general concept; you don't need to look at it at all.“This is a completely new type of exhibition,” Backstein rejoices.—It is absolutely not necessary to watch it, in fact, just like our texts—it is absolutely not necessary to read them. It is a text that operates with its own extra-textual circumstances.- It acts by the very fact of its existence because, without the fact of existence, no text is possible and unreadable, if I may say so.- But it exists, there is still a text. There is some of its energy; there is an opportunity to enter the space of the text.- Moreover, it is an enumeration of the possibilities of truth. But it deliberately contains the idea that nothing will change from sorting them out. But the enumeration itself is a very important activity.- But our texts, about which we talked today, are arranged a little bit differently ... After all, what..?Kabakov smiles tiredly and ends the conversation, interrupting: “We are going to have dinner now, I will then later... I suddenly remembered that they are waiting for us.”The evening reception. Backstein greets friends and colleagues. They make fun of his camera; the camera is still a major character of the film. An employee of the institute asks Backstein if he has permission to film. “I am the curator of this exhibition!” “Ah, everything is fine then…” the young man is saying, embarrassed. Some girls are laughing.Backstein runs into Margarita Tupitsyn and her husband, Victor. Margarita mockingly addresses Backstein:- Vertov? Are you Vertov?—in those years she had begun to research professionally into the role of photography and photomontage in the Soviet avant-garde.Backstein triumphs:- I'm just like Dziga Vertov!- You are Dziga!- Fuck off with your camera, bitch!—someone says jokingly off-screen, Victor, as it seems.- Hello, comrade Vertov. I mentioned you in my last article on photomontage,—boasts Margarita.- How come? What for?—Backstein is confused and flattered.- Vertov! Not you,—Margarita dismissively throws a goodbye, and she and her husband are gone.Backstein gives someone a camera, after which he introduces himself to artist Nam June Paik and begins to discuss something with enthusiasm with him. Backstein sheepishly asks that they turn off the camera. Later, Russian artists gather in the office. Artist Irina Nakhova praises Margarita Tupitsyn's style. Backstein reports excitedly:- Kabakov is now standing there, talking to Nam June Paik. Would you like to meet Nam June Paik?- Paik ...—Nakhova repeats uncertainly.- He turns out to be Korean, says Backstein.- Listen, is it him?!—Nakhova is amazed.—I was always sure that it was a broad. How did I become sure that he was a woman? I was completely confident it was a broad! Frankly, I never had any doubts that he was a woman.- Well, he looks like a woman, by the way, someone replies.- He's in a way a little hermaphroditic,—confirms Backstein.- Moreover, his works, it seems to me, are feminine works, continues Nakhova. —With televisions. It seems that a lady made these works. I do not know why.Suddenly, she realises something, takes a bundle of invitations to her upcoming solo exhibition at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York out of her bag and hands them out to everyone present.Ann enters the back room, apparently an employee of the institute. “Are there always so many people at openings here?” Backstein asks her in clumsy English. Margarita Tupitsyn repeats his question with a pure American accent, but Ann has already begun to answer: “No, this is a very, very good audience. I have only been working here since the Mapplethorpe exhibition, but apparently it is a very good number of people, better than usual.” In parting, she says: “You should pat yourself on the back.” Tupitsyn translates that to Bakstein:- She says pat yourself on the back.- What does that mean?- It means good boy.- Who is good? I'm good? Because of what?- A boy.- Is the exhibition good? …—Backstein's question remains unanswered; the audience returns to discussing Nakhova's exhibition.The rumble of the reception again. At one point, Backstein is noticed by Andrew Solomon, a journalist who came to Moscow in 1988 to cover the Sotheby's auction. He made friends with Soviet artists and wrote a book about his adventures in the Soviet Union, entitled The Irony Tower, which will be published in New York next year, in 1991. In November 1990, he is again in the USA and is glad to see Joseph: he picturesquely throws up his hands and pronounces solemnly, and for some reason with a Russian accent “How are you?.” After that, he introduces his friend Catherine to Backstein and asks him for a new Moscow number of artists Konstantin and Larisa Zvezdochetov. In the future, Konstantin will be the editor of the Russian edition of the book.In addition to the catalogue of the opening exhibition, which later became an important document for art historians, the museum store sells a catalogue of Kabakov's exhibition Ten Characters at the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York (also shown in London and Zurich), a catalogue of an exhibition of Russian Constructivism at the University Museum in Seattle and the Walker Center for the Arts in Minneapolis; and the memoir of Andrei Sakharov. 1990 is the height of the Russian boom.The next day, Backstein takes a long shot of the exhibition.- Film the “Work,”—Elena Elagina points out.- Which work?- It's really, very famous, this thing.The camera zooms past a huge yellow panel made by the Inspection Medical Hermeneutics group, on which the word “Work” is written in Russian. In front of the canvas, there is a heating fan directed at it, which is a part of the work.- Which one?—Backstein does not understand.- This thing—in the reflection, you can see that Elagina points to “Work” with her hand. Well, you see, it is printed in all the newspapers.- Yes—Backstein says, and does not move the camera.Instead, he points it at the camouflage netting that Brodsky was installing at the very beginning. “Well, this is that bullshit,” says Backstein. “Quiet, quiet!”—Elagina pulls him back. “Yes, it’s a failure, of course, that work,” Backstein expresses an unexpectedly critical opinion as if agreeing with someone’s opinion expressed earlier.They move on.- Provide explanations—offers Elagina.- This is the work of Komar and Melamid.- This is their room.- Yes, this is their room.The works of art are “named.” The figures of the authors are sufficient to determine the position of their works in the world.The camera is filming a TV-set showing a movie about Collective Actions. In the film, Backstein walks through the Kievogorskoe field and talks in English about its significance for the art community: it is “a symbol of the independence of unofficial art.” Backstein in Boston recaptures his own statement, recorded in Russia for a US-exhibition, with a hand-held camera; there is a “stringing” of locations happening, girdling of space, the figure of Backstein occupies the whole of it, both here and there.Backstein aims the camera at Andrei Monastyrski's Finger. “Monastyrski and Hänsgen” says Elagina.- Is this the work of Monastyrski and Hänsgen?—asks Backstein, the curator of the exhibition.- Yes.- Indeed, huh?- Indeed.- Both of them, right?- Both of them.- We are going to show the label.- A close-up of the label.The camera aims at the label, which has only the name of Andrei Monastyrski. The shot is interrupted.Backstein and Elagina go further. Visitors with flashlights walk inside the Kabakov's installation. “Can you see anything?” asks Elagina. Say “This is the Kabakov room.” Backstein obediently repeats: “This is the Kabakov room.”Next frame, next work. Elagina says off-screen: “He wanted her name to be on the label, but it is not. Rita also said ‘film.’ What is here to film?” Obviously, they are talking about Monastyrski and Sabine Hänsgen. Indeed, Monastyrski subsequently criticised Backstein for the fact that his instructions had not been followed (see the dialogue between Monastyrski and Igor Makarevich in the video archive of Igor Makarevich: IM-2-3-V7414).Backstein notices Sergei Bugaev (Afrika) standing in the doorway with Irena Kuksenayte. After starring in the cult film Assa by Sergei Solovyov, Bugaev-Afrika is the star of the USSR. He looks stylish: he wears a cropped suit, a white shirt with large red polka dots and a baseball cap with the ICA logo. His work at the exhibition is a dedication to the member of Medical Hermeneutics, Sergei Anufriev: an altar with his images in the exhibition hall and a banner hanging on the building of the institute. The banner has a profile portrait of Anufriev, accompanied by the inscription “Anufriev does exist, Anufriev did exist, Anufriev will exist”: a paraphrase of the slogan about the eternally living Lenin, propaganda turned into an advertisement for a fashionable artist.- Seryun, are you leaving?—Backstein turns to him.Afrika asks where Margarita Tupitsyn has gone, and then pays attention to the Medical Hermeneutics installation, consisting of Christmas trees, around which soft toys in white angel (or hospital) robes lead a round dance:- I wonder what will happen with the Medhermeneutics installation Little fir-trees?- I think we will sell them,—Backstein replies semi-ironically.- Do you think so?- Of course.- To whom?- What do you think, nobody is interested?- To the Russian Museum,—suggests Elagina.- If only, Afrika says sceptically.- Can you give us any commentary on this exhibition for the film?—Backstein asks.- Sure,—Afrika answers, and gives a speech:“Here, in this part of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, is the most pleasant part of the exhibition. It shows several works by the Medical Hermeneutics group.”Afrika is a Saint Petersburg artist. Traditionally, unofficial artists from Moscow and ones from Saint Petersburg did not understand each other very well. Artists from Saint Petersburg were more fashionable and sensual. Muscovites were smarter and more conceptual. Artists in Saint Petersburg played in rock bands; Muscovites published books. Muscovites drank, residents of Saint Petersburg used drugs. The members of Medical Hermeneutics, primarily Pavel Pepperstein and Sergei Anufriev, were disciples of Monastyrski and the successors of the Moscow Conceptualist tradition, but became close friends with Afrika; Afrika was a disciple of Timur Novikov but became close friends with Anufriev and Pepperstein. All three were sceptical about the contemporary art industry.Afrika walks around the Medical Hermeneutics installations and makes a speech about “wonderful works,” “unique elements,” and “psychedelic content.” He confidently touches the works, reads their titles on labels, and it is very hard to hear him.- The most extreme aspect here is, of course, that the heating fan continues to operate during the whole term of the exhibition. Although it is not very clear what it heats. Here it warms up the “Work”— Afrika touches the warm surface with his hand. The “Work” is pretty hot. And it also warms our hearts with its ridiculous appearance.Afrika continues to speak, approaches the fire extinguisher and picks it up:- I really like to pay attention to the invisible parts of any installation. For example, this can, or, as they call it here, “my friend.” “A working model.” It is a constantly present messenger.Backstein gets tired of Afrika's clowning: “Okay, thanks!”A street scene. Backstein asks Irena Kuksenayte, an actress and wife of Afrika, what she thinks about the exhibition. She is not in the mood and complains about a meeting with Slavists that day, apparently at Harvard: “The shittiest establishment I have ever been to.” And then she criticises the local fauna: “Thick fat squirrels, not adapted to anything. Bloated capitalist squirrels, they look a lot like gluttonous rats. Ours are red-haired beauties! What can I say.”Afrika brags about his purchases: recently released “Industrial Symphony No. 1” by David Lynch and Tibetan music cassettes. Irena asks him if there was “Wild at Heart,” but Afrika either doesn't hear or ignores the question.Backstein returns to filming the exhibition. The camera captures works by Timur Novikov, Sergei Mironenko, Brodsky and Utkin. “Actually, I've already filmed it.” Elagina and him go up to the first floor. Backstein gives Elagina the camera and enters the frame. Elagina introduces him: “Here is our curator. Joseph Markovich, say a few words.” Backstein points to a small tower with a roof next to him:- This is a work by Kostya Zvezdochetov. Ilya Iosifovich [Kabakov], when he saw it, jumped up out of joy. He said, “Here, it's real art.” And I said: “Indeed, real art. Zvezdochetov is our main genius.” On that, we agreed with Ilya Iosifovich.“Now say a few words about Larisa Zvezdochetova,”—Elagina asks, pointing to an installation consisting of a Soviet carpet and two chairs.- This is our second genius, Larisa Zvezdochetova. The good thing about this work is that you get to sit on an artwork. That is its main meaning.Backstein goes on to another work by Konstantin Zvezdochetov, an object made of a door, a shelf with a crossbar attached to it, an apple on the shelf, and a rushnyk hanging on the crossbar.- This is something so incomprehensible that it is even difficult to comment on. Although it seems to me personally that Kostya's works are so good because they are absolutely uninterpretable, but at the same time they seem to be absolutely reliable and objective. That is, the image is visible, but absolutely not observed and not interpreted.In fact, this installation by Zvezdochetov belonged to a series of works illustrating the three main rules of architecture formulated by Vitruvius: “Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas.” The apple stood for utility, the door for firmness, the rushnyk for visual pleasure. The rushnyk belonged to the family of Larisa Zvezdochetova, so when, a few years later, Margarita Tupitsyn announced that the Guggenheim Museum wanted to get this work for its collection, Zvezdochetov refused to sell it, saying that the family heirloom was too precious to give it away.Backstein gets distracted by the camera lens. “You're getting too close,” says Elagina. “I see, there is something ... I must blow, probably,”—says Backstein, and indeed blows into the eyes of the viewer, destroying the “fourth wall.” Then they continue.- “Peppers.”- Yes, these are “Peppers.”- Here, as they say, you can't say anything.—Backstein gets tired of talking, Elagina leads the camera in a circle. “That's all, good. Everything has been filmed already,” she sums up—"turn it off.”They actually turn off the camera, but then turn it back on to show a few more works. Backstein laments that he wanted to hang Maria Serebriakova's work—a series of collages made up of found photographs, scraps, and drawings—back to back, but he was persuaded to give each frame space. He does not talk about the work itself.Finally—an installation by Afrika about Sergei Anufriev:- This is the work of the main artist of our times, Afrika. It’s such a masterpiece that there are simply no words. Seryozhenka should be very pleased. Such a trick-on-a-stick for him.Backstein is not worried that he has nothing to say about some works at the exhibition that he is curating. The main thing is their presence. The main thing is the pleasure that all participants get from their existence in the culture. Descriptions of the works are again reduced to the nominal names of their authors: “Volkov,” “Vadik Zakharov”: both are represented by painted canvases.“Vadik,” “Seryozhenka,” “Seryun”—the tradition of calling each other with diminutive forms of names will be contested by the next generation of artists who will refer to each other solely by their surnames.Backstein begins to talk about the attitude of Soviet artists in regards to painting, and utters an unexpected tirade:- This is such a strange situation that in contrast to Western art, where the pictorial period and the conceptual period alternate with each other, and during the conceptual period the works stick to some compulsory formal pictorial minimalism. In this case, such a strange effect appears, that here the works are undoubtedly and unequivocally conceptual, but for all that, materiality, “perceptible objectivity” in them does not go anywhere, it stays here.Elagina shows the works of Sergey Mironenko and Andrey Filippov. Backstein discusses Boston with an institute employee holding fire extinguishers.The final scenes: we see the ICA office again, in the afternoon, Elena Elagina calls Moscow by phone, Backstein asks her to tell “their Moscow friends” where they are, thereby reminding us for whom he is filming all of this. He shows them “pretty corners,” Victor Tupitsyn, the library, the kitchen, the director's office, and the freeway visible from the window.And now it is night again, Backstein gets into the car in order to go, apparently, to the airport. He films the outgoing road through the rear window for a while. “I love this kind of filming,” he explains to the interlocutor. “It's quite informative, actually. It still gives some idea of the city.” Nothing is visible in the street, only street lamps and headlights of other cars. The microphone is clogged with road noise and occasional sirens. Backstein complains that the battery is nearly empty. The adventure has come to an end, but the adventure of contemporary Russian art is just beginning.
Stolyarov Denis | 18 February 2021
Interview with Jean-Hubert Martin, one of the curators of the exhibitions Paris — Moscow and Moscow — Paris
The exhibition Paris – Moscow 1900–1930 took place at the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris from May 31 to November 5, 1979. Moscow – Paris 1900–1930, which was conceived as mirroring the Paris exhibition, was shown at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts from June 3 to October 4, 1981. The two exhibitions constituted a major discovery for Western and Soviet audiences. Works by the Russian and Soviet avant-garde in the exhibitions were almost completely unknown visitors on both sides of the Iron Curtain before that moment. This was the first time such a large number of works by Western modernists has been shown in Moscow. Pontus Hulten was a chief commissioner of the exhibition on the French side, while Jean-Hubert Martin was a curator of painting and sculpture section. During his visit to Moscow in September 2019 he talked to curator Andrey Erofeev on details of organising both of the shows and answered questions of Garage Archive curator Sasha Obukhova on the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, that he curated in 2009, and the new generation of Russian artists. Dimitri Sarabianov and Pontus Hulten. Photo: Igor Palmin. Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. Igor Palmin archive. Andrei Erofeev: If I am not mistaken, the idea for the exhibition came from Pontus Hulten, [1] and it was initially planned for three cities instead of two. Jean Hubert-Martin: That is absolutely right. The program proposed by Hulten for the opening of the Centre Pompidou in 1977 initially included two large group shows: one tracing the axis “Paris – New-York” and the other one “Paris – Moscow – Berlin” (in this order). He planned to show how, when artists emigrated from one country to another, the French avant-garde found its way in Moscow and then traveled to Berlin. Out of that came the idea for three solo exhibitions by Duchamp, Picabia, and Malevich, all as part of the same opening. The exhibition Paris – Moscow – Berlin exhibition was planned for the opening in 1978, so in 1976 Hulten travelled to the USSR to meet the Minister of Culture. The feedback he received was positive. The Soviet side was ready to start negotiations. Hulten came back to Paris in high spirits: we were getting Gauguin, Matisse, and Picasso from the Shchukin collection! He was happy that he wasn’t simply shown the door, but deep down he realized that it was too soon to celebrate. From the 1950s, artworks from the Shchukin collection had been lent as part of the cultural exchange program between France and the USSR. What we really wanted to see was the Russian avant-garde, of which we knew nothing back then. In 1977 I joined Hulten on a trip to Moscow. The spirit was still very positive: the Soviet side wanted to make an exhibition together, however 1978 was too soon for them and they asked for it to be a year later and without Berlin. The exhibition was postponed to 1979 and was renamed Paris – Moscow, so we had to fill the gap in 1978 with something else. Pontus thought to bring the Costakis collection to Paris, [2] while I, young and enthusiastic, suggested organizing the exhibition Paris – Berlin. We had very little time, but decided to do it. We contacted Werner Spies, [3] and he was put in charge of the German part, while I worked on the French. AE: Who was included in the team of specialists working on the three-part exhibition, the way it was conceived in 1976? JHM: Pontus Hulten was chief commissioner on the French side. I was in charge of painting and sculpture. Our team also included Raymond Guidot, [4] who was commissioner for applied arts, graphic design, architecture, and urban planning, and Serge Fauchereau [5] working as an independent expert and overseeing the literature part. AE: How familiar were you with the Russian avant-garde when you were first traveling to the USSR? The collection of the museum of contemporary art, housed at Palais de Tokyo, included works of Ivan Punin, Mikhail Larionov, and Natalia Goncharova. JHM: And also Vladimir Baranov-Rossine alongside other artists who immigrated to Paris and then gifted or bequeathed their works to local museums. However, the Russian avant-garde was poorly represented. The collection of Palais de Tokyo did not include a single work by Malevich, Tatlin or Rodchenko. AE: Who were in contact with when you arrived in the USSR? JHM: At first, communication with the Ministry was personally managed by Hulten. The chief commissioner for the exhibition appointed on the USSR side was Alexander Khalturin, [6]  an official, barely qualified as an art historian. We knew nothing of his background. He proved to be a savvy and resourceful person, who could solve political questions with Moscow officials. He was rather strict and authoritarian with us, but quite open. We could discuss things with him. AE: A key part of the Paris – Moscow exhibition was allocated to the Russian avant-garde. Was there any controversy on the USSR side? JHM:  No one was against the avant-garde, as they had received approval “from the top.” It was important to achieve a mutually acceptable balance between the avant-garde and figurative art in the wider sense, not just Socialist Realism. Khalturin was very active and slippery. He was always pushing for artists who seemed too academic to us. All of a sudden he might say: ‘The painting section has too much Malevich and Tatlin in it, they should be moved to design and architecture. Tatlin designed sets, so let’s show him in the theater section.” He was always playing with the exhibition layout, shuffling works between different sections. AE: This was typical of Soviet exhibition principles: to separate an artist’s work and personality. Before discussing artworks with Khalturin, you needed to see them. How was it organized, were you allowed into the secret depositories? JHM: We had to understand what was kept in Soviet museums in order to know what to request during our negotiations. Discussing names is one thing, specific artworks is another. We were trying to work in two directions at once: from the top through the Ministry of Culture and bottom-up, acquiring as many new contacts among museum colleagues as possible. We were talking to them, trying to persuade them. We were received very well most of the time. Even so, people acting cautiously with us and didn’t get any inventories from them. We understood the level of historical competition between Moscow and Leningrad, so Hulten suggested we visit Leningrad first and meet people from the Russian Museum. We shared our ideas and tried to talk them into working with us, yet most of all we were looking to get into their stores and see the works. Usually we succeeded. AE: So, it turns out you had Russian informants, not authorized to tell you anything, yet acting on their personal initiative? And thanks to them you got into secret depositories of the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum? This could be interesting to investigate further, as secret sabotage was present in the USSR on absolutely all levels and in every sphere: science, technology, and art were no exceptions. This was seen as resistance to the system. JHM: There was a circle of people who helped us find the necessary information and choose works with better precision and expertise. For example, Dimitri Sarabianov, [7] who we met regularly. Svetlana Dzhafarova [8] revealed to us works by Malevich that were kept in provincial museums we had never heard of (they were not included in the show in the end). As far as I recall she was fired for doing this: Irina Antonova realised that Svetlana was passing on information that conflicted with the official discourse. There was a Russian researcher working on a book about Tatlin [9] that was published soon after Paris – Moscow. She and her husband were outside the system and helped us a lot. Another person who worked on the exhibition was Vadim Polevoy, [10] who was clearly there to see that the process went well in the political sense. This was strange and it worked out in a way we didn’t expect. Within the exhibition we wanted to reflect on the image of the Revolution and everything that happened after. However, he was always present on site and at some point he made an entire speech about the Revolution, saying that the people behind it were young and romantic and for this reason we shouldn’t pay much attention to this period. In our working group we also had Anatoly Strigalev [11] and Vigdaria Khazanova, [12] who was responsible for the architecture.  AE: Did any of the Soviet specialists come to Paris for the opening?JHM: Vadim Polevoy and another official from the Ministry of Culture, whose name I don’t remember. Marina Bessonova [13] from the Pushkin Museum was seriously involved in the process and came to Paris several times, whereas Irina Antonova didn’t visit at all. I don’t remember seeing her among the delegation at the opening, but I need to double-check the photographs to be sure. AE: So Antonova wasn’t involved in choosing the works? JHM: She got involved at the stage when we decided to organize the second exhibition, Moscow — Paris, and she took over the whole process. AE: The exhibition in Paris was organized by your team, with advice from Moscow art historians and involvement of officials from the Ministry of Culture. JHM: I would put the officials in first place, as a lot depended on them. In particular on Khalturin. The checklists of works that we were discussing were compiled in alphabetical order and started with Abram Arkhipov. I was called Mr Impossible at the time, as I was always saying “No, it’s impossible to put works by this artist in the show!”AE: How did you organize your discussion of the checklists? Did you have photographs of works? Did you plan the layout using photographs as well? JHM: We used photographs for the discussions. And the layout was planned room by room. Khalturin demonstrated a decent historical understanding of the subject, both in terms of individual works and the general exhibition framework. AE: After the exhibition was held in Paris did it move to Moscow with the same artworks? JHM: At first, we planned to ship the exhibition from Paris to Moscow exactly as we installed it initially. All the loans were requested for both exhibitions. But the receiving party wasn’t ready for it: the USSR side decided to have the exhibition two years later than planned. That meant we had to start from scratch. Before restarting work on the exhibition, I decided to play the spy and travel to Moscow. I met with Irina Antonova at the Pushkin Museum. Khalturin wasn’t there, I didn’t see him once during the installation. The exhibition was curated solely by Antonova. Most of the work was already done, all that was left was installation. One of the trickiest situations involved a huge vitrine from the Paris exhibition, that had involved a lot of effort and was devoted to Trotsky. [14] He had a good relationship with André Breton and was an important figure for the history of Western modernism. We had to fight for a permission to show it in Paris, and in Moscow it prompted a surreal conflict, with Hulten on one side and Khalturin and the Soviet Ministry of Culture on the other. They spent an hour arguing over someone who they didn’t dare to name. The Soviet side insisted that “he” must not be included in the show. No one wanted to give in, but the exhibition opened without the vitrine. Fauchereau and I boycotted the opening, so you won’t be find us in the photos. I also asked Natalie Brunet to get us badges with ice picks to wear. Trotsky, as we know, was murdered with an ice pick in Mexico.AE: If we compare the catalogues of the exhibitions in Moscow and Paris, it’s very obvious that there were fewer works by the avant-garde in the Moscow edition. For example, some of Rodchenko’s works disappeared. JHM: The exhibitions in Moscow and Paris were identical and composed of the same sections. There were a couple of cases where we couldn’t obtain certain loans again, but without serious consequences for the exhibition. Also, there was a situation with Tatlin’s Tower. Antonova saw it installed in the main niche of the White Room, the central point of the museum, and was furious. She and Hulten argued. Pontus shouted, “If you move the tower to different place, I will break it!”The tower belonged to us. Hulten had been head of reconstruction of Tatlin’s Tower at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. They did not have the original plans, only a couple of photographs. Everyone understood that the reconstruction was very approximate. The Centre Pompidou team made the second version, which was more accurate than the first and was eventually shown in Paris and Moscow. [15] Antonova surrendered in the end.  АЕ: And what was the story with Gmurzynska [16] and her gallery? JHM: I arrived at the museum before the works were delivered and before installation began. I saw two vitrines with works from Gmurzynska’s gallery, installed on Antonova’s instructions. I was surprised, as the works were not included in the contract. We were used to complying with documents and checklists signed at the highest level. Also, there were plans for the opening (or the day after) to hold a fashion show of dresses made of fabrics based on sketches by Popova and Stepanova. That didn’t match our vision at all. What really astonished us were the fictitious reports on the exhibition opening, compiled by the museum. One of the books on the history of the Pushkin Museum stated that Brezhnev attended the opening, which wasn’t true. He did come, but a month and a half after the opening.  AE: Can you tell us the story of Malevich’s coffin at the Paris show?JHM: I wasn’t there, I only saw photographs and heard about what happened. As far as I know, Malevich’s coffin was shown only twice, [17] first at Malevich’s solo show in 1978 [18] and then at Paris – Moscow. On both occasions it was part of actions organized by dissident artists. Everyone was telling us crazy things, like the Centre Pompidou was under surveillance and we were surrounded by KGB agents. The Parisian intelligentsia insisted that the Russians had tricked us and the exhibition in Moscow wouldn’t happen, but history proved them wrong.AE: And that happened thanks to the efficient methods of Pontus Hulten and the pressure he could put on people. You once told me that you had a sense of being on a mission of discovery for this kind of art. JHM: We were restoring historical truth and that was really moving. It’s a paradox, but intellectuals from Moscow and St. Petersburg knew the Parisian avant-garde much better than the Russian, thanks to the Shchukin collection. A question was raised during a recent conference on Shchukin: [19] why did he buy so many incredible and innovative works in France, yet ignore Russian artists?AE: Just like George Costakis, who collected and saved works by the avant-garde, including the second tier, and payed almost no attention to the Soviet nonconformists, whose works he could get for free. [20]JHM: I want to come back to the figure of Alexander Khalturin for a second. We often had lunch or dinner together. Khalturin was always very reserved and didn’t talk much, like a real official. In one of our conversations he mentioned his duties with Tatlin, Malevich, and Rodchenko and said, “At least those people didn’t kill anyone.” I can imagine the risks he had to take and the political maneuvers he had to make. I am sure he complied, but deep down he realized that hiding those works was absurd. AE: Which can’t be said for Antonova, who didn’t make any maneuvers. She could have shown stronger support for the art. JHM: But she agreed to have the exhibition at the museum. Who knows how things really were for them? Maybe Khalturin was struggling to find a museum director brave enough. Sasha Obukhova: The Moscow – Paris exhibition made a big impression on me. I was 13 at the time and I couldn’t believe that art could be like this. In particular I remembered Filonov and Miro. The Tretyakov Gallery didn’t have Filonov on permanent display back then, just like they didn’t have Malevich. JHM: I remember how we went to the Russian Museum stores and found ourselves in a small room covered floor-to-ceiling with Filonov’s paintings. We knew nothing about him at the time. SO: He bequeathed all his works to the Russian Museum. JHM: And made a big mistake: there are very few of his works on the market and this affects his reputation. It’s a challenge to advocate for his legacy. I first realized this when the first Filonov solo show at the Centre Pompidou in 1988 or 1989. [21] SO: I saw some absolutely incredible Filonov works [22] at the Nukus Museum, which Igor Savitsky founded in Uzbekistan in the Soviet period. Savitsky collected the second tier 1920s and 1930s avant-garde bought up works by dead artists. Those works are now in the museum’s collection and we know nothing about them. There are some remarkable female artists, who I didn’t know before; hundreds of paintings and works on paper, and all of this remains almost invisible in Uzbekistan. But I wanted to come back to the subject of this interview and ask you: when you were working on your famous exhibition Magiciens de la Terre [23] (1989), you included Russian artists. How did you choose the works? JHM: Back then I director of Bern Kunsthalle. I was in Moscow often and wanted to make an exhibition of nonconformist works. There was an expert board at the Kunsthalle, chaired by Paul Jolles. [24] He was interested in the work of Kabakov, Bulatov, Vassiliev, Shteinberg, and Yankilevsky. I met with all of them. I visited Kabakov’s studio several times and came to the conclusion that he was the most talented of them all. Jolles insisted on a group show of four or five artists, while I wanted to show just Kabakov. I thought that would attract more attention than another “Four artists from…” project, which everyone usually forgets the next day. I organized the first Kabakov exhibition in Bern in 1985. There were two daily papers in Bern and one of them published a review saying something like: what is Martin trying to say, who needs Russian art? The other review showed more interest, which was exactly what I was trying to achieve, to make people wonder why I chose a Moscow artist. At the time I was also working on Magiciens de la Terre and had a lot of discussions with Kabakov. We exchanged letters. Those letters were delivered by Vladimir Tarasov, [25] who visited Paris for concerts. He told me that Kabakov liked an idea of the project, which meant a lot to me. He was initially included in the list of artists for the exhibition, but I also thought about Eric Bulatov as an important and complex artist, so I decided to invite them both. We showed Kabakov’s installation The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (1985), which was then for the Pompidou collection.  SO: Did you see it in his studio? JHM:Yes, and I was amazed: the installation occupied nearly the whole studio, but no one could see it apart from friends.  SO: I heard that while Kabakov was preparing for the exhibition in Bern, he was expecting a truck from Switzerland and some of his works turned out to be impossible to remove from the studio. JHM: The truck wasn’t coming from Switzerland. One of my friends worked at the Colombian embassy, if I’m not mistaken, and she knew Kabakov. As a member of a diplomatic mission she was much freer to move around the city and her mail was never searched. She took three paintings by Kabakov and they were passed through the window. One of them was sent to Centre Pompidou, two others to Basel museum, or to Bern and Basel, but definitely to Switzerland. Those were incredible times. Paul Jolles once decided to buy works officially and ship them out of the USSR. And he did it! Some months later he tried to do it again, but it didn’t work. What was the key? The will of a single official, who happened to be more open than others?  SO: I heard that some things were made possible thanks to Tair Salakhov, [26] head of the Artists’ Union at the time. Among other things he signed export permits. Some people believe that he was the first to start lifting the Iron Curtain. I am not sure how fair it is to say that, as in 1988 many things were much easier to organize. JHM: In 1988 things were certainly much easier. Kabakov first left Russia in late 1987, traveling to Austria under a grant program. Do you know how he got his visa? He applied for a USA visa in Vienna. [27] He was lucky to meet an official who was eager to help. His visa didn’t come instantly, but was delivered much faster than expected.SO: You played an important part in the lives of Moscow artists, when you curated the 3rd Moscow Biennale in 2009. How did it go? Who invited you?JHM: I was invited by Joseph Backstein. I don’t know why he chose me. My wife and I came to Moscow during the Year of French culture in Russia. We stayed at the Baltschug Kempinski hotel. I met Joseph and he suggested I curate the biennale. I refused due to my schedule: I was preparing a big show in Paris and couldn’t work on two projects at the same time. I returned to the hotel, spoke to my wife and she said, “Are you crazy? Accept immediately!”SO: A woman’s role in history! JHM: I called Joseph back and told him that I changed my mind. In my opinion the first two biennales [28] had a strange structure. The main project was created by a team of curators and hardly included any Russian artists. Their works were always part of the parallel program.SO: Russian artists were included in the main exhibition. There were few, but they were present. JHM: In any case I told Joseph from the very beginning that I would only curate this project if I was allowed to include Russian artists in the main exhibition, not separately from other participants. SO: The generation of artists working in the 2000s was different from that of the early days of perestroika. Russian art wasn’t as popular as German or French. How did you do your research for the biennale? JHM: I wanted to meet as many artists as possible and discover the new generation. I was disappointed by what I saw. That’s why I mainly chose artists of the perestroika period and very few of the new generation. I think Ivan Chuikov was surprised, when I picked his old installation Split Identity (1993–2009), which he had repeated numerous times. But I liked it and persuaded him to lend that work for the exhibition. SO: This was one of the best exhibitions in Moscow in recent decades. JHM: I’ve heard that reaction before and I’m always very flattered. It was a great pleasure to work on that biennale. SO: It demonstrated a will to make a statement about art, which is a rarity. And my last question: what is your impression of Russian art that you have seen during your current visit to Moscow? Do you see works by Russian artists at international exhibitions? How is Russian art represented in that context? JHM: I think that Russian art today attracts less interest than before. Cosmoscow art fair didn’t impress me much. Also, there is very little information on what is happening in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Fifty years ago we knew much more about art from Russia than we do today. It is not present on the European or American markets, which is sad. That is probably the reason. SO: In recent years there were no major exhibitions of Russian art abroad. Might this be political? JHM: I don’t think so. I don’t know how to explain it. The work of Western museums is dictated by fashion. There are endless extremely boring exhibitions of Chinese art opening in France today, and no one cares about Russia. Curators are usually lazy and have little interest in what is going on around them. They don’t want to make individual statements, for their shows they take whatever they saw at other biennales. It’s disappointing. The reasons are, again, market-related. Galleries that work in Russia do not collaborate with their colleagues in the West and do not look to establish the exchange that is so vital. They are focused on the situation in Russia and rarely show art from other countries, which makes it impossible for them to appear within the international art context. SO: It seems to me it’s not about the market, which has never been strong in Russia, but the support the government gives to such art. Today it’s very weak, but there’s still a chance. If the market improves, the government may pay attention to art. JHM: I think you’re right. SO: Thank you for the interview.  Notes[1]. Pontus Hulten (1924–2006) was a Swiss and French curator. In 1960 he became the first director of Moderna Museet, the museum of modern art in Stockholm. In 1977 he was co-founder and the first director of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In 1985 he was one of the initiators of the Institut des hautes études en arts plastiques in Paris.  [2]. George Costakis (1913–1990) owned  a collection of Russian and Soviet avant-garde comprising over 2,000 works by artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Vasily Kandinsky, Ivan Punin, Liubov Popova, and Natalia Goncharova. In 1977 Costakis and his family emigrated from the USSR to Greece. According to the documents signed by Costakis and the Ministry of Culture of the USSR in the same year, part of his collection (834 works) was given to the State Tretyakov Gallery. The remaining part (1,277 works) was acquired by the Greek State between 1988 and 2000 and is currently a part of the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki. In the late 1970s, George Costakis’ collection became known internationally. As a foreign citizen, Costakis had been allowed to travel outside the USSR since the late 1950s, where he met émigré artists and gave lectures on the avant-garde accompanied by images of works from his collection.See: Costakis, G. Мой авангард. Воспоминания коллекционера. [My Avant-Garde. Memories of a Collector]. Moscow: Modus graffiti, 1993; Costakis G. Коллекционер. [Collector]. – Moscow: Isskustvo- XXI vek, 2015. According to Greek art historian Maria Tsantsanoglu, works from the Costakis collection formed the central part of the Paris – Moscow and Moscow – Paris exhibitions.See: Tsantsanoglu M.  “Коллекция Георгия Костаки в Государственном музее современного искусства города Салоники. Открытие русского авангарда миру. [George Costakis’ Collection at the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki. Revelation of the Russian Avant-Garde to the World]” in George Costakis. К 100-летию коллекционера. Каталог выставки [To Mark the 100th Birthday of the Collector. Exhibition catalogue]. — Moscow: State Tretyakov Gallery, 2014, p. 30. [3]. Werner Spies is a German art historian, art critic, curator, and lecturer. He lived and worked in Paris from the 1960s. In 1971 he published the first catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s sculptures. In 1975 he curated the first retrospective of Max Ernst at the Grand Palais, Paris. From 1975 to 2000 was director of Düsseldorf Art Academy and from 1997 to 2000 he was director of the Centre Pompidou.[4]. Raymond Guidot  is a French design historian, curator, and lecturer. He is the author of Histoire du Design 1940–1990 (1994), which has been reprinted numerous times.[5]. Serge Fauchereau is a French art historian and curator of the exhibitions Futurismo et Futurismi (Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 1986), Europa, Europa. Das Jahrhundert der Avantgarden in Mittel- und Osteuropa (Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, 1994), and others.  [6].Alexander Khalturin was a museum worker and government official at the Ministry of Culture of the USSR. During work on the exhibition Paris – Moscow he was head of visual arts and protection of cultural heritage at the Ministry of Culture. [7]. Dimitri Sarabianov (1913–2013) was a Soviet and Russian art historian, Doctor of Art History (1971), and professor (1973). Member of the Artists' Union of the USSR (1955). Author of monographs on Sergey Malyutin (1952), Pavel Fedotov (1969, 1985), Semyon Chuikov (1958, 1976), Kazimir Malevich (with Aleksandra Shatskikh, 1993), Robert Falk (2006), and others. [8]. Svetlana Dzhafarova is a Soviet and Russian art historian. She was a research fellow in the Art Theory department of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research until it closed in 2014. [9]. Probably Larisa Zhdanova (1927–1981), editor of the catalogue Татлин. Заслуженный художник РСФСР [Tatlin. Honoured Artist of the RSFSR] (Moscow, 1977) and author of the books Tatlin (Budapest, 1983), Tatlin (London, 1988), Tatline: Masterskaia Tatlina (Paris, 1990) and other. [10]. Vadim Polevoy (1923–2008) was a Soviet and Russian art historian. Doctor of Art History (1971), Professor (1973), full member of the Academy of Arts (1990). From 1974 to 1991 he was a head of the editorial board of the almanac Sovetskoe Isskustvoznanie [Soviet Art History]. [11]. Anatoly Strigalev (1924–2015) was a Soviet and Russian art and architectural historian, researcher of the Russian avant-garde. He edited books and catalogues on Konstantin Melnikov and Vladimir Tatlin. [12]. Vigdaria Khazanova (1924–2004) was a Soviet art historian. She is the author of over a dozen books and numerous research papers on the architectural avant-garde in the postwar USSR. [13]. Marina Bessonova (1945–2001) was a Russian art historian, critic, and museum worker. In 1970 she became a research fellow at the State Pushkin Museum. She specialized in naïve art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was editor of a number of exhibition catalogues, including (Марк Шагал. К столетию со дня рождения [Marc Chagall. To Mark his 100th Birthday] (1987) and  Государственный музей изобразительных искусств им. А. С. Пушкина. Каталог картинной галереи [Pushkin  State Museum of Fine Arts. Catalogue of the Painting Gallery] (1986). She curated the exhibitions Henri Matisse (Pushkin State Pushkin, Moscow; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 1993), Picasso’s Cubism and the Finnish Avant-Garde (Retretti, Punkaharju, Finland, 1994), The Non-Figurative in Russian Art. From Kandinsky and Malevich to the Present Dayn(State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1994), and others. [14]. The Paris – Moscow exhibition catalogue contains at least four mentions of Leon Trotsky in the context of publications that featured his works or were related to him. The literature section of the exhibition in Paris included: 1. A collections of poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky in French translation, published in 1930 with a foreword by Trotsky (also shown in Moscow). 2. Demain magazine (no. 19, November 1927), containing a transcript of a speech by Trotsky. 3. Révolution surréaliste magazine (no. 15, October 15, 1925), containing Trotsky’s article on Lenin. 4. Clarté magazine (Trotsky is mentioned in the catalogue as one of its authors).The Moscow – Paris exhibition catalogue does not mention Trotsky. [15]. See:[16]. The gallery owned by Polish immigrant Antonina Gmurzynska, founded in 1965 in Cologne, specialized in surrealism, constructivism, and the Russian avant-garde. The gallery currently has spaces in Zurich, Zug, and New York. Krystyna Gmurzynska, Antonina Gmurzynska’ daughter, became director in 1986. [17]. This is a reference to an action by émigré unofficial Soviet artists that happened at least twice, in Paris (1979) and New York (1981). Igor Shelkovsky participated in the action in Paris and wrote: “Here [in Paris] there was a two-day colloquium, “Culture and the Communist State,” then there was an idea to demonstrate outside the Beaubourg [Centre Pompidou], where the exhibition Moscow – Paris (sic) was taking place. Two Polish guys suggested we make a coffin and carry it in memory of everyone murdered. I liked the idea and suggested making Malevich’s coffin, so it would be more related to the exhibition. We made Malevich’s coffin in two days. The result was a beautiful suprematist coffin, all that was left was to show it. No one knew how things might go. There were rumors that the police were trying to prevent anti-Soviet demonstrations so as not to annoy the Soviet elite. There were some special conditions imposed by the Soviet side with regard to this exhibition. There were six handles on the coffin and it was very heavy. We picked it up and walked. Ahead of us were Natasha Gorbanevskaya and some French leftist intellectuals holding up the banner “Here lies Russian avant-garde, killed by Soviet socialist realism.” We marched across the square in front of the Beaubourg, where there are usually people fire-eating, playing saws, many conjurers, jugglers, singers, and crowds of people. We processed across the whole square and everyone was surprised by our coffin. We approached the museum doors. No one stopped us. We entered, there were no obstacles. Through the glass pipe, with escalators inside, we went from floor to floor to the fifth level, where the exhibition was. We lifted the coffin on our shoulders, went through security, disregarding the weak attempts to stop us (there were 20 or 40 of us, we didn’t buy tickets and we were a crowd carrying a huge object from outside). For some reason it seemed natural to place the coffin next to Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. We went downstairs and carried the coffin into a room where a conference about the exhibition was taking place. The demonstration participants joined the discussion. That’s how our happening went.” From the artist’s correspondence with А–Я magazine. 1976–1981. Volume 1. Edited by Igor Shelkovsky. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2019, p. 344. From Victor Agamov-Tupitsyn and Margarita Masterkova-Tupitsyna’s memories of the action in New York: “[Victor Agamov-Tupitsyn]: In 1981 Igor Shelkovsky, editor of А–Я magazine, arrived in New York. Together with Aleksandr Kosolapov they made a replica of Malevich’s suprematist coffin, which became a ‘sacred object’, the epicenter of ideological rituals played out in the 1980s by members of Kazimir Passsion group at  P.S. 1 and The Kitchen. The group’s first action took place in 1981. It was a demonstration in front of the Guggenheim Museum, which was showing the Russian avant-garde at the time. There were Shelkovsky, <…> Bakhchanyan,the Gerlovins, you and me [Victor Agamov-Tupitsyn and Margarita Masterkova-Tupitsyna], Khudyakov, Druchin, Urban, and Kosolapov with his wife (Bardina). I read Kharms’ poems on the death of Malevich, we were all shouting, climbing telegraph poles, and demanding a halt to the commercialization of the dead, calling it necrophilia and the second death of the Russian avant-garde, in particular of Malevich. That is when the Kazimir Passion was born.  Margarita Masterkova-Tupitsyna: Yes, it’s hard to imagine that in the early 1980s there were people who could be brave enough for this kind of a protest. [. . .] Anyway, straight after the action at the Guggenheim Museum the suprematist coffin was taken to the CCRA [Center of the Contemporary Russian Avant-Garde, founded in New York in 1981 by Norton Dodge], where it gradually blended into the exhibition Russian New Wave. Among visitors to that exhibition was Ann Magnuson, the action artist and initiator of the performance festival at PS1. She saw the coffin and asked whether it was possible to make something ‘around this object’. This started a series of performances by Kazimir Passion group, that created a whole new paradigm in the relationship between the historical avant-garde, [. . .] socialist realism, and the neo-avant-garde’. Tupitsyn V., Tupitsyna M. “Moscow – New York,” World Art Muzei,  21, 2006, pp. 13–14. [18]. Malevitch: exposition rétrospective, Centre Pompidou, Paris, April 14–May 15. Curated byJean-Hubert Martin. [19]. The reference is to the  conference Sergei Shchukin Collection: Its History and Influence on the International Context, which took place September 11–13, 2019 at the Pushkin Museum. [20]. In fact, George Costakis had a large collection of works by nonconformist artists, including Vladimir Yakovlev, Igor Vulokh, Anatoly Zverev, Francisco Infante, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, Lev Kropivnitsky, Dmitri Plavinsky, and others. See: George Costakis. К 100-летию коллекционера. Каталог выставки. [To Mark the 100th Birthday of the Collector. Exhibition catalogue]. Moscow: State Tretyakov Gallery, 2014, pp. 284–311.[21]. Filonov, Centre Pompidou, Paris, February 15–April 30, 1990. [22]. The Savitsky State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan was founded in 1966 in Nukus (Uzbekistan) by Soviet art historian, ethnographer, and conservator Igor Savitsky (1915–1984). The museum collection comprises over 90,000 works, including by the Russian avant-garde, and is considered to be one of the most important collections in terms of value and size. [23]. The exhibition Magiciens de la Terre was a legendary project that Jean-Hubert Martin curated in 1989 at the Centre Pompidou and the Grande halle de la Villette, Paris. The exhibition brought together works by contemporary artists from different continents, the proportion of Western and non-Western artists being 50:50. It marked a post-colonial turn in curatorial practices, yet the team was criticized for failing to escape colonial optics in their choice of works and display methods, notwithstanding their motivation to go beyond Western-centrism. [24]. Paul Rudolph Jolles (1919–2000) was a Swiss diplomat and politician. He was a director (1966–1984) and state secretary (from 1979) at the Federal Department of Economic Affairs. He was a president of Bern Kunsthalle and of the administrative board at Nestlé, where he worked on creating a corporate collection and a charitable foundation. In the 1970s he began visiting the USSR, where he was introduced to the circle of Soviet non-official artists. See: Frimmel S., “Арина Ковнер и Пауль Йоллес — швейцарские коллекционеры советского нонконформистского искусства [Arina Kowner and Paul Jolles – Swiss collectors of Soviet nonconformist art].” URL:[25]. Vladimir Tarasov is a Soviet and Lithuanian jazz musician and installation artist. [26]. Tair Salakhov is a Soviet, Azerbaijani,  and Russian painter, one of the founders of the so-called “severe style.” From 1973 to 1991 he was first secretary of the Union of Artists of the USSR. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, thanks to his direct involvement, solo exhibitions by artists such as James Rosenquist, Günther Uecker, Francis Bacon, and Jannis Kounellis were shown in Moscow at the Central House of Artists. [27]. From 1986 Vienna became a transit point for Soviet émigrés traveling to Israel, the USA, and other countries. See: Vatlin, A. Австрия в ХХ веке: учебное пособие для вузов [Austria in the 20th Century: Teaching Material for Universities] Moscow: Direkt-Media, 2014. [28]. On the 1st and 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary art see:, Interview by: Andrei Erofeev, Sasha Obukhova Interview date: September 14, 2019 Translation from French and English, notes: Valerij Ledenev 
Erofeev Andrei | 10 November 2020
Recapturing the Initiative. Art Self-Organizations in Perm, 2014-2020
In the absence of stable institutional support, art life in the regions develops spontaneously and unevenly, with alternating phases of activity and decay producing a catastrophic cycle. There is no time to form and gain a foothold, and the participants of each new stage generally start from scratch, without making use of the experience of their predecessors. In Perm, one of such phase occurred in the 1990s. The first private galleries, absurd actions by ODEKAL, bold gestures by the Nekhudozhniki (Nonartists) group, and concerts by the bands Pagoda (leader Andrey Garcia) and Khmeli-Suneli (founder Evgeny Chicherin) were consonant with the spirit of emerging freedom. In the 2000s, the city’s art life began to decline, although there were still important personalities, such as the media artist Sergei Teterin. The next cycle unfolded in 2008–2013, during the so-called Perm cultural revolution—a large-scale political project that used culture as a driver of change to turn an industrial city into a new cultural capital, attracting tourism, business, and investment. However, the five years of the “Perm experiment” resulted in a setback. From summer 2013 it was gradually wound up “from upstairs,” the same way as it was initiated. Exhibitions began to close, iconic festivals and events were canceled. The formal cause was the scandal around the project WELCOME TO SOCHI 2014 by Vasily Slonov, exhibited as part of Perm’s White Nights Festival in 2013. One of the main ideologists behind the Perm cultural project, Marat Guelman, was fired as director of PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art, an institution that defined itself as the flagship of change. The city's public art program closed down: the “red men” moved from the streets to a warehouse. [Ivan Kolpakov’s critical review in the wake of the “Perm revolution”. Interview with Vasily Slonov about the closing of his solo exhibition in Perm.]Ivan Kozlov, “Following in the ‘Red Men’s’ Footsteps” from the booklet of the exhibition Avocado, or Identity Constructor by the art group Pprofessors and friends  The year 2014 was a difficult period in Perm’s artistic life, a time of breakdown and restructuring, disappointments and new beginnings. The lack of events and general frustration provoked by the forced curtailment of the cultural project worked as catalysts for new processes. However, horizontal DIY initiatives did not emerge immediately. For about a year, the cultural life of the city remained in painful suspended animation. Only toward the end of 2014, was the art community able to assert itself in the public space, with independent exhibition venues and alternative festivals opening one after another. Against a background of common disappointments and the migration of friends and acquaintances, many adopted the simple stance: “We are here, so we have to do something.” Nevertheless, the “Perm cultural revolution” had a significant impact on the city. And even though it did not resolve the region’s fundamental problems, the first museum of contemporary art outside Moscow and St. Petersburg was established in the city, where the professional level of artists and cultural workers also significantly increased and, most importantly, a lively and open audience developed. During the crisis, local institutions were unable to compensate for the lack of major cultural events, such as the White Nights or Living Perm mega-festivals, which accumulated multiple independent initiatives. The art community fragmented into minor groups based around common values ​​and interests. Soon these groups began to separate and run events for themselves and their inner circles, rather than a wider audience. The years 2014–2019 were the heyday of  Perm’s artistic self-organizations, with four initiatives emerging in the city one after another during this time. The first to open at the end of 2014 was Dom Gruzchika (Loader's House) Center for Contemporary Culture, a couple of days later modestly renamed Contemporary Art Laboratory. The studio of the Loader's House, united with the exhibition space, was located on the ground floor of a 1930s listed building, hence the self-organization’s name. The history of the Loader's House dates back to three friends, street artists Alexey Schigalev, Maxim Blax, and Alexey Ilkaev (Sad Face), who were forced to look for a new studio after their previous space in Perm Art Residence, which they had occupied for several years, became covered with poisonous fungus over the summer, and it was no longer possible to work in it. With the support from the Art Residence curator, Perm artist Yuri Lapshin, Schigalev, Cherny and Ilkaev’s first exhibitions devoted to performance practices and experimentations with painting took place in the new space. This is how the element of street art was looking for ways to interact with a gallery space new to it. While searching for a new space, Aleksey Shchigalev traveled to St. Petersburg, where he visited the independent artist-run spaces Pushkinskaya–10 Cultural Center and North–7 Base Inspired by this experience, he invited friends to create something similar in terms of spirit and principles in Perm. It took just a few days from concept to implementation. The inaugural exhibition was organized as a friendly apartment event with a dense hang of works by the gallery’s co-founders. For about a year, the Loader's House operated dynamically, opening exhibitions once or twice a month. As a rule, these were small solo projects by like-minded artists based in Perm and nearby cities. With the arrival of curators Anastasia Ulanova, Natalia Charakhchan, and Marina Pugina, the dynamic decreased, giving way to a more thoughtful and experimental approach to materials and the space.The exhibition [3 5 8] on RAAN website[ The exhibition Map and Territory on RAAN website.] In three years, the laboratory organized over 60 events, confirming the importance of this venue for the local art community. The lab format proved liberating: it gave freedom to experiment and creative interaction. For emerging Perm-based artists, the Loader's House became a kind of school and many, including Grigory Taur, Lena Rembo, Slava Triptikh (Nesterov), and Alexander Koshelev, had their first solo exhibitions there. Lena Rembo’s first solo exhibition Sensation of the Body on RAAN website In January 2018, Loader's House residents, together with the Saratov self-organization IMHO, held the last exhibition, which was an artistic reconceptualization of the communal everyday. The largest exhibition in the history of the laboratory, it brought together eight projects from Saratov and eighteen from Perm. The artworks filled the space completely, even the bathroom. The tradition of Kirill Krest’s annual April Fool’s Day exhibition was born at the Loader’s House and continues to this day. In 2019, Kirill held his fourth solo exhibition on the roof of Perm One Gallery.Kirill Krest’s first exhibition Schedule at the Loader's House on RAAN website Over the three years of its existence, the format lost its momentum and its founders are currently engaged in individual projects in Moscow (Aleksey Shchigalev), Krasnodar (Alexey Ilkaev), and Berlin (Maxim Blax). In 2015, a gallery opened at the Plus Market graffiti and street art shop. Street artist Vyacheslav Moff became its ideologist and brought in Nikita Klassen, Yulia Stolbova, Alexey Best, Boris Gulliver, and Ilya Protasov. For about a year, the gallery hosted exhibitions and masterclasses focusing primarily on the local graffiti community and covering almost all areas of street culture, from music and dance to sketching and freestyle jams. The space ran the monthly SKETCH DAY and in good weather invited artists to take part in jams and paint a pre-agreed fence to music. The Graffuturo festival dedicated to graffiti of the future was held here twice. At the beginning of 2017, the gallery closed. It was unprofitable to retain a large space in the city center even with the support of the shop, which soon moved to a tiny space elsewhere, with the artists’ exhibition activity redirected to outside venues. In March 2017, Anton Zhulanov established the UNITY art space. As at the Loader's House, the organizers brought together a gallery and a studio. During its brief existence, UNITY organized several exhibitions, including solo shows by the graffiti artist Boris Gulliver and the then emerging performance artist Lena Rembo. After leaving PERMM Museum, artist, curator, and cultural promoter Mikhail Surkov launched the project PERM ONE, the idea for which had been arisen in 2012 with the support of Nikolai Novichkov, Perm Krai’s former Minister of Culture. The goal of the project was to examine whether it’s possible to “live on likes,” i.e. to organize a project within the artistic community while remaining outside of the existing economic system. The presentation of the project took place in December 2013 at Ivan Lukinykh’s exhibition Gigerrealism. The first test sale of artists' works for “likes,” the currency introduced by the PERM ONE community, took place in a garage at 22 Gorky Street. After the presentation, the garage became the base for the project. From 2014 to 2019, exhibitions, actions, performances, and project presentations took place in the tiny space of two adjacent garages, which artists also used as studios. The project website reads: “PERM ONE PROJECT is dedicated to the creation of tools for the practical implementation of ideas, proposals, and projects conceived within the community of people interested in contemporary art across the globe.” Despite its semi-official operational status, oriented mainly toward a narrow circle of co-thinkers, PERM ONE was a legitimate contributor to art life, including participating in the annual Museum Night and the Ural Industrial Biennial’s parallel program. In 2019, it hosted Kirill Krest’s fourth annual show and the first solo exhibition of the feminist artist Vera Plekhova. Forced to close at the end of 2019 due to the demolition of the garages, the venue continued to operate as an online platform. New self-organization formats do not aim to find a permanent site, clear boundaries, and a visible circle of participants. Compared to their predecessors, they are more mobile, open, and flexible, but also less stable. Among such new initiatives are the TNG DIY music festival, invented by the TIKHO! (QUIET!) art group as an alternative platform for themselves and like-minded fellow Urals citizens, who for some reason are unable to find a place at the city’s official venues. Another example is the “countryside residencies” initiated by a group of Perm artists in August 2019, in the format of a collective trip to the summer houses of artists; participants are not required to create art objects, as the project itself operates as an artwork.
Pugina Marina | 27 October 2020
An interview with Sasha Ershkova, a former cashier at Garage Museum, on her experience in sketching visitors
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art's institutional archive contains sketches and drawings by Alexandra Ershkova, who was the cashier and currently is the office manager at Garage. Alexandra watched the visitors and created her own system of visual tropes, which reflects the behind-the-scenes side of the Museum's life.Questions: Taisia VeremyovaWhere and when were you born?I was born in Moscow on December 26, 1985.Did you learn to draw?I have no art education. I did not study to draw.How did you get to Garage?I came to Garage in 2011 to get a job as a tour guide. I did not pass the selection process, but I was invited to take the position of cashier. I refused because I didn't want to be a cashier anymore. But after some time, I called back and agreed.What was your job when you started drawing?I liked to draw as a child. From the age of six, I could sketch something, for example, an extravagant character seen on the TV. I always had a notebook where I took notes and made drawings. I began to draw more often at the academy (I studied Cultural Studies at the Academy of Slavic Culture). I was strongly influenced by lectures on art, sculpture, and architecture. I feel a special affinity with the impressionists and modernists.During which exhibitions did you make more sketches?Most of my sketches were made in the Shigeru Ban building. I was drawing during the mounting and dismantling of exhibitions. We called that period the intertime. I don't remember a specific exhibition, only Performance in Russia: A Cartography of its History maybe and, perhaps, Grammar of Freedom. The latter inspired Valery Serikov and me (he worked as a guide back then) to create a whole album of characters. By the way, he is the main conservator of my works. He carefully kept every sketch of mine. Later, having compiled an entire collection, he showed it to our archive staff. This is how some of them were displayed in the Museum's present building in the Four Seasons pavilion.How did the desire to sketch visitors emerge?When I see an interesting character (especially at a moment when they express a unique vision or opinion) or observe a funny, absurd situation, I have the urge to sketch. Unconsciously. It takes me a few seconds for this.Of course, there is always this wish to draw the attention of others, to focus on what seemed comic and hilarious to me. The most important thing is that I did not make all these Garage sketches for myself—I did them for my colleagues, who were also witnesses of what was happening around us.How did you choose the plots to be sketched?The reception desk is a great place for observing and "catching" plots. This is the "front line," a place to meet with society in its most truthful, I would say, exposed form. Protagonists and stories just ask to be drawn—you only need to manage to snatch that special one out of many.How did the Museum staff react to the move to a different building?We felt sorry to part with the Shigeru Ban building, as we did before, with Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, but we were anticipating a meeting with the Four Seasons building, renovated by the renowned Rem Koolhaas. Garage has to be roomy. We wanted to see new grandiose projects, crowds of people. We gladly reacted to everything new and were looking forward to the opening! Can you comment on some of your drawings, tell the stories behind their creation?The drawing was made in the Four Seasons pavilion and is associated with the "mom with a baby" visitor category. When the pavilion just opened, visitors with baby carriages were forbidden to go up to the second floor, causing loads of negative emotions in them. As an alternative, the Museum began to offer such visitors baby slings, in which the staff helped to seat the kids. The sketch shows everyone's pacification after a lengthy argument. Mother and child are happy and reunited thanks to a sling. The reception staff, who were left behind the scenes, look at them wearily and with affection. It's all over now.This sketch made in the Shigeru Ban pavilion represents the so-called intertime. There are no ongoing shows in the pavilion; the installation work is underway. Dust and iron shavings are all around the space. One would wonder what the Museum's staff does at such a time when there are no ticket sales or guided tours… But the Museum never closes; it always waits for guests. Our team is ready to answer any questions.The first drawing portrays the hero of an interview taken in the framework of the Köken Ergun exhibition Young Turks. Wearing his incredible feathered festive costume, he is like a bird caught off guard by people with cameras. He answers their questions simply and sadly.The second drawing is a schematic representation of a fragment of mounting Rashid Johnson's exhibition Within Our Gates. In memory of the show. A coconut oil head and a flower in a pot. The color scale is inscribed in the right corner so that the original combination can be reproduced.This sketch documents the birth of a new definition of the concept of "Installation." What do you currently do at the Museum, and do you make sketches? Can you show any of your new work?I work as the office manager at Garage.I haven't been doing any more sketches in this genre. The Museum's very environment back then instigated the desire to create: the constant change of exhibition designs, a continuous flow of people, and new information. There were also extraordinary creative people around me—my colleagues who inspired me. I wanted to please, surprise and amuse them. I can't draw without inspiration. I do not draw a lot nowadays. I bring some sketches from travels, but they are of a different type.
Ершкова Александра | 28 October 2020
St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art. The Experience of Total Archiving [1]
 Go there, God knows where, fetch me what God knows I want In a lecture at Leningrad State University in the early 1980s, art historian Ivan Chechot illustrated the increasing interest in history using a famous story about Michelangelo. In 1496, following the advice of one of the Medici, the artist intentionally aged his statue of Sleeping Cupid (now lost) by burying it to make it look “antique,” and then sold it to Cardinal Riario in Rome. Today, when even the existence is in question, when for more than twenty years there have been no significant developments and no artistic mainstream exists, the collecting and archiving of cultural heritage is a real challenge. As art historian Ekaterina Andreeva wittily remarked, contemporary art aspires to be “everything,” while meaningfully pointing out its own “nothingness.”[2] So what do we archive and how?There are many examples of archiving as art and art as archiving. Numerous artists produce objects and installations that look like an array of old archives or even pure garbage. In the West, Christian Boltanski’s work is a vivid example of how artists redesign old objects into works of art. Among Russian artists, Ilya Kabakov aestheticizes the mental and physical residue of Soviet communal lifestyle. St. Petersburg has its own tradition of artistic archiving, developed by the St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art (PAiBNI), which I founded in 1999 at Pushkinskaya 10 art center. This tradition unconsciously harks back to the profound roots of the Orthodox mentality. Unlike Boltanski’s ideologically sterile physical remains and Kabakov’s fake garbage, this is about “energy resources” of a completely different kind. They are not a substitute or mockery, nor are they statistics, demonstrations or post-structural manipulations. Now that art is no longer a conventional truth but just a range of wishes and hopes—process but not result—it returns to archaic models, and its archiving becomes the attainment of Divine grace and the collection of evidence of miracles. This tradition can be traced back to John Moschus, a Byzantine writer of the late 6th–early 7th centuries. While travelling through Orthodox territories immediately before the early Muslim conquests, he collected testimonials of the life and miracles of Christian men of faith in The Spiritual Meadow. Report of the St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art on exhibitionsorganized from 1999 to 2007, 2007The policy of the St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art was based on the ideas about energy, immortality, and the noosphere developed in Russia by Nikolai Fedorov (1829–1903), Vladimir Bekhterev (1857–1927), Vladimir Vernadsky (1863–1945), Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928), and Lev Gumilev (1912–1992). The increasing popular interest in Fedorov’s ideas in Russia [RA4] is shown by the unprecedented success of Igor Miretsky’s sci-fi novel about the philosopher, The Archivist (2019), and the exhibition Philosophy of Common Cause at Cosmoscow Art Fair in 2019. A Bolshevik, visionary, and natural scientist and the founder of tektology, which anticipated cybernetics, Alexander Bogdanov was criticized by his close friend, Vladimir Lenin, in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1909) for considering the world (in line with scientific developments of the time) to be a balance of energies. In his 1916 speech “Human Immortality from the Scientific Point of View,” Vladimir Bekhterev stated that “all energy must be acknowledged as a single essence existing in the universe” and it “serves as the origin of both the material and spiritual worlds.”[3] Later he noted that “not one sigh, not one smile ever disappears without trace.” Bekhterev suggested that energy is transmitted through communication from one human being to another. The academician Vladimir Vernadsky, who wrote a letter to Stalin explaining World War Two as part of a geological process, went further, saying that even solitary actions, thoughts, and dreams were part of the noosphere. The noosphere is the sphere of human culture, a new stage in the development of Earth’s geo- and biospheres. Therefore, by establishing museums and archives we enhance our ability to envision and observe phenomena, objects, and energies that connect us to the “database” and energy sources of our planet and the Cosmos. My personal archive experience began in the mid-1990s,[4] when I felt that contemporary art and modern humans were losing substance. The focus had shifted from art to creativity. Creativity is not limited by time or space. It is a state of exaltation that blends into everyday life and is “conserved” (museified, archived, represented) by art (here the Greek word techne/τέχνη is important, which is often translated as “art”). I began to see art as communication, which is linked to the words “common” and “communal.” In 1995 I started “collecting” the art of communication by filming my meetings with significant local artists and celebrities, eccentrics, and originals. I aimed to capture “miraculous moments.”[5] In essence, a miracle is your own state, the tuning of your attention, and you never know where it will appear. I was surprised and happy when, that same year, my project, comprising several lines about my plan to live in Berlin and document everyday communication with people I was interested in led to a residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien and a grant from Philip Morris Kunstförderung. The result was hours of recordings of meetings with people from Russia and Europe, which I tried to categorize by personality type and survival strategy: freaks and beasts, geniuses and saints, magicians and scientists. This work led to an exhibition. Along with numerous tapes there was a confessional, a shower unit, a phone box, a barber’s chair, etc. Installation view of Andrei Khlobystin's exhibition Die verborgene Kunst, Bethanien Künstlerhaus, Berlin, 1997. Photo: Andrei KhlobystinThere was no art object, no author, no viewer, and the “work” (state of mind) was created with those present in the space and sometimes transformed into dances. But the ontological concept of the project failed. I understood that video cannot capture the energy of an event, and the exaggerated role of communication and interaction[6] betrays an energy crisis in the so-called civilized world. We create more and more artificial devices and substitutes to communicate and capture the process, but this communication feels more like the rapture of vital energy and its fixation is shallow, like text messages compared to letters and diaries, which are long forgotten by artists. Documented facts are an important challenge for the history of contemporary art. which in Russia is reduced to the repetition of anecdotes and koans, a throwback to Vasari’s art history. ***As a child, when I participated in archeological digs with my parents, I learnt that the most precious finds were hidden beyond settlement walls, in ditches and on dumps. The futurists, the first media artists, transcended the boundaries of art by making anthropological trash part of the deal. Artists Mikhail Larionov (1881–1964) and Ilya Zdanevich (1894–1975) were the first to exhibit street signs. They coined the term “everythingism,” which underlined that the whole world is material for art. In the 1960s and 1970s in Leningrad/St. Petersburg, this narrative was further developed by Valery Cherkasov (1946–1984) and Boris Koshelokhov (b. 1942) and actively promoted by Timur Novikov (1958–2002) and other members of the New Artists group that he founded in the early 1980s: Oleg Kotelnikov (b. 1958), Vadim Ovchinnikov (1951–1996), and Kirill Khazanovich (1963–1990). Comprehensive study of this tradition confirmed my idea that it is necessary to revisit conventional versions of the history of Russian art.[7]Valery Cherkasov created assemblages out of improvised materials, sometimes presenting garbage installations at rubbish dumps. He was a rather eccentric person. One might recall the suicide attempt when he fell on two carefully placed lancets aimed at his eyes, or his hiking trips to Finland when he was stopped by the KGB at the border and placed in an asylum. He transformed his apartment into the Plushkin Museum,[8] named after the character in Gogol’s Dead Souls who hoarded meaningless stuff. From matches to cigarette boxes, all the objects in Cherkasov’s home were treated as art and arranged in elaborate compositions. At first, one could move around the improvised museum using a path made of stools, but then the display grew to the ceiling and visitors could only squeeze into the corridor and talk to the invisible host hidden somewhere in his nest in the center of the composition. After Cherkasov’s mysterious death, his collection returned to the dump, as his heirs could not conceive that what they inherited was art. One of Boris Koshelokhov’s motto was: ‘We paint our souls with whatever we have, on whatever we find!’ He began making paintings only after producing “concepts,” including the assemblage Longing for Nevsky Prospekt, a composition made from underpants, a tablecloth, a mirror, a crucifix, and other objects found during a walk on Leningrad’s main street in 1976. Koshelokhov was one of the few teachers of the New Artists, who practiced a multidisciplinary approach without differentiating between genres and mediums. The same person could be a painter, a musician, a fashion designer, and a poet, since the main thing was a “sublime state” and constant artistic exaltation. While Western artists, creative industry works, and graduates of the Academy of Arts did not understand the connection between art and life, and the Moscow conceptualists produced what one of them called ethnographic reports sent out to the West from the exotic Soviet wilderness, the New Artists were something different. Soviet underground artists did not have the opportunity to exhibit and sell their works, often refusing to as a matter of principle. Richard Vasmi (1929–1998) stated: “An exhibition is a reason for some to feel proud, but I would be ashamed.” They made art because they did not want to do anything else, often, like Cherkasov, without even thinking of a name for their activity. It was the “art of pure necessity,” in which experience and efficiency were more important than symbolic denomination. This approach was due to the need to survive: to become and stay true to oneself, demanding a precise, minimalistic gesture that was spectacular and admirable.Collecting testimonials about these states required the same openness, audacity, and unorthodox thinking. As well as archiving, St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art immediately became home to exhibition and research activity. In a tiny room, barely bigger that Rodion Raskolnikov’s closet, exhibitions opened every month without any financial support. The collection developed thanks to special deals like Books and Papers in Exchange for Beer, which resonated with the artists. Often people brought large boxes garbage which contained treasures. The PAiBNI Herald and the journals Susanin (—a satirical look at St. Petersburg artistic life—and Genius were published by the archive. Many Russian and international students and researchers orked in the St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art. SusaninЪ newspaper, 2001I mainly collected materials of the period I was the most familiar with, the 1980s and 1990s. It was one of the most exciting times in the development of contemporary Russian culture. The dynamics of change and the intensity of life during perestroika were similar to the processes described by the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their fundamental work Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The disruption of Soviet language and culture, the death of ideology, the revealing of the void, euphoria, semiotic catastrophe, total identity crisis, anarchy, and panic finally shaped, in the late 1990s, a new ideology of greed. After the mischievousness and journeys of the perestroika period came the crisis. The new ideology broke people just like the old one did, the myths about the Western art market and creative Eden collapsed. Perestroika was our belated initiation. It left us with nostalgia for times of change, but also inspired a need to reassemble a world in pieces to counter new spiritual substitutes. Archiving at PAiBNI was not about creating a new ideology, narrative or text, but “reassembling the world” through focus on intonations, textures, and new vital feelings. Members of the archive were not so much interested in traditional art objects, such as paintings, as in marginal objects—waste products, physical remains, smells (with old clothes of underground artists being a repository). There was even an idea to ensure continuity in case of the death of the Russian art by setting up a sperm bank at Pushkinskaya 10. This idea was abandoned due to the high price of equipment. Research and exhibitions highlighted phenomena, groups, and individuals which were little known and unappreciated or completely forgotten. The most interesting trends in collecting and museology of recent decades relate to increasingly dynamic change in our perception of “objective knowledge.” Simultaneously, contemporary science is becoming more specific, so that scientists from closely related areas of knowledge within the same discipline have a hard time understanding each other, and sci-fi writers cannot keep pace with the latest discoveries. As a result, science fiction gives way to fairytale fantasy. This aesthetic, both showing previously unavailable objects and mixing up “sets” of images in unprecedented combinations, produces the Instagram effect: information become more global, involving millions of people worldwide and is also increasingly fragmented and detailed. On social media we see the rise of informal communities oscillating between science, art, ethnography, collection, and esotericism, where members share information and the intricacies of the field (the @the_wunderkammer_society Instagram account). Oddities and curiosities are popular on the Internet. Yet collecting these objects led to the creation of the first museums, including the first museum in Russia, the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg. Now we see collections of curiosities in a virtual space where the basic human interest in gathering and admiring things, plus empathy and learning, is developed using the latest technology. This is the triumph of phenomena that in the 1980s were referred to as “the return of materiality,” “technology in everyday life,” and “the sociology of technology,” the study of the sociology of things, where there is almost no difference between the language of cyberpunk and science.***In 2007, St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art was closed by the administration of Pushkinskaya 10 for “lack of seriousness.” The archive had to move all of the objects seen as garbage by the nonconformists, such as artists’ clothes. The premises were to be used for a “real” archive, with documents, such as artists’ petitions to the Soviet government and correspondence with the Culture Department, but the space was then let to a publisher. What’s going on? Why do veterans of the battle for the freedom of art repress experimental creativity?From 1989 to 1998 Pushkinskaya 10 was the most important art squat in Russia. After 1998 an agreement was reached with city officials and part of the renovated building was given to artists on a long-term lease. It is thanks mainly to the artist-administrators who appeared in the underground in the early 1980s that the artistic community survived this battle. To counter the official narrative, they started developing alternative structures that mirrored public ones. Their ideology—art as a weapon for social justice—copied the governmental discourse but gave it the opposite meaning. Every artist who did not fit into the pro-government mono-discourse, from abstractionists to salon painters, was embraced by the nonconformist community, as long as they were “on this side of the barricade.” Young, new wave art was opposed by the nonconformists no less violently than by the official art community. Bearded political preachers, who considered themselves good artists just because they took the right political positions, saw 1980s new wave art and behavior as disruptive and anti-artistic. By winning this battle and taking power on their own territory, the nonconformists stopped being political activists and in turn became the leviathan. It’s understandable: anyone would like to grow old quietly with a cheap studio in the center of the city. The “nonconformists” aimed to conserve and strengthen the vertical power system what matched what was happening in Russia. The fun-filled, apolitical archive which was like a nightclub with its music, dances, provocations, and interest in youth culture, was an ontological reference to “the image of the enemy.” No wonder that this center of anarchy, promoting the complexity of a structure tending toward simplification, was destroyed by this structure. One should also remember that the local independent culture of “unappreciated geniuses” tended to oppose self-reflection, labelled it “being clever.”St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art was probably founded too early, and its activity did not extend to its young audience. Real interest in the 1980s and 1990s only appeared in the 2010s. Nevertheless, the archive helped to conserve the heritage and spirit of the time of change, support traditions, and develop the self-awareness of St. Petersburg’s art. P.S. Immediately after the closure, the archive materials were shipped to the exhibition THE RAW, THE COOKED AND THE PACKAGED — The Archive of Perestroika Art at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. From fall 2000 to spring 2007, St. Petersburg Archive and Library of Independent Art organized 88 exhibitions, including 75 exhibitions on its own premises. Below is a description of some of the most important projects in chronological order.  2000The archive began its exhibition activities with the first St. Petersburg exhibition of mail art, Vadim Ovchinnikov’s Mail Art. The shaman, guru of the St. Petersburg art community, genius painter, writer, and musician was presented from an unfamiliar perspective, known only to his close friends. More than 100 items of mail art were displayed. Samizdat Forever (with Navicula Artis Gallery) presented the archive’s specific field of expertise and was a unique event. The corridor where the archive was located was used for an exhibition of materials on the history of samizdat. As well as traditional samizdat—underground magazines and reprints of Carlos Castaneda, John C. Lilly, and Mikhail Bulgakov—the exhibition included handmade leaflets and posters. Е-Е. A Restrospective of the 1980s Photos of Evgeny Kozlov (Berlin) looked at the fashion of the early 1980s. There were brilliant photos of events such as the first twist parties and concerts by Sergey Kuryokhin’s group Pop Mekhanika and Kino presented in the form of hundreds of index prints artistically processed by Kozlov.Everybody get something… (Contemporary Japanese Culture According to Oleg Kotelnikov) was a collection of works of art and artefacts brought from Japan by one of the most revered leaders of “wild” art. John Lennon’s lyrics ironically referred to Kotelnikov’s Japanese wife. A Tribute to Valery Cherkassov (1946–1984) was organized together with Timur Novikov. The exhibition reintroduced Cherkassov to art history. His previous (posthumous) exhibition had been organized by Timur Novikov in 1984 in the Assa squat gallery.Exchange. Andy Warhol and the New Academy of Every Kind of Art exhibited gifts, documents, and photos from the Museum of the New Academy of Fine Arts. The display included Campbell’s soup cans and posters signed by Andy Warhol and presented to the Leningrad artists during Joanna Stingray’s visit to the city in exchange for works they had sent him, as well as photos of the king of the pop art holding these works. Evgeny Rukhin. Photographic Archive of the Artist from the Collection of the US Consul-General Paul R. Smith. The exhibition displayed the secret card index of the leader of the Leningrad nonconformist artists of the 1970s, who died in a fire in unexplained circumstances. Printed on expensive glossy paper, these folded booklets with the artist’s address and black-and-white photo inserts of his works are living proof that, contrary to public opinion, Rukhin had a well-developed market and did not care about KGB surveillance. Kirill Shuvalov’s exhibition Cargo 2000 consisted of numerous small lead boxes. It was a morbid comment on the war in the Caucasus, from where dead soldiers were sent home in lead coffins with the inscription “Cargo 200.” It was also an ironic remark on the archive’s declared “new methods of archiving.” 2001My Past and Thoughts: From the Leningrad Art Historians’ Club to the Institute of the History of the Contemporary Art included documents, manuscripts, photos, letters, conference programs, and other documents about the history of independent professional art criticism in the Soviet Union. Leningrad Art Historians’ Club was founded in 1995 by graduates of the Art History Department of Leningrad State University, most of whom were students of Ivan Chechot. History of Leningrad / St. Petersburg Independent Art through Posters from the archive collection. Handmade posters and invitations to apartment exhibitions were exceptionally interesting. The display did not fit the space, even with salon-style hanging, and the exhibition was shown in two parts. Historical Costumes of St. Petersburg Artists of the late 20th Century from the archive collection was also conceived in two parts and was subtitled Artists’ Smells. The display included various details of the dressing habits of prominent artists and musicians from the 1950 to the 1990s. The exhibition of Marina Alekseeva’s objects, Inside Rooms, consisted of small “stage boxes” with miniature models of the churches of the major religious traditions and denominations and spaces with various functions. Like in the children’s game sekretiki (little secrets), archiving meant “the development of secure, hidden places where elements once impetuous and distraught find peace and rest like doll-mummies where they can be seen and cherished.” An exhibition on the popular contemporary art guide Susanin was organized as part of the Art Media Forum. This A3 newspaper, with its satirical attacks on the art world, regardless of personal status and authority, was considered by many to be the best art journal, occupying a meta-position in local culture. Our Kovalsky was a parody of the personality cult surrounding the main administrator of Pushkinskaya 10, Sergei Kovalsky, the omnipotent master of the former squat. History of Gallery 21 in Photos profiled one of the most remarkable non-profit galleries at Pushkinskaya 10, which saw the birth of new media art and cyberfeminism. The Exhibition on Bronnitskaya Street, 1981 presented archive materials about an underground exhibition successfully organized on the KGB’s doorstep, which shaped alternative underground structures.Abstractionism in Russian Caricatures of the 20th Century was organized in cooperation with the New Academy of Fine Arts and accompanied by a handmade catalogue.  2002Object Abstractionism was a solo exhibition by Vadim Voinov, who during the Soviet period worked on the Government Committee for Historical and Cultural Heritage Management, which was responsible for renovation of urban housing. Using objects found in the ruins, Voinov created his “functiocollages.”The exhibition Artists and the Samizdat of the 1970s–1980s presented Soviet samizdat from the aesthetic and artistic point of view for the first time. Leni Riefenstahl During the Shooting of Olympia, August 1936 was a reaction to Riefenstahl’s visit to St. Petersburg. The display included photos, autographs, and a video recording of an interview.The Japanese Week Festival, organized by Oleg Kotelnikov, was held every year. Wind from the Slopes of Fuji presented landscape in the art of Japanese painted postcards of the early twentieth century. Autographs of Cultural Figures of the 20th Century presented autographs of Derrida, Rasputin, Nam June Paik, John Cage, and others from private collections. Timur Novikov in Photos, with works from the archive and private collections, was a reaction to the death of this leading figure of the St. Petersburg art scene. The archival exhibition STUBNITZ – Art Ship told the story of the “artists’ ship” that visited St. Petersburg in 1994, marking the birth of techno-art in Russia.  2003Malevich Passion was an exhibition of paintings and drawings from the 1950s through the 1970s by underground artists with a keen interest in suprematism.The annual Japanese Week exhibition Suicidal People introduced the suicide cult in contemporary Japan and presented traditional seppuku tools. The book exhibition Against Abstractionism and Formalism – In Favor of Realism explored critics of modernism in Soviet publishing as a source of education for underground artists. The display included popular and rare books from the 1930 to the 1980s from the archives and private collections.Squat Life: Club NCH/VCH (1986–1996) in Photos and Archivespresented for the first time the earliest and largest young people’s art squat.Svin and Yufa: Stupid Years of the Russian Punk was the first ever research into the origins of punk in Russia. It was popular with veterans of the movement and novices. The main characters in the exhibition were Svin (Andrei Panov), the founder of the first punk collective Automated Satisfiers, and Yufa (Evgeny Yufit), an artist and cinematographer, leader of the necrorealism movement.Cyberfeminists in Altai was the story of a risky trip by Alla Mitrofanova and Irina Aktuganova with three kids to the land of shamans and Scythian burial mounds, including bungee jumping, visits to sanctuaries, horse riding, and numerous adventures. A Reconstruction of the Exhibition Collage at 103 Gallery, 1992 (from the History of the Pushkinskaya 10 cycle) presented a complete reconstruction of the exhibition from the golden age of the Pushkinskaya 10 squat.  2004The archival exhibition Walls, Floor, and Ceiling of the New Academy of Fine Arts examined the various activities of the Academy. Exhibits included unique “wallpaper” from the corridor of the New Academy created by Timur Novikov using a collage of  journals and magazines. There were also parts of the floor and the molding, as well as all kinds of garbage from the “old” New Academy. Fathers and Sons showed works by several St. Petersburg artistic dynasties, encompassing up to five generations: from  pre-revolutionary art through socialist realism and the “avant-garde” underground to contemporary children’s drawings. An exhibition about the flag of the art center Pushkinskaya 10 displayed dozens of everyday objects, garments, and art works covered with the famous toadstool pattern. In 1996, I suggested a new national flag with white spots on a red background, and it was adopted as the new flag of the art center. Oleg and Victor’s Accessories and Fetishes showed the sophisticated props that the neo-academic duo of Victor Kuznetsov and Oleg Maslov use for their paintings (lyres made of toilet lids, codpieces, armor, tunics, wreaths, etc.) 2005The exhibition Gennady Orlov, Music Addict featured clippings and photos from the 1980s and 1990s of the Russian rock stars Boris Grebenschikov, Konstantin Kinchev, Yury Shevchuk, Viktor Tsoi, Vyacheslav Butusov, Egor Letov, Mikhail Borzykin, Oleg Garkusha, and others. Reel-to-reel recorders played dance music and the exhibition included rare vinyl and handmade tapes. Tatyana Barti’s exhibition Who Lives in a Small House?presented caricatures of the inhabitants of the Pushkinskaya 10.The T-shirt as an Artefact of Contemporary Art showed handmade garments from the archive, the New Academy of Fine Arts, and private collections, which conveyed the aspiration to look fashionable in spite of Soviet monotony.  Rave Spacemen. The Early Years of the St. Petersburg Techno Culture was organized together with Konstantin Mitenev and showed numerous flyers illustrating the history of the club and rave scenes in the Soviet Union. 2006Designs for Christmas Trees involved professional and amateur artists.  It was repeated in the Marble Palace of the State Russian Museum together with professional design studios.Popular Conceptualism exhibited late-twentieth-century Soviet handmade items of home décor from private collections and reproductions of similar art works produced by renowned contemporary artists. The display included chests covered with magazine clippings, a tradition which extended to toilet doors, cupboards, driver cabins, and musical instruments. The exhibition was centered around a toilet door from Ivetta Pomerantseva’s flat, covered with Soviet alcohol labels from the 1960s and1970s by her father and her grandfather.The memorial exhibition in honor of Vadim Ovchinnikov, What Kills Us, showed versions of one of the artist’s works produced by his friends.Sketch Pad traced the evolution of sketch pad design from the 1950s to the 2000s, with objects from the archive and private collections. Runes of Happiness. Military Psychedelic Romanticism of the 1980s and 1990s by the groups Voennoe Ministerstvo [War Ministry] and Chapaev displayed for the first time the work of forgotten artist groups with an interest in military history, esotericism, and conspiracy theories.  2007Children’s Conceptualism presented works by children from St. Petersburg and was an ironic commentary on the absence of new ideas in contemporary art. The exhibition included phone video recordings of children fighting in school toilets, hand-made bombs, ballpoint pen letters on birchbark, and other artefacts created by children, which often reflect manias of the adult world. Art Grin. Teeth in Creative Imagery reflected a traumatic subject for St. Petersburg artists. The exhibition included contemporary art works, artists’ teeth, dinosaur (60 m. years old) and bear (30,000 years old) teeth, plus dental instruments, wax models, a piece of bread from the Kavkaz restaurant with the marks of Robert Rauschenberg’s teeth (1989), etc.St. Petersburg Penguinism showed the incredible popularity of these birds in St. Petersburg art, displaying hundreds of works of art, taxidermy figures, statues, toys, objects, and films.  [1] The first version of this text was based on a lecture delivered at the 7th Annual Aleksanteri Conference, Revisiting Perestroika, at Helsinki University (2007) and subsequently published in the Framework Review. The Finnish Art Review, 8, April 2008.[2] Ekaterina Andreeva, Vse i Nichto: Simvolicheskie figury v iskusstve vtoroi poloviny XX veka (St. Petersburg: Izdatelstvo Ivana Limbakha, 2004). [3] Vladimir Bekhterev, “Immortality from the Scientific Point of View,” Society, 43, 2006, 74–80.[4] Before that worked in various St. Petersburg museums and the Hermitage Academic Library.[5] Gilles Deleuze would have called then “Events.”[6] Curiously, the early 1990s was a time of the triumphant rise of reality shows, whereas their origins are usually traced to the late 1940s.[7] In 1988, Alla Mitrofanova and I published the article “The Russian Sense of Shape in Art of the 18th to the 20th Century” in the twentieth issue of the samizdat magazine Mitin Zhurnal,. We emphasized the fact that Russia did not shape secular forms in Western art and only adopted them as a mature form in the eighteenth century. This fact is evident but often overlooked. In Russian art, spiritual beauty (or ideology) was often considered more important than materialistic beauty. It hides visible discontinuity and historical contradictions, yet requires the setting up of new hierarchies and accents, which differ from the conventions of the Western history of art.[8] Remarkably, Plushkin is also a character of one of Ilya Kabakov’s important texts (see “Nozdrev i Plushkin,” A–Ya, 7, 1986), and Kabakov later began to create spatial installations reminiscent of Cherkassov’s “museum.” 
Khlobystin Andrei | 22 October 2020
Konstantin Goncharov and the Strict Young Man Fashion Gallery
Fashion designer Konstantin Goncharov (1969–1998) was one of Timur Novikov’s close friends and colleagues, participant of exhibitions and projects organized by the New Academy of Fine Arts, whose costumes are now in the collections of the State Russian Museum, State Hermitage Museum, Mariinsky Theatre, and private collections. However, as of now, a monograph that would bring together and classify information about this artist, the “Little Prince” as contemporaries used to call him, is yet to be published. [1] Garage Archive in St. Petersburg contains a number of records related to the practice of Konstantin Goncharov and his work for the Strict Young Man fashion gallery. Photographs, newspaper articles, archival materials, and the coat sewn by Goncharov for Georgy Guryanov came in as part of the Andrei Khlobystin collection, while video documentation of the opening of the show Renaissance and Resistance is part of Sergey Chubraev’s archive. The story of the Strict Young Man atelier begins with the acquaintance of Konstantin Goncharov and Alexey Sokolov, who studied at the same school, two years apart, and, “having accidentally met again at some point, never parted anymore”. [2] After graduating from high school Goncharov enrolled in a sewing college and spent some time working in a men’s tailoring shop. But already toward the end of the 1980s, he started collaborating with Zhanna Aguzarova and the band Kino making outfits for the musicians’ concerts and photo shoots. In 1987 Goncharov met Timur Novikov and a year later began studying at the Free University. In an interview with Yekaterina Andreeva, Georgy Guryanov and Oleg Kotelnikov underlined the aesthetic influence that Goncharov had on Timur Novikov, leading to the latter’s fascination with ballet and fashion. [3] In 1989, Konstantin Goncharov attended a meeting in the palace of the Znanie (Knowledge) Society Central Lecture Hall, where Timur Novikov announced the renaming of the New Academy of All Arts into the New Academy of Fine Arts. Meeting Timur Novikov played an important role in Goncharov’s artistic self-identification. In one of the interviews, he recounts that Strict Young Man was essentially invented by Novikov.4 The name of the atelier first turned up in 1988—deriving from Timur’s enchantment with the eponymous 1935 film by Abram Room, whose main protagonist Grisha Fokin—“an ideal Komsomol athlete”—would become one of the prototypes for the new classicist hero. However, Goncharov admitted that he was not as fascinated by Fokin’s on-screen style and accepted the name mainly due to the “combination of words”5 and the fact that “strict” has a variety of semantic aberrations in Russian.Georgy Guryanov in his studio, posing against the painting Discobolus (1994), later destroyed. Author unknown. Garage Archive CollectionIn 1990, Konstantin Goncharov entered the circle of artists representing St. Petersburg’s New Academy and began contributing to its key projects and exhibitions, including Academism and Neo-Academism (Lenin Museum, Marble Palace, 1991), Renaissance and Resistance (State Russian Museum, Marble Palace, 1994)6, the photoshoot Olympus on the Roof (St. Petersburg, 1994), Self-Identification. Trends in the Art of Petersburg from 1970 to the Present Day (Copenhagen, Kiel, Berlin, Oslo, Sopot, St. Petersburg, 1995–1996), Passiones Luci (1995), and Metaphors of Renunciation (Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 1996) among others.Poster of the show Self-Identification. Trends in the Art of Petersburg from 1970 to the Present Day at the Sophienholm Exhibition Center, Copenhagen. 1995. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collectionPoster and invitation card to the show Renaissance and Resistance at the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. 1994. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collectionPoster and invitation card to the show Renaissance and Resistance at the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. 1994. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collectionBooklet of the show Metaphors of Renunciation at Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany. 1996. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collectionOne of the artifacts dating back to Konstantin Goncharov’s early practice is the green wool coat from Garage Archive Collection. It was created in 1989 for the drummer of the band Kino Georgy Guryanov. This item was supposedly sewn specially for the band’s international tour. The coat already reveals elements of  “Strict Young Man’s signature style which can be labeled as ‘Petersburg Neo-Historicism’ dating back to the Leningrad art of the 1970s–1980s, and the conceptualization of Petersburg art’s neoclassical idea implemented by Timur Novikov in the 1990s”. [7] Goncharov says in an interview, however, that he “cannot imagine how all this relates to historical costume,” [8] pointing to the fact that his designs are more likely connected with the future than the past.    In this particular case, the coat, which, at first glance, references the overcoat, respects, and even enhances the 1980s fashion silhouette—with its hypertrophied shoulder line, the “bat” sleeve, the length and oversized fit. The coat also illustrates another distinctive feature of garments by Strict Young Man which were developed as total “architectural pieces,” and of deigning clothes as “costume-image”. [9] This is emphasized by the overall silhouette and attention to detail: the multiple tiny fabric-covered buttons hidden in the slot, small secret pockets, the shape of the lapels, and the unusual lining fabric.                                                      Unfortunately, Garage Archive Collection does not contain photographs showing Georgy Guryanov dressed in the coat, but there are pictures of other representatives of St. Petersburg’s beau monde wearing garments by Strict Young Man. One of the photographs shows artist and art historian Andrei Khlobystin posing in a cape designed by Goncharov at the opening of an exhibition of Timur Novikov's collages. The exhibition took place at collector Paul Judelson's New York apartment, where the Leningrad artists stayed in the early 1990s. Andrei Khlobystin wearing a costume designed by Konstantin Goncharov at an improvised exhibition of collages by Timur Novikov at Paul Judelson’s home at 314 East 51st Street, New York, 1990. Photo: Timur Novikov. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin archive Another series of photographs covers an event that became known in the neo-academic circles as the Ball of Thirty-Six Princes and Princesses. Alexey Sokolov describes it as follows: “In summer 1994, princess Francesca von Thyssen from the House of Habsburgs, together with her Spanish aristocrat friend Pilar, and Irena [Kuksenaite] who was friends with them celebrated their mutual birthday in St. Petersburg. They ordered dresses of the Shamakhan and Russian tsarinas for the Russian Fairy-Tales Ball from us, rented out the Marble Palace, everything was very elegant, even treats were served on silverware. A private jet arrived bringing guests, with thirty-six princes and princesses representing European royal courts onboard”. [10] Photographs in Garage’s Collection show Alla Mitrofanova, Andrei Khlobystin, Olga Tobreluts, Olesya Turkina, Konstantin Goncharov, and other guests at the event. Also wearing Strict Young Man designs are journalist Alyona Spitsyna and architect Michael Cramer. [11] Konstantin Goncharov, Alyona Spitsyna and Kseniya Rozhkova (Novikova) attending the Russian Fairy-Tales Ball in the Marble Palace, St. Petersburg. 1994. Photo: Andrei Khlobystin. Garage Archive Collection.Michael Cramer and Olga Tobreluts attending the Russian Fairy-Tales Ball in the Marble Palace, St. Petersburg. 1994. Photo: Andrei Khlobystin. Garage Archive CollectionAmong the photographs in Garage Archive Collection, there are portraits of Konstantin Goncharov and Alexey Sokolov taken by photographer Yedyge Niyazov in 1993. These black and white shots were taken in a mansard on Griboyedov Canal, where the Strict Young Man atelier was located at that time. Alexey Sokolov is pictured wearing one of the earliest velvet coats designed by them. Behind Konstantin Goncharov stands a mannequin in a silver suit, which consists of a coat-dress and headwear, both items made in 1990-1991. This outfit would be later used in the photoshoot Olympus on the Roof, organized by photographer Hans-Jürgen Burkard together with the New Academy’s professors and students in St. Petersburg in July 1994. Alexey Sokolov. 1993. Photo: Yedyge Niyazov  Konstantin Goncharov. 1993. Photo: Yedyge NiyazovThanks to the efforts of Alyona Spitsyna, in 1994, the “strict young men” moved from the attic into a new space on 13, Kamennoostrovsky Avenue. The laconic and touching invitation card to the opening of the Strict Young Man fashion gallery featuring a handmade signature is stored in Garage Archive Collection. From this point on, the space on Austrian Square becomes a fashion spot visited by the city’s many famous guests, artists, and musicians. Invitation card to the opening of Strict Young Man Fashion Gallery. 1994. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collection Senior research fellow at the Newest Trends Department of the State Russian Museum, art historian and curator Yekaterina Andreeva writes in her report on Konstantin Goncharov’s legacy: “Goncharov’s practice reaches its blossom in 1994–1995. In 1995 he created costumes for the ballet Leda and the Swan to the music of Gustav Mahler. The ballet was staged for the Hermitage Theater by Sergey Vikharev, the premier of the Mariinsky Theatre and friend of the artist Bella Matveeva, whose paintings were used in stage design. During the same years, in 1994–1995, Goncharov made around thirty costumes and a cycle of fourteen illustrations for Apuleius’s The Golden Ass. It was a group portrait [Passiones Luci], where Goncharov acted as one of the leading artists together with me, Alexey Sokolov, and Olga Tobreluts. We thought that our task implied making illustrations that would be associated with both Petersburg—where Mikhail Kuzmin published his translation that became a classic—and with world culture. [12] Apuleius, a Late Antiquity author-magus, inspired us to create magical ‘cultural landscapes.’ The project also had an important social aspect, which consisted of bringing together the youth community for a joint months-long performance. As its director, Goncharov recruited several dozens of participants for the shooting on the dance floor: nurses, pop band dancers, even bandits. Goncharov never limited himself to fashion design or multimedia art proper. Together with Novikov, he was shaping the space of culture, a social environment.” [13] Information about these projects, which were important for Goncharov, is preserved in the record folder “Documentation of Timur Novikov’s project The Walls of the New Academy”—a compilation of photocopies of articles from Russian and international publications assembled by Novikov which cover the activity of the New Academy of Fine Arts in 1995–1998. Novikov put these articles, posters, and photographs on the walls of a corridor in the New Academy premises on 10, Pushkinskaya Street, labeling them as visual promotion and propaganda of the Academy’s achievements. Among the materials selected by Novikov, there are texts and interviews related to the Strict Young Man atelier released after the presentation of The Golden Ass project, foreign press reviews of the show Self-Identification, articles and texts devoted to the premiere and international tour of the ballet Leda and the Swan.Photocopy of an article from Timur Novikov’s project The Walls of the New Academy. 1995–1998. Garage Archive Collection, Andrei Khlobystin collection Another critical document dated the mid-1990s is video documentation of the opening of the New Academy’s seminal international exhibition Renaissance and Resistance held in the Marble Palace in June 1994. The video features a short Konstantin Goncharov interview who was one of the contributing artists to the show. Responding to a journalist’s questions, Goncharov announces the soon-to-open “firm and gallery Strict Young Man” and mentions the title of one of the dresses on view at the exhibition. The Masturbating Pioneer Girl is the famous “gymnasium dress” made of woolen fabric that was used for sewing Soviet school uniforms for girls, with black and white ballet photographs from Timur Novikov’s collection and artificial daffodils embroidered on the bodice. In the early 1990s, the school uniform was abolished, and, using Goncharov’s own words, this dress represented “a slight nostalgic sentiment” for the bygone epoch. Dresses displayed alongside the works of Timur Novikov also get caught on camera.Video report from the opening of the show Renaissance and Resistance at the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. 1994. Author: Lena Tsibor; camera: Dmitry Frolov. Sergey Chubraev’s archive Making a solemn speech at the opening, Timur Novikov put Konstantin Goncharov’s name on a par with top international artists and designers, anticipating the young couturier’s fame. These words turned out to be prophetic, with recognition happening for Strict Young Man soon afterward. Konstantin Goncharov and Alexey Sokolov began taking part in major international shows, Goncharov’s costume design for The Golden Ass won him the Best Avant-garde Artist of 1995 title at the 1st Moscow International Festival of Avant-garde Collections ALBO-Fashion. In 1995 and 1996 he exhibited with great success at the festival of avant-garde fashion in Georgia. Wearing Strict Young Man garments signified involvement in the art world, and the personality of Konstantin Goncharov, embodied boldly in his clothes-artworks, appeared to be so attractive that it quickly gathered a wide circle of admirers around him. Goncharov’s pieces are in the private collections of Yekaterina Andreeva, Alyona Spitsyna, Avdotya Smirnova, and Arkady Ippolitov, while his foreign devotees include curator Kathrin Becker, Francesca von Habsburg, Princess Katya Galitzine, American gallerist Jane Lombard, and Belgian art historian Agnès Rammant-Peeters. “The strategy of Novikov and Goncharov is similar to Michel Foucault’s ideas delineated in his essay What is Enlightenment? In short, in order to happen, contemporaneity must be ironically heroized. This is exactly what Goncharov did—using fashion to create an ideal community of his own, which people from the rest of the world, from New York and Erfurt to Tbilisi, were ready to join”. [14] In an interview devoted to Konstantin Goncharov, his close friend, director of the fashion house KISSELENKO Irina Selyuta, says that the name Strict Young Man was inherently fatal, encapsulating some sort of predetermined unfolding of destiny, or maybe even foresight”. [15] It is not just about Goncharov’s aesthetic strategy and ethical principles. Konstantin died aged 29, to forever remain a dignified and prudent young man, a dreamer sensitive to beauty in his friends’ memory. Yekaterina Andreeva published a touching, gentle obituary in The New World of Art magazine paying homage to Goncharov of whom she speaks as of someone who “made his own conscious choice to move toward the miraculous” and who possessed “the main freedom—that of not being afraid of anything”. [16] The author is grateful to Alexander Izvekov for help in the preparation of the text and selection of materials. Notes 1. Timur. To Lie the Truth Only! / Edited by Andreeva Y. St. Petersburg.: Amphora, 2007. P. 216.2. Goschitskaya K., Kotov V. “The Legend: Konstantin Goncharov and the Strict Young Man” // URL: Timur. Pp. 65, 157–158.4. Kulish A. “A Suitable Costume for Lucius” // OM. 1996. #4. P.74. 5. Kulish A. “A Suitable Costume for Lucius”. P. 74.6. The exhibition Renaissance and Resistance, curated by Yekaterina Andreeva and Timur Novikov, was prepared by the New Academy of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Newest Trends Department of the State Russian Museum. The show that ran from June 10 to 19, 1994 in the Marble Palace, was dedicated to the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century photography and the preservation of classical traditions in art. Along with photographs, the display included works by Moscow artists and professors of the New Academy of Fine Arts. 7. Kostrits M. [Goncharov Konstantin] // State Russian Museum presents: Newest Trends Department: History, Collection, Exhibits. Almanac. St. Petersburg: Palaca Editions, 2004. Issue 41. P. 50.8. Kulish A. “A Suitable Costume for Lucio”. P. 76.9. Kostrits M. [Goncharov Konstantin] P. 50. 10. Goschitskaya K., Kotov V. “The Legend”.11. According to all the evidence, the ball was held in 1994, but photographs taken by Andrei Khlobystin show other dates recorded by his camera, 06.21.1995 and 06.22.1995.12. The project Passiones Luci became part of the program of annual exhibits organized by the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg, which paid for the materials for the costumes, the production of photographs, the costs of set design and the publication of the catalogues. The authors of the idea of making illustrations were artists Denis Yegelsky and Andrey Medvedev, while the main artist on the project was Konstantin Goncharov. The final show opened on June 28, 1995, in the Marble Palace and the spaces of the New Academy of Fine Arts on 10, Pushkinskaya Street. The Marble Place display (curated by Yekaterina Andreeva) was entitled Passiones Luci and featured 14 computer collages illustrating the novel The Golden Ass, costumes by Konstantin Goncharov in collaboration with Alexey Solovyov (some of them are now in the collections of the State Hermitage Museum and State Russian Museum), Timur Novikov’s panel Cupid and Psyche and video documentation of the filming process. The part displayed in the New Academy (curated by Yekaterina Andreeva and Timur Novikov) was called The Golden Ass. Sketches and Projects and showed the scenery and preparation materials made by Yegor Ostrov, Denis Yegelsky, Andrey Medvedev, Oleg Maslov, and Viktor Kuznetsov and Andrei Khlobystin. The catalogue (designed by Alexander Belosludtsev and Maksim Gudkov) which was an integral element of the project and included articles by Yekaterina Andreeva and Arkady Ippolitov along with the text of Apuleius’s novel in Mikhail Kuzmin’s translation illustrated with collages. On the opening day, an international jury featuring artist Andrew Logan (London; chairman of the jury board), director of the Ateneum Museum of Contemporary Art Tuula Arkio (Helsinki), President of the Cultural Partnership Foundation Jane Lombard (New York) and the staff of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, awarded the Soros CCA Prize for the Best Artist of the Exhibition to Konstantin Goncharov and Olga Tobreluts.13. Andreeva Y. “Konstantin Goncharov: The New Man of the Early 1990s”. Unpublished paper read at the academic conference Transformation of the Old and the Search of New in the Art and Culture of the 1990s, January 28–30, 2020.14. Andreeva Y. “Konstantin Goncharov”.15. Azarkhi S. V. Stylish People: Introduction to the History of Modern Artistic Gestures. St. Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh Publishing, 2012. P. 219.16. Andreeva Y. “In Memory of Konstantin Goncharov” // The New World of Art. 1998. #3. P. 62.
Udovydchenko Maria | 25 June 2020
The Pure Sound of a Clay Whistle Toy
“On March 16, 2019, the first exhibition curated by Lena Ishchenko and me opened at Typography Center for Contemporary Art. By that time, we had been sharing our interest in ceramics for over a year, exchanging photographs of works made by Russian and international artists via social media. And in November 2018 we decided to start working on an exhibition. While working on the exhibition and thinking about a title for it, I stumbled across an article in the magazine Nauka i zhizn (Science and Life) that explained how the clay whistle was transformed from a magical instrument believed to be capable of causing wind or rain and scaring away evil spirits into something else. It developed in two different ways. The first resulted in a flute-type whistling device, with a clay, egg- or cigar-shaped body, i.e. an ocarina. The second involved becoming part of folklore, whereby the clay whistle can be both a separate object executed in the form of a bird or a small animal and part of an larger object, like the Filimonovo clay dolls. This split affected not just the clay toy, but also the material of clay in general. These two conditions-clay as a material of “high” sculpture and that of handicrafts-define the arch of relations explored by the exhibition. What is more associated with clay objects: a cozy flat-with dogs on the doorstep, tiled kitchen floor, a red corner, a kid’s room and cigarette butts on the balcony-the logic of which the show is built upon, or the white cube of a museum or exhibition space? Along with this “high” curatorial question we were bothered by another, “low” one: how to ship works from Paris, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil and Moscow to this white cube space. And, frankly speaking, there were delivered in our and our friends’ hand luggage. Artists put their works at risk, we felt extremely nervous, a few pieces were slightly damaged, for instance, Andrey Syaylev’s “tile” printed onto a mirror surface (it is visible on the photo from the archive) and Apo Broche’s bear cub which cracked during the return shipping. Lena took the burden of discussing it with Andrey and me, with Apo. Relief awaited both of us though, a very rarely experienced feeling-when you realize that everyone understands and is not disappointed. Speaking from today, May 2020, I can state that I still love ceramics, but only now I see clearly why. It seems that we still automatically pronounce words about imposture while continuing to introduce ourselves as cool workers representing no less cool institutions, for example, when sending an offer to an artist to invite them contribute to a show. We try to overcome our imposture using the touching public ocarina-flute-but we genuinely experience it at our homes, just as we do with clay pots and plates.
19 June 2020
The Living/Dead Nook
Author: Vasily Subbotin The Measuring Equipment Factory (ZIP) in Krasnodar, which has played an important role in the history of the Typography Center for Contemporary Art and ZIP group, opened on April 29, 1939. Production of measuring and testing devices at the factory has now ceased, but the 81-year-old building is still in use, even though its function has changed. The number of people working in the factory’s large assembly shops reached a peak in 1989. However, as demand for its products gradually declined, production volumes dropped and the management began to rent out those spaces that were no longer needed. In 1993, the factory was privatised and converted into a joint-stock company, which collapsed within its first year began the process of bankruptcy. In 1997, Krasnodar Exhibition Center opened in the control room and a number of workshops, but that failed to save the factory. In 2012, ZIP reported losses of 28,9 million rubles. Burdened by obsolete equipment, years of losses, and accumulated debts, ZIP was forced to cease production. Most of its spaces were rented out as offices, originally to other producers. In 2006 and 2007 furniture workshops and advertisers moved there, as did a dumpling company. In recent years, a creative cluster has formed spontaneously on the premises (I call it a cluster, but there is no community, and tenants are not necessarily aware of who their neighbors are), which includes a variety of small businesses (from ironmongers to furniture makers), artist studios, theater and photographers’ workshops, lofts, and coworking spaces. In 2009, inspired by the history of ZIP, artists Vasily and Stepan Subbotin, Evgeny Rimkevich, Eldar Ganeev, Konstantin Chekmaryov, and Denis Serenko founded ZIP group, which was named after the factory, and opened a studio in its building. In 2011 they launched the Krasnodar Institute of Contemporary Art, which was followed a year later by the Typography Center for Contemporary Art. The Living Nook was ZIP group’s first project at the semi-abandoned factory. Their ambition was to create a space outside of time, which would erase the boundaries between the past and the present. The factory’s huge spaces testified to its grand history, but all that was left were piles of rubbish-artefacts of the Soviet era. This rubbish provided material for an exhibition in the now empty factory spaces, with photographs of sometimes unrecognizable celebrities on the wall of honor and a board game based on a found diagram that is a reminder of human encounters at the factory and of collective labour. The structure of the objects was suggested by the ruins themselves: the spaces inside and outside of the factory. Artists renting studios at ZIP currently include Recycle Group and Igor Mikhaylenko. Another resident was Lyudmila Baronina, who later moved to Moscow. Since August 2019 the factory’s former canteen has been occupied by Typography Center for Contemporary Art. You might be wondering when I will finally explain what I meant by the “dead nook.” If you look at the photos and watch the videos selected for RAAN, you will require no further explanation. What is gentrification if not this ZIP zombie-land? I like zombies, by the way.
ZIP | 18 June 2020
The exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika: From the History of Leningrad’s Art Scene, 1949-1989
The exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika, which opened in Leningrad on January 8, 1989, became an event that documented the rapid changes in the local art scene brought on by the reforms in Soviet politics and economics. The history of the project was closely connected to several organizations that emerged or changed the course of their work in the late 1980s. The first was the Leningrad Club of Art Historians, founded in 1986 as part of the USSR Culture Fund by Leningrad State University professor Ivan Chechot and several alumni. To find out more about the Club’s activities, see Alla Mitrofanova and Andrei Khlobystin’s text “Contemporary Soviet Criticism and the Leningrad Club of Art Historians” (in Russian) in Garage Archive Collection. In 1987, the Club organized a conference on art and culture in the second half of the twentieth century. [1] Invited speakers included art historian Valery Turchin with a talk on the Italian Transavantgarde, author Arkady Dragomoshchenko, who spoke about postmodernism, and artist Timur Novikov, who presented his re-composition method. The future organizers of the exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika-Ekaterina Andreeva, Alla Mitrofanova, Olesya Turkina, and Andrei Khlobystin-who were all members of the Club, were also speakers. Alla Mitrofanova gave a talk about the exhibition Forty Years of Modern Art, 1945-1985, which had taken place at Tate in London two years earlier. The exhibition of works from Tate’s own collection was organized chronologically and presented key artists and movements in the postwar art of Europe and the USA. [2] The idea of a museum show on very recent developments in art, as opposed to famous masterpieces of the past, must have inspired the members of the Club: From Unofficial Art to Perestroika was conceived as a similar project that would present the changing “landscape of Leningrad art over forty years,” [3] or “forty years of Leningrad art.” [4] Another inspiration behind the project, as Ekaterina Andreeva recalls [5], was the series of exhibitions Retrospective of Moscow Artists, 1957-1987 organized by the Hermitage Association of art enthusiasts at 100, Profsoyuznaya Street in Moscow in 1987. Like their Moscow colleagues, Leningrad art historians believed that, in the local context, only art that had emerged from the underground scene or was connected to it could be considered truly contemporary. Many members of the Leningrad Club of Art Historians worked in museums [6], however, it was the support of a private organization, the Ariadna Cooperative, that made the preparation of a large-scale exhibition on the history of Leningrad unofficial/contemporary art possible. The economic reforms of perestroika included the Cooperative Law of 1988, which allowed non-governmental organizations to undertake commercial activities. Ariadna was among Leningrad’s first registered cooperatives that sold unofficial/contemporary art. Headed by Tatyana Kulikova, it employed Inessa Vinogradova as an art historian and consultant. She was on friendly terms with unofficial artists and also worked with Alla Mitrofanova at Pavlovsk Museum and Reserve. Initially, Ariadna did not have its own exhibition space. Perhaps, with the idea of attracting clients interested in contemporary art, the cooperative decided to organize a large-scale temporary exhibition that would feature works by artists of different generations. Alla Mitrofanova was invited to join the project through Inessa Vinogradova, followed by her colleagues from the Leningrad Club of Art Historians. This collaboration resulted in the exhibition From Unofficial Art to Perestroika at Pavilion 1 of the Harbour Exhibition Complex, which was rented for the event. Poster for the exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika: From the History of Leningrad’s Art Scene, 1949-1989. Design by Andrei Khlobystin, 1989. Garage Archive Collection (Andrey Khlobystin archive) Poster for the exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika: From the History of Leningrad’s Art Scene, 1949-1989. Design by Alexander Florensky, 1989. Garage Archive Collection (Andrei Khlobystin archive) The exhibition featured “over 200 artists and around 2,000 works” [7] that presented the history of Leningrad’s “unofficial” (or nonconformist) and contemporary art from 1949 to 1989. The project, Andrei Khlobystin recalls, was co-curated by the organizers. “Alla [Mitrofanova] and I curated the New Artists, with whom I then collaborated as an art historian and an artist, the Necrorealists and the artists of the NCh/VCh squat, where I had a studio, as well as the Depressionists and other artists of the young avant-garde. Ekaterina [Andreeva] was responsible for Soviet nonconformist art, Olesya [Turkina] for the Sterligov school and Mitki group. Other curators (a role that was then unheard of) were Inessa Vinogadova and Nikolay Suvorov.” [8] In Leningrad, official exhibitions of unofficial art spaces were quite common throughout the 1980s. Starting from 1982, the Cooperative of Experimental Art (TEII) [9] organized regular shows of “independent” artists of different generations. Their ninth exhibition, which took place at the Harbour Exhibition Complex in 1987, was one of the biggest and featured works by 160 artists, from representatives of Gazanevsky culture to the New Artists, Necrorealists and Mitki group of the 1980s. That same year the Vernisazh Association of Artists, Art Historians, and Art Enthusiasts was registered with Iosif Khrabry as its head. They also worked on bringing underground art to the broader public and organised exhibitions by Solomon Rossin, Igor Ivanov, the New Artists, Vladimir Sterligov, and others at the Sverdlov House of Culture. Discussing the exhibition of the New Artists at Sverdlov House of Culture, Leningrad. Photo: Gennady Prikhodko, 1988. Garage Archive Collection (Andrei Khlobystin archive) The Cooperative of Experimental Art’s exhibitions were largely focused on artists who were still active on the scene. The only exhibition with a retrospective element was Contemporary Art of Leningrad at Manege Exhibition Hall. The main section of that exhibition, which opened toward the end of 1988, was focused on artists who had taken part in the Cooperative’s previous projects and the more avant-garde artists of the Leningrad Branch of the Soviet Union of Artists. Unofficial Art to Perestroika was organized in parallel with Contemporary Art of Leningrad and partly in opposition to it. The young curators believed that juxtaposing “independent” artists with members of the state-run Union was no longer interesting. Instead, they wanted to show the connections between Soviet unofficial art and the contemporary art of Leningrad. Unofficial Art to Perestroika was the first attempt to create a research-based project that reviewed the history of Leningrad’s contemporary art and the circles, schools, movements, and groups that constituted it. In one of the explanatory texts for the project, its concept was formulated as follows: This exhibition is essentially a follow-up to the exhibition of the art of the 1920s and 1930s at the State Russian Museum, but it has certain peculiarities that reflect the specificity of postwar art, on which is limited printed material and which has no tradition of self-reflection. Our exhibition is intended as a broad study of culture: rather than presenting a great number of artists, we wanted to outline the key movements and types of art. Our main goal was to show the scale of this era’s culture and to foster its self-awareness by introducing a number of critical, historical, and philosophical ideas regarding its development.” [10] The exhibition design was based on the use of exhibition stands, which were very common in the 1980s. Corridors made of stands converged toward the central pavilion, where meetings took place and a café was organized. The exhibition opened with the artists of the Arefiev circle, the Sidlin group, the Sterligov school, the Hermitage group, and other representatives of the older generation of Leningrad unofficial art. Most artists and groups who started showing their work in the 1980s were presented deep inside the gallery space. “The exhibition was conceived as a museum of Leningrad’s contemporary art and the design was set out like a tree,” Olesya Turkina recalls. “The soil that nourished it was the apartment exhibitions of the 1970s (the symbol of Leningrad’s art life of that time) and its roots lay in the work of the students of Malevich, Filonov, and Matyushin, who continued the tradition of the avant-garde, and in the neoexpressionist movement that developed in Leningrad in the 1950s and 1960s.” [11] Garage Archive Collection holds a floor plan of the exhibition, which shows its structure. Floor plan of the exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika: From the History of Leningrad’s Art Scene, 1949-1989 made by Ekaterina Andreeva for Lyubov Gurevich, 1989. Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (Lyubov Gurevich archive) To provide a historical perspective, the exhibition also included works borrowed from collectors, as Ekaterina Andreeva explains. “The only collector Alla Mitrofanova and Andrei Khlobystin knew was Lev Katzenelson, whose wife owned the apartment they were renting at Kirovsky Zavod. Katzenelson lived on Marat Street. He was an old man who seemed to have come out straight of the Bible. [. . .] Igor Ivanov gave me a list of phone numbers and addresses of some key collectors (Anatoly Sidorov, Irina Koreneva, Rimma Loginova, Yury Pozin, Boris Bezobrazov), a print-out of Gazanevshchina by [Anatoly] Basin, told me about [Osip] Sidlin and sent me to [Alexander] Arefiev’s friend, the architect and artist Yury Medvedev. Through Medvedev and [Dmitry] Shagin I met Oleg Frontinsky who had incredible paintings by Ustyugov and several folders with drawings by the artists of the Arefiev circle. He also had a great early self-portrait by [Richard] Vasmi… Lev Katzenelson, 1986. Garage Archive Collection (Lyubov Gurevich archive) Oleg Frontinsky, Yulia Gorskaya, Oleg Grigoriev, 1970s. Garage Archive Collection (Lyubov Gurevich archive) Oleg Frontinsky’s collection at his apartment, 1990s. Photo: Lyubov Gurevich. Garage Archive Collection (Lyubov Gurevich archive) Nikolai Blagodatov and Richard Vasmi, 1990s. Garage Archive Collection (Lyubov Gurevich archive) I was just a girl who nobody knew, but the collectors were very friendly and considerate. Now I understand that they were happy to see young people finally interested in the cause to which they had devoted their lives (and some, like Rimma Loginova’s then deceased husband Igor, who was tormented by the KGB, remained devoted to it until the bitter end). Sidorov, who lived in one of the Stalin-era buildings at Sennaya Square, told me how he used to give lectures on Gazanevsky artists in his institute, and how later, when the management no longer allowed him to do that, his colleagues started inviting him home for tea to talk about paintings. That was how home lectures became a thing in the 1970s. He had hand-written business cards and a gentlemanly, encouraging manner about him. Koreneva, who lived in Tallinskaya Street, was the muse of [Yuri] Galetsky and gave me her portrait by him. She told me how in the 1970s, when she hosted apartment exhibitions, her door had to be removed so that she could not be accused of organizing them: the apartment was open, so anyone could come in and do whatever they wanted. Pozin offered my husband and me tea and cake and told us a curious story about the local policeman who came to enquire about Vladimir Ovchinnikov’s painting St. Sebastian-a composition with a prisoner in a vatnik padded jacket standing by a pylon- and whether it was a portrait of some dissident. [. . .] The oldest of the collectors, Bezobrazov, told me to come alone and came to meet me in the empty street to make sure no one came with me. They all had been through a lot and paid more than just money for their collections. I haven’t mentioned Nikolai Blagodatov yet: he had already given his collection to Sergei Kovalsky for the exhibition at Manege (there was a big rivalry between us and the Cooperative of Experimental Art at the time). But the day before the opening, Blagodatov came to the Harbour with a drawing by Basin and I gratefully included it in the exhibition.” [12] Unofficial Art to Perestroika was first and foremost a curatorial project that presented the history of postwar art in Leningrad. However, it was also a commercial show: Ariadna Cooperative were in charge of the sales of works provided by the artists. In addition to individual buyers, the State Russian Museum acquired several works of the 1960s and 1970s for its collection. After the exhibition closed, Ariadna organized Leningrad’s first auction of unofficial/contemporary art. Participants disagree as to whether it was successful. Mixing commercial and non-commercial exhibition formats was one on the specific traits of art during perestroika, where ideas on contemporary art and ways of understanding it and working with it were formed in the local context. Café and lecture space at the exhibition Unofficial Art to Perestroika: From the Art History of Leningrad, 1949-1989. Left to right at the table in the foreground: Enver Baykiev, Alexey Adashevsky, Arkady Dragomoshchenko, Andrei Khlobystin, Inessa Vinogradova. Table at back left: Nikolay Suvorov and Dmitry Shagin. Table at back right: Boris Smelov (right) and others, 1989. Garage Archive Collection (Andrei Khlobystin archive) Exhibition views can be found in the book TEII. Ot Leningrada k Sankt-Peterburgu. “Neofitsialnoe” iskusstvo 1981-1991 godov. [Cooperative of Experimental Art. From Leningrad to St. Petersburg, “Unofficial” Art 1981-1991]. Edited by S. Kovalsky, E. Orlov, and Y. Rybakov (St. Petersburg: OOO “Izdatelstvo DEAN,” 2007), 440-460. 1. The program of the conference is published in Andrei Khlobystin, Shizorevolyutsiya. Ocherki peterburgskoi kultury vtoroi poloviny XX veka [Schizorevolution. Notes from St. Petersburg Culture in the Second Half of the 20th Century] (St. Petersburg: Borey Art, 2017), p.116 2. For the exhibition, see Lewis Biggs, Forty Years of Modern Art 1945-1985 (London, Tate Gallery; The Burlington Magazine, 128 (998), 1986, 366-367 and 371. 3. Garage Archive Collection (Andrey Khlobystin archive), inventory number AKH.III.1989-D5476. 4. Interview with Andrei Khlobystin, April 2, 2020. 5. Ekaterina Andreeva, Materials for the biography of Timur Novikov; Timur. “Vrat tolko pravdu!” [Timur. Lie Only with Truth!], edited by Ekaterina Andreeva (St. Petersburg: Amfora, 2007), 423. One of the curators of the exhibition series Retrospective of Moscow Artists, 1957-1987, Leonid Bazhanov, also spoke about the project at the conference of the Leningrad Club of Art Historians in 1987. 6. Alla Mitrofanova worked at Pavlovsk Museum and Reserve and Ekaterina Andreeva and Olesya Turkina worked at the State Russian Museum. 7. Olesya Turkina, Iskusstvo Leningrada/Peterburga 1980-1990-kh. Perekhodnyi period, diss. kand. isk. [The Art of Leningrad/St. Petersburg in the 1980s and 1990s. The Transition Period], Candidate of Art History thesis, 17.00.04 (St. Petersburg: State Russian Museum, 1999), 74. 8. Interview with Andrei Khlobystin, April 2, 2020. 9. For more information see TEII. Ot Leningrada k Sankt-Peterburgu. “Neofitsialnoe” iskusstvo 1981-1991 godov. [Cooperative of Experimental Art. From Leningrad to St. Petersburg, “Unofficial” Art 1981-1991]. Edited by S. Kovalsky, E. Orlov, and Y. Rybakov (St. Petersburg: OOO “Izdatelstvo DEAN,” 2007). 10. Garage Archive Collection (Andrei Khlobystin archive), inventory number AKH.III.1989-D5476. 11. Olesya Turkina. Iskusstvo Leningrada/Peterburga 1980-1990-kh. Perekhodnyi period [The Art of Leningrad/St. Petersburg in the 1980s and 1990s. The Transition Period], 74. 12. Interview with Ekaterina Andreeva, April 5, 2020.
Kotyleva Anastasija | 21 May 2020
Do It Yourself: A Practical Independence Course for Women in St. Petersburg
We wanted to create a course to foster emancipation not so much from men, but from our own lack of knowledge and powerlessness. Irina Aktuganova, Co-founder, Cyber Femin Club The Do It Yourself course in practical independence for women was a project by Cyber Femin Club, the first feminist art organization in St. Petersburg, which was founded in 1996 by Alla Mitrofanova and Irina Aktuganova as part of Tekhno Art Center at Pushkinskaya 10 Cultural Center. Cyber Femin Club organized art events and collaborated with various social organizations for women, including: Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, created during the First Chechen War; and the Women Voters’ League, one of the first human rights organizations in the city. In September 1998, with the support of the George Soros Foundation and grants from Global Fund for Women and Mama Cash, Cyber Femin Club launched the Internet Center for Women, run by Irina Aktuganova, Alla Mitrofanova, IT specialist Olga Levin, and web designer Elena Ivanova. The center introduced NGOs working in women’s rights to computer technology, organized teleconferences, lectures, and seminars and offered free Internet access to all visitors. Center visitors learned to work with computers, e-mail, and search engines, studied the basics of html coding, text and graphics editing, built websites, and worked on social, art, and fundraising projects online. Olga Levina teaching Internet Center for Women visitors to build websites, 1998. Photo: Irina Aktuganova A course that would help women learn to cope with household problems as well as use computer technology was a logical next step in the development of Cyber Femin Club’s education program. Irina Aktuganova on the idea behind Do It Yourself: “In fall 2002 Olga Levina came to me (when all the grants ran out she had to go and work as a system administrator in some company) and told me that they taught them to crimp cables on the sysadmin courses and women were protesting that it’s not women’s work. She thought it would be good to organize a course on technological literacy. I liked the sound of ‘crimping cables’ and came up with the name Do It Yourself, a course in practical independence for women. And then Olga and I decided that it would not be limited to cables but would include all hardware issues (disassembling and reassembling computers like they do with machine guns in the army), car maintenance, fixing home appliances, and renovation work. All the teachers were women.” The first Do It Yourself practical independence course for women ran in 2004. Support from the Gagarin Foundation meant it was free for anyone who applied in person or via a phone call. Classes took place at Experimental Sound Gallery on Sundays and were in two blocks, Computers and Office Machinery and Home Appliances and Tools. The first half of the day was devoted to lectures on computers, where participants learnt where to buy them, which model to choose, and how to fix common problems. During the second half, the group studied home appliances and learnt to use tools such as drills, screwdrivers, and soldering irons. Next came plumbing and electrics classes where they could apply their newly acquired skills. Curriculum of the Do It Yourself practical independence course for women, 2004 Curriculum of the Do It Yourself practical independence course for women, 2004 In its first year, the course was taught by Olga Levina and Tatyana Polyanova. Levina had trained as a system administrator and ran classes on computer technology, while Polyanova had studied at St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University and taught participants to fix home appliances and work with tools. The course was attended by thirty women aged from 20 to 60. Participants did not receive a diploma or completion certificate, but in line with St. Petersburg tradition the course finished with a ball. A class on the repair of home appliances, 2004. Photo: Irina Aktuganova Garage Archive Collection holds a number of documents related to the Do It Yourself course as part of the Irina Aktuganova and Sergei Busov archive. These include a detailed curriculum for the first year of the course, photographs, and a selection of press cuttings on this unique project. Article announcing the launch of the course in the local newspaper Moi Rayon, 2003 Feedback from participants and their interest testified to the importance of Cyber Femin Club’s education project. However, we do not know as much about the rerun of the course, which took place in 2005/2006 and had a broader curriculum that included classes in home renovation and automobile maintenance and repair. New teachers Olga and Ksenia joined the course. Unfortunately, their family names cannot be located in the archive documents. Based on the 2005/2006 course, Cyber Femin Club published a textbook with class materials and Irina Aktuganova’s drawings, which is also part of Garage Archive Collection. Textbook for the Do It Yourself course in practical independence for women, 2006 Documents in the archive also include notes taken by participant Nadezhda Kulikova and published in the local newspaper. A journalist who was at that time learning to drive, Kulikova kept a diary where she described the classes and her experience doing simple repair jobs, such as changing a tyre, spark plugs, and fuses. Article about Do It Youself in the newspaper Moi Rayon, 2006 The significance of the course for the Russian feminist discourse and art practices is yet to be fully understood. Conceived as an art project and carried out in the field of art activism and DIY culture, Do It Yourself responded to the need for a new basis for self-identification among post-Soviet women. Irina Aktuganova explains how projects like Do It Yourself can make a difference: “This project had its own complex genealogy, which we never discussed, as to us it was obvious. We were all Soviet women. And Soviet women could do anything: they were technologically literate because many studied to be engineers. That was what distinguished us from Western feminists and cyberfeminists. For them, providing women access to engineering and programming was an emancipatory practice, whereas for Soviet women those were part of their daily routines, which they hated. A very interesting flip happened with this engineering education. In Soviet times they told us that women should be engineers, work in factories, shift railroad sleepers, and so on, but those were men’s jobs and we wanted to be women and live our womanly lives. In the West women didn’t work-they were provided for by their husbands-and if they paid our husbands more, we would sit at home and take care of the children. That’s what many women thought. When by the end of the 1990s women had saved their families from starvation and life started going uphill, many chose to be supported by their husbands or partners. The media began promoting archaic values and advertising created the female figures of the kept woman, the happy wife and mother, etc. Feminism had no place here. The name of our course rhymed with Ya sama [I’ll Do It Myself], the only feminist show on Russian television, which was hosted by Yulia Menshova from 1995 through 2001. We saw it as creating an opposition to this strange new public sentiment, as we could not believe that Soviet women had fallen so easily for the bourgeois gender stereotype. To us, that revival of patriarchy had no foundation, and generally speaking that turned out to be the case. I suppose women came to our course not only to learn universal skills and become independent from men but also to make a gesture, or even a political statement.”
Udovydchenko Maria | 13 April 2020
Artistic Projects Foundation Chronicle
1987 Sasha Obukhova and Yulia Ovchinnikova volunteer at the Hermitage Association of art enthusiasts. There they meet Leonid Talochkin and help him produce the hand-written catalogue for the exhibition Retrospection. 1990 Alexander (Alik) Sidorov invites Obukhova and Milena Orlova to work on the A-Ya archive, which will later grow into the reference book Who‘s Who in Contemporary Art in Moscow. In 1992, it will be published by Album publishing house founded by Sergei Khripun. 1990 Ovchinnikova works on the catalogue for the exhibition Other Art. 1992 Obukhova starts working at Joseph Backstein’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow, where she continues to build an archive. 1993 Ovchinnikova starts working at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art. Her responsibilities include filming Moscow art events. 2001 Some of the key players on the Moscow art scene (including Joseph Backstein, Viktor Misiano, and Marat Guelman) create the Art Projects Foundation (APF), which takes on the projects of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art. The head of APF, Elena Elagina, invites Obukhova and Ovchinnikova to work on its archive. APF and its archive are located in a small room in the Graphic Arts Department of the Surikov Art Institute in Lavrushinsky Lane (previously known as Moscow Secondary Art School). In 2001, the APF archive consists of Obukhova’s personal archive and the archive of the Soros Center, which was transferred to APF as a non-monetary grant. In 2011 and 2012, the archive expands through the production and accumulation of new materials and thanks to donations from artists, gallerists, and art critics, including Elena Selina, Andrei Kovalev, Igor Makarevich, Milena Orlova, and Mikhail Fyodorov-Roshal. 2004 Art Projects Foundation is restructured with Obukhova as its head and focuses on maintaining the archive. First attempts are made at developing an electronic catalogue. A technical brief for the developer is written, but work on the program is postponed due to lack of funds. 2005 Art Projects Foundation and the archive have to leave the space in Lavrushinsky Lane. Most of the archive and library is put into storage, with part moving to Ekaterina Foundation, where APF organizes Informburo, a large-scale project for the 1st Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. The project will serve as a prototype for the future organization of the archive, which at the time cannot be implemented due to the lack of reliable funding. 2006 APF moves to a building at Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art. 2006 to 2008 APF receives regular support from Italian collector and arts patron Alberto Sandretti. 2007 Contemporary City Foundation holds a charity auction to support APF. With the proceeds, APF is able to pay rent for the two years and acquire new equipment to create better storage conditions for the documents. 2011 Garage Center for Contemporary Culture starts the negotiation process to acquire the APF archive. September 1, 2012 An agreement is signed that transfers the archive to Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. A Research Department is created at Garage, where the initial team include Sasha Obukhova, Anastasia Tarasova, and Zoya Katashinskaya. Sasha Obukhova in the Art Projects Foundation archive, 2011 Photo: Roman Mokrov
Obukhova Sasha | 6 April 2020
Monroe. How I fell in Love
Raya Lugamanova shares her experience of working on Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe’s archive, which was acquired by Garage in 2018. Starting a text is never easy, so to mitigate the suffering I have decided that what you read below will be a “here and now” meditation on my past few months of work. When I was invited to work with Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe’s archive, I laughed and recalled how a few months earlier, on my last day in St. Petersburg (the very last day of the four years I spent in the city) I went for a walk around Vasilievsky Island with my friend. We dropped in to the New Museum and the exhibition they were showing was The Lives of Remarkable Monroes. We talked about it for a long time and even considered buying a book about him, but in the end we didn’t. Later we headed to Smolenskoe Cemetery to look for film director Aleksei Balabanov’s grave. We were walking through the cemetery with only a rough idea of where to go, and suddenly I looked up and saw a strange sculpture staring at me. It was pretty eerie to tell you the truth. I read the inscription and it was Monroe. I don’t believe in signs, but I like to note coincidences. And Vladik [Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe] really liked that, too. In several interviews he talked about Pope John Paul II dying from suffocation at the time when Monroe was working on the Pope’s portrait for his StarZ series and wrapping his face in clingfilm. He also said he found out he might have a son from his one-time lover Evelina Arkhangelskaya when impersonating the actress Lyubov Orlova. A similar thing happens in one of Orlova’s films, Circus. That was mystical! And Mamyshev-Monroe loved anything mystical. Maybe it was boredom or lack of meaning, or maybe his “personal silliness” as he used to say, but he loved coincidences and talked a lot about signs and omens. You can find plenty of evidence among his personal items in the archive. I sorted them into several groups: spiritual artefacts (an Indian mandala and an icon made by a prisoner, which Monroe allegedly bought for 5 rubles at a railroad station); alien-related (eight toy heads of extraterrestrials) and carnival items (hare masks with huge rhinestones for eyes and earrings, a 1930s German magician’s kit). Туфли. Фонд Владислава Мамышева-Монро When I started working with the archive I had no special feelings for Monroe. I did not even particularly like his art. But he wrote good texts and funny poems, and as I’ve always loved the journalism of the 1990s I loved his KhVZ and M.V.Yu. magazines. When after months of digging through personal artefacts, photographs, and books I got to press clippings (Vladik collected every mention of himself), I finally understood what I both admired and hated about him. Who was Mamyshev-Monroe? I don’t know. Going through his archive you get the feeling that you’re just about to figure him out, just about to get a complete picture. But the further you fall into his writing and interviews, the more you start doubting what seemed obvious. We know that he did his military service at Baikonur Cosmodrome. There is a letter from his commanding officer to his mother, Nina Nikolaevna, in the archive. Many articles describe how he dressed as Marilyn Monroe during his military service, and when the officers found the photographs he ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But as you read more, you start to doubt even that. And you begin to feel that you are constantly hallucinating. Косметика. Фонд Владислава Мамышева-Монро This is a person who is like an empty vessel that fills with something new every day. Every day he has new passions and new opinions. Today he is afraid of getting old and dreams of immortality and tomorrow he will be impersonating the aging beauty Brigitte Bardot. Today he treats you as a friend and tomorrow he will say that you had charmed him, fooled him, and gone crazy, not without his help. The virtuosity with which he followed a chosen strategy was incredible. He gave interviews to whoever was willing to take them, wrote articles and sent them off to the press himself, but despite ample materials it is hard to see what kind of person he was. He invented intricate stories with mutually exclusive explanations that travelled from article to article. I think it’s a shame that artists rarely use this strategy today. Between the two extremes they choose silence, although mythmaking seems much more interesting. I admire how cleverly and effortlessly he invented details of various events to cover his traces. It occurred to me that the archive of press clippings was not simply a product of his narcissism (which for him was very natural) but also a tool to navigate the reality he had invented. However, that’s not certain (I could add this disclaimer to any sentence). As a researcher, I find it very annoying that whichever item or text I look at, I can’t say anything about it for sure. I conduct all this research, but in the end I’m left with countless versions of who, what, and why and no certainty about any of my hypotheses being correct. Духи. Фонд Владислава Мамышева-Монро You can never trust Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe because he was deliberately and fundamentally impermanent. But he was consistent in his practice and his transformations never put him at risk of losing face. After sorting around 300 (!) photographs of Marilyn Monroe clipped from magazines, books, albums, and calendars, I can imagine how carefully he prepared his transformations, which were more like spiritualist seances. To me, his album devoted to the death of Norma Jean represents the peak of this maniacal obsessiveness, but for him it marked its beginning. A thick leather-bound notebook contains photographs, articles, poems, songs, and even prayers. My admiration for such dedication was gradually gave way to horror. But, as gallerist Elena Selina said at the launch of the website devoted to Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe at Cosmoscow art fair in 2019, “Garage Archive now has a special person working on Vladik’s archive. She’s in a pickle. Because once Vladik comes into your life he will never let you go.” Looks like I’m in a pickle and Vladik will be with me for a while.
Lugamanova Raya | 2 April 2020
Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia since 2000
This long-term research program initiated by Garage Research in 2015 explores developments in self-organized artistic and curatorial practices in Russia since 2000. The program was launched with the exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2015 (November 6-December 10, 2015) initiated by the Head of Garage Archive Collection, Sasha Obukhova. The exhibition presented an overview of fifty-one projects from nine Russian cities, including apartment exhibitions and artist-run spaces, exhibitions in abandoned factories, and street festivals. The project also included four public debates with artists, curators, art historians and activists. Hearing the views of pioneering practitioners allowed the researchers to get a clearer understanding of practitioners’ ideas regarding art institutions and the limitations of the art world, including the (lack of) flexibility of contemporary museums and the art market. Alexei Kallima, list of events at France gallery (Moscow), 2015 Reflecting the growing autonomy of emerging artists, many of the projects-independent from both state-run and private institutions-have not been archived and often escape the notice of contemporary researchers. Even in the age of the Internet and social media, only a scattered, or fragmented trace of many of the initiatives remain, with dates and names of participants often missing. Open Systems was thus conceived as a comprehensive study to facilitate the accumulation and archiving of information on each project, its organizers, and participants, as well as photo and video documentation and ephemera. Unique documents accumulated during the exhibition include photo archives of Kirill Preobrazhensky's apartment gallery Cheryomushki and Timofey Karaffa-Korbut’s gallery ArtRaum, a notebook containing the list of exhibitions in France Gallery, handwritten by Alexey Kalyma, video documentation of Liza Morozova’s performances in Escape Gallery, exhibition posters form Samara gallery XI rooms, and an ABC Gallery’s signboard made from an office lamp. Another important aspect of the project has been to explore the stylistic and regional variations in self-organized initiatives. The selected initiatives have been subdivided into four categories: Private Spaces, devoted to artists who host initiatives in their apartments or studios; Other Places examines projects in abandoned or rented spaces; No Man’s Land focuses on street festivals and other projects in public spaces, including the Internet; and Borderline Territories explores various forms of interaction between artists, independent curators and activists that do not necessarily use space as their primary venue, but instead discourse, or publications, for example. XI rooms Gallery (Samara). Poster for Found object exhibition, 2008 The project has enabled Garage Archive to develop ties with initiatives across the country, which in its turn has led to the growth of the project itself. From Spring 2016 the exhibition has travelled across Russia, expanding in content through the participation of each host venue, which has invited new initiatives. The Urals branch of the National Center for Contemporary Arts introduced groups from Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil and Perm. The branch’s director, Alisa Prudnikova, and curators Vladimir Seleznev and Anna Litovskikh initiated a new exhibition, which opened at the NCCA Urals on 24 March 2016. The public program for the exhibition included lectures by Obukhova and the philosopher Elena Petrovskaya, as well as a performance by one of the founders of Office Gallery and ABC Gallery, Maxim Iluykhin. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2015, installation view, the National Center for Contemporary Art in the Urals, Ekaterinburg, 2016 © Petr Zakharov, Next, a collaboration with the Typography Center for Contemporary Art in Krasnodar, focused on the south of Russia and attracted new participants from Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog, Vladikavkaz and Sochi. The exhibition project took place from 16 June till 17 July2016 and included a discussion on the future of self-organized initiatives in Russia. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2015, installation view, Typography Center for Contemporary Art, Krasnodar, 2016 © Elena Sineok, From 1 September till 30 October 2016 Open Systems took place in Krasnoyarsk Museum Center. This introduced independent art initiatives from Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Barnaul, and Novosibirsk. This part of the project also included a program of workshops for Krasnoyarsk emerging artists: with a curator’s guidance, they sought to recreate various practices of the artists featured in Open Systems. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2015, installation view, Krasnoyarsk Museum Center, Krasnoyarsk, 2016 © Lera Tynianaya, Krasnoyarsk Museum Center The next show within the project opened at Samara’s Viktoria Gallery on December 16, 2016. Bringing together the archives of sixty self-organized initiatives, previously collected as part of Open Systems, it also featured an exhibition of contemporary Samara art curated by Anastasia Albokrinova. The exposition focused on emerging artists whose practice began at various self-organizations in Samara and, as such, became the gallery’s first exhibition focusing on local artists. The self-organized initiative Arctic Art Institute launched Open Systems in cooperation with the Arkhangelsk regional science library named after N. Dobrolyubov-where the show took place in August 2017 representing for the first time art initiatives of Russia’s Northern cities, including Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. Displaying the project in a library attracted a wider audience to it. This version of Open Systems also included a discussion involving a number of local cultural promoters. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2017, installation view, the Arkhangelsk regional science library named after N. Dobrolyubov, Arkhangelsk, 2017 © the Arkhangelsk regional science library named after N. Dobrolyubov The Saratov iteration of the project took place at the most unconventional among all of its venues-the stairs of the nineteenth-century building of the House of Cultural Workers. Spanning three floors, this space is traditionally occupied by exhibitions run by the self-organized IMHO Gallery. Encouraged by this peaceful, mutually enriching and usually hard to establish neighborship, the curators extended the show for several weeks, as it eventually ran from October 2017 through January 2018. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2017, installation view, IMHO Gallery, Saratov, 2017 © IMHO Gallery In May 2018, Smena Center of Contemporary Culture invited the project to Kazan. The enormous building of the Center-in fact, also a self-organized artist-led initiative-hosts lectures and concerts as well as contemporary art shows. Artefacts documenting Kazan’s self-organized events were displayed alongside the Open Systems archive. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2018, installation view, Smena Center of Contemporary Culture, Kazan, 2018 © IMHO Gallery Open Systems made its last stop in July 2018 at Vladivostok’s ARTETAGE Modern Art Museum, where the most complete version of the project embracing initiatives from all over the Primosrky Region was shown. Music band Far Eastern Home Wreckers gave a concert at the opening, while the public program accompanying the exhibition featured reading groups based around some key texts about self-organizations. The exhibition Open Systems. Self-Organized Art Initiatives in Russia: 2000-2018, installation view, ARTETAGE Modern Art Museum, Vladivostok, 2018 © Evgeniya Kоkurina Exhibitions and research programs accompanying them supplemented the project with new initiatives. The up to date (albeit not final) list of self-organized initiatives is provided below, with work on a publication about the study currently underway. List of Participants to date: 0+ Creative Space (St. Petersburg), XI Rooms Gallery (Samara), 11 Kropotkin str. Center (St. Petersburg), 39 Gallery (Moscow), 4.413 studio (St. Petersburg), Agency of Singular Investigations, ASI (Moscow), Agile Gallery (St. Petersburg), APXIV (Moscow), Arctic Art Institute (Arkhangelsk), APPENDIX Studio (Moscow), Art Angelsk (Arkhangelsk), #artbox (Yakutsk), ABC Gallery (Moscow), ars boiler room (Tomsk), Art-Commune (Tolyatti), Art-Propaganda Creative Laboratory (Yurga), ArtRaum Project (Moscow), Belka&Strelka Fluxrus Gallery (Taganrog), Black Lake (Kazan), Black&White Gallery (Kazan), Bobby Gallery (St. Petersburg), Brown Stripe Gallery (Moscow), Bystrovka Project (Krasnoyarsk), Ch9 Gallery (Murmansk), Cheremushki Apartment Gallery (Moscow), Chicory (Zheleznogorsk), Cultural Transit Foundation (Ekaterinburg), D-9 Creative Studio (Barnaul), Day Pyat Studio (Voronezh), Dom Gruzchika Laboratory for Contemporary Art (Perm), Egg Cultural Center (Nizhny Tagil), Egorka (St. Petersburg), Elektrozavod Gallery (Moscow), Escape Gallery (Moscow), FFTN Gallery (St. Petersburg), Flag v ruki (Krasnoyarsk), France Gallery (Moscow), Gallery1 (Nizhny Novgorod), Gallery for One Viewer (Moscow), Gallery of One Work (Samara), GBI Gallery (Ekaterinburg), GOVNO Gallery (Kaliningrad), Grischenko Garage (Novosibirsk), Youth Festival of Independent Art ‘Go! Where Do You Go?’ (Moscow), Hitting the Bottom (Novosibirsk), Holodno (Novosibirsk), HU gallery (Nizhny Tagil), Ice Biennale (Samara), Ikra Center for Contemporary Culture (Irkutsk), Intimnoe Mesto Space (St. Petersburg), IMHO Gallery (Saratov), The Kitchen Apartment Gallery (Rostov-on_Don), The Kitchen Women’s Art Workshops (Moscow), Korobka Center of Everything (Vladivostok), Krasnodar Institute for Contemporary Art (Krasnodar), Kubiva Gallery (Nizhny Tagil), Left Leg Gallery (Omsk), Leto Group Festivals (Moscow), Longdistancegallery, Luch Project (Moscow), Luda Gallery (St. Petersburg), MediaImpact: International Festival of Activist Art (Moscow), Mixed Forest Festival (Saratov), Monstration (Novosibirsk), MOZHET! Festival for contemporary art (Krasnodar), Narodnaya Gallery (Nizhny Tagil), Nepokorennie Open Studio (St. Petersburg), Nepravilny prikus (Simferopol Crimea),n i i c h e g o d e l a t (St. Petersburg), Noga Action Center (Ekaterinburg), North-7 Base — Kunsthalle Nummer Sieben (St. Petersburg), Exhibition Projects at Occupy Abay Camp (Moscow), Office Gallery (Moscow), OkNo Gallery (Chelyabinsk), Original Typography (Moscow), Parazit Gallery (St. Petersburg), Phantom Exhibition (St. Petersburg), Portal Creative Laboratory (Vladikavkaz), Praxis Alternative Cultural Project (Sochi), Private Property Gallery (Moscow), Pushka (Krasnoyarsk), Pusto Festival (Moscow), Random Gallery (Moscow), Reality Raum Residenz Online Reality Show, Red Artist-Run Space (Moscow), Red Square Gallery (Moscow), Rosa's House of Culture (St. Petersburg), ШШШ (Shshshgirls) (Moscow), Skot Gallery (Nizhny Tagil), Smena (St. Petersburg), Smena (Kazan), Soma/2Soma (Novosibirsk), Subjects (Arkhangelsk), Svetlana Gallery (Moscow), Triangle Curatorial Studio (Moscow), Turnichki Laboratory for Contemporary Art (Rostov-On-Don), Vata Gallery (Rostov-On-Don), Vladivostok School of Contemporary Art, VSCA (Vladivostok), vNore (Tolyatti), Voronezh Center for Contemporary Art, VCCA (Voronezh), White Cube Gallery (Novosibirsk), Yama Gallery (Krasnodar), ZHIR Gallery (Moscow)
Trubitsyna Antonina | 15 July 2019
“We are totally fine!” Interviews with quarantined self-organizations
Watching how art institutions closed their doors for the quarantine made me wonder what happens to self-organizations in this situation. I questioned participants, trying to embrace as many of them based in different Russian cities as possible. This material is not a large-scale, comprehensive study. Its importance for Garage Archive and Open Systems lies in it being a model cast from the current condition. Studio 4413, St. Petersburg Vanya Shatravin: The Studio closed down of course, for the quarantine, and I went to Tuapse and encourage everyone to come here, come! Maria Dmitrieva: We are quarantined, of course. It is too early to estimate the “effect”: many of us are glad to take a forced pause. From a long-term perspective, however, we will be switching to online regimes and hybrid formats. NONSNS, Moscow Ruslan Polanin: We keep a lot of stuff online, but generally it affected us. Although it is hard to judge. In short, it did not affect the moral spirit, or creativity, and even not so much our strategies: from the very beginning we did a lot of things aimed at the intervention into real life rather than at some special displays in art pennages. The only problem is that because of the quarantine all of Gosha’s shooting sessions have been canceled, Masha was sent to work from home with salary provided, but all of our additional book projects are frozen. To sum things up, we currently risk losing the studio. APXIV, Moscow Olga Klimovitskaya: Obviously, it altered our plans, just like the plans of others. We cancelled a trip to London (in April), where the exhibition has been moved indefinitely. Our activity within the factory workshops has also been put on pause for a while. We have been practicing online communication since the beginning. There are many of us, so it can be problematic to get together. Some of our members live in Europe. We often make calls via Facebook, and our little chatroom, even despite being cursed, is actually our main means of communication and discussion. We feel ok about the quarantine, like many introvert artists. We keep on working, because the project that we submitted to the Center for Creative Industries Fabrika was initially conceived as virtual. Danya Orlovsky: Since we left the NIIDAR space and until we received a studio at Fabrika, we operated without a space for six months or so. I mean, we not only had no venue for exhibitions and events, but also could not organize any meetings, which is the key element of our practice. We partly compensated for this with the opportunity to meet in apartments, but since everyone lives in different parts of the city, communication mainly took place via the Internet, as if we had been rehearsing today’s situation. But once we thought that our gypsy lifestyle had come to an end and we would finally settle down at Fabrika, as normal people, boom, here goes the pandemic and quarantine! Our experience of existence without a physical space instigated expansion into the digital realm. The virus situation closed access to the outer world for everyone, this is why we see how social life is being rapidly digitalized, meaning our forced practice suddenly becomes a common norm. What is new to us is that, even though we are used to communicating online, most of our events are organized primarily in reality and are based around live interaction with the audience. This lack of “warm” communication needs to be reflected somehow. But there is a feeling that the virus simply accelerated all the “life-digitalizing” processes dramatically, which had been taking place recently on their own. SHSHSH, Moscow Viktoria Chupakhina: We keep on thinking about our experiments [shows], they are just slightly postponed… It is likely that our collaboration with artists from Rotterdam and a few photo shoots will be cancelled. We began thinking about transferring communication online and will make a conference call to discuss a new project later today. DK Rozy, St. Petersburg Natalia Rybalko: The School of Engaged Art, DK Rozy’s main resident, switched to online mode. And this semester, the school is financed by a grant from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, meaning we have to report every lecture that has been given as well as overall attendance. Accordingly, we had to decide how to deliver reports in the new circumstances and how speakers can read online lectures so that we actually have something to report. Many speakers had technical problems: not all of them know the necessary programs, and we have to make quality recordings. The loss of interactive formats is also a pity, because asking questions and making comments is not so convenient online. Good that we have sorted out the rent. In April, Sasha Shestakova had planned to visit us from Moscow as part of the school’s program-the trip had to be cancelled. The show they planned to do will most likely be held online. DK, meanwhile, is not on full-time quarantine: workshops remain open at their discretion, but most of them preferred to pause the work. The suspension of public events and workshops doesn’t earn us any donations. And donations are something that helps the self-organized group which includes me and Anya, to cover some expenses, such as travel. So, this is how things are now. Anna Averyanova: To cut a long story short, we, as a group of self-orgs, recommended DK to cancel workshops at their discretion if it is possible, even though its practical classes form the very counter-cultural program we are so proud of, so we are hopeful that it won’t last long. As for the school, we switched to the online lecture and Zoom conference format. Public events have been cancelled by the organizers. Next is putting together a schedule of April’s events, we will have to come up with some ideas. The exhibition program and preparation for DK Rozy’s fifth anniversary are the most intriguing plans, as we thought about putting up a group show. Actually, within our self-organization’s group, we previously discussed the strategy of translocality and the exploration of DK Rozy beyond the physical space of its rooms at the Krasnoe Znamya plant. Now it has acquired an even narrower optics, but remains interesting: where DK Rozy is located when it takes root. I am hopeful that the rewritten topology can solve the problem of capitalist flows-through the possibility of bypassing the authority imposed through their management. At least it is possible to stop appealing to the local space for offline meetings as a sufficient basic element that ensures the survival of collectivity. And at the same time, new circumstances emphasize the issue of invisible (post)labor and taking care of the place. As DK Rozys resident Mikhail Fedorchenko noticed, coronavirus acts as our global accelerationist today. Egorka, St. Petersburg Anna Tereshkina: We do not run any public events now. The last one took place on March 14, and even back then we hesitated whether we should do it. But we constantly discuss the nearest (desired) projects. Nastya Makarenko: We planned an Olga (Tsaplya) Egorova show, but due to the current situation, want to try to make it online. However, we haven’t worked online so far, except for Skype sessions with curators maybe, because Anya is currently away to a residency in Kolomna. Pushka, Krasnoyarsk Oksana Budulak: Self-isolation did not affect self-organizations at all. Yes, we talked about it in the Pushka chat as we worried that the venue (KOiKA barbershop) will cancel the agreement. But since it is a private business, they continue to run events and do not close their doors because of the quarantine. The event scheduled for March 22 took place according to plan. Fewer visitors turned up-but on the other hand. we had a lot of new artists. Pushka has been invited to a new club space, the opening coincided with the quarantine but they still plan to do it. Summing up, emerging Krasnoyarsk based artists are not afraid of anything yet, drink beer, think of exhibits, go to bars, hug each other and wipe themselves with antiseptics. After week one of self-isolation, they self-organized themselves even more and made a coloring book. Either we are too bold, or art makes us superhumans. OkNO, Chelyabinsk Svetlana Shlyapnikova: We are totally fine! We had been preparing a technology-based project for our 19th birthday, so we managed to reconstruct our work process and opened on the planned day, even though as an online project. We have launched a publication of the gallery’s chronicle. The first publication was uploaded yesterday. It is hard to comment what’s “next”. Our next project is also technology related, it involves an artist who does experimental cinema. Perhaps, we will do something in that direction, for example, video screenings. But we haven’t discussed it yet. Elektrozavod, Moscow Elektrozavod team: Obviously, the situation affected us just as any other public space. We had a scheduled show by the Taiwanese media artist happykawaiifriends This Is Not A Starfish (這不是一隻海星). We ran the first part of the show on March 20, pretty painlessly, in the form of broadcasts on the gallery’s Facebook and Instagram pages. In his works, happykawaiifriends works with the context of social networks, investigates the influence of mass media on society, and people’s self-perception. As you can see, a show in the broadcast format emphasizes the artist’s creative method rather than contradicting it. Up next is an interview with an artist who is also quarantined, so we consider different broadcast modes from the site-in order to diversify our events. Planning exhibitions further ahead is problematic. The next couple of shows have been moved indefinitely at their authors’ request. They are not ready to exhibit online without the audience. Another planned event will take place online. The artist is currently rebuilding the show for a broadcast. Rostan Tavasiev’s exhibition/conference Designing Planetary Nebulae dedicated to the search for a place for art and artists in outer space is due to open on April 22. There are also several projects which can be broadcast online but haven’t been approved by the gallery’s collective. As we do not know how long the situation is going to last, we are thinking about transferring the gallery’s activity to the Internet. The financial side of running the space is also critical as never before. Vladivostok School of Contemporary Art, Vladivostok Yana Gaponenko: Vladivostok School of Contemporary Art’s spring curators’ school caught the last train prior to self-isolation, by a whisker. We managed to bring together fourteen cultural workers from Omsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Tomsk, and Yakutsk in our space and “make some noise” in situ. It is very important for us to get together online, because a large part of the program was initially composed of Skype lectures. Now we are awaiting this fall’s curatorial school to gather as members of a new team. FFTN, St. Petersburg Irina Aksenova: We have been forced to cancel everything we planned for the end of March and for April, that is five projects, plus a major project in Krasnodar. Some international and cross-city initiatives have also been called off: a Danish artist was supposed to visit us in June, another guy from Lipetsk in the summer. We are under quarantine like everyone else. First of all, I think it is important to comply with the quarantine rules, and our space is too compact, it is hard to circulate around it. Attendance had also decreased significantly, so it didn’t really make much sense. I am hopeful that we will be returning at the end of April but it all depends on the overall course of the pandemic. It is good that we have few external commitments and all our partners responded positively to the projects being postponed. Typography, Krasnodar Elena Ischenko: We had to postpone all events-exhibitions, talks, some field trips. We accept it like a well-deserved holiday: we did a good job, opened the space, so now we can take a break and there is no need to rush. We were granted rental holidays for the duration of the quarantine (our landlord produces disinfectants and antiseptics so his business is not going to suffer). But the problem is how to pay salaries now, as we usually earn this money by renting out the space and selling exhibition tickets. Honestly speaking, we haven’t thought globally about how to do it yet, because nobody knows when this will end. Art Critics Circle, Yekaterinburg Anna Litovskih: We chat all the time these days and feel closer to each other. We had a reading group in the Piotrovsky bookshop that was cancelled because the Yeltsin Center closed. At the same time, it is easier to make Zoom calls now, when everyone stays at home, more or less without any plans. Anya Ustyakina launched a diary channel dedicated to the life of the workshop’s circle of people during the quarantine. Nadya Rastriga wrote yesterday that the increasing amount of unread messages in the circle makes her feel uncomfortable and suggested switching to slow mode. Everyone agreed calmly, so now we have limited people’s messages to one per minute. I think, with the feeling of emptiness from constant rush and socialization, the circle turned into such a system of support for all of us, where we discuss who cooks what and share links all the time. We have recently watched a performance via an online chat and discussed it all together. We also had a conference call on Friday and started writing a manifesto, because previously, we tried twice to write a text collectively (for and the Kuryokhin Award), and both were very nice and successful. So we would like to come up with more collective texts in the future. In short, everything is fine, but we wish very much to meet in person, hug and sit around the same table soon. Alexandr Pachin Vrachi Prileteli (The Docs Have Come), 2017. Photo by Renat Latyshev. Courtesy by Levaya Noga (Left Leg), Omsk. Levaya Noga (Left Leg), Omsk Kira Gazova: We still have a busy exhibition schedule in the Levaya Noga space, and there are no good excuses for not attending them. The only reason can be the person’s literal death. If you are sick they should bring you on the stretcher ☺ One of our group shows, Grachi Nogoy (The Rooks with the Leg) inspired by the painting The Rooks Have Come by Savrasov, featured an installation named Vrachi Prileteli (The Docs Have Come) and, responding to the question “Why do they heal the right leg, not left?”, he replied “Cuz the left one is fine!” ☺ I wish you creative success and good health! ☺ Antonina Trubitsyna, senior archivist at Garage, curator of the project Open Systems
Trubitsyna Antonina | 1 April 2020
Documents on the history of Soviet non-conformist art in the archive of The Research Centre for East European Studies
Personal archives of non-conformist artists that make up part of Samizdat Manuscripts and Papers Collection of The Research Centre for East European Studies reflect the heterogeneity of the underground art scene in the Soviet Union and reveal the connections and intersections that developed between art and literature under the regime of state censorship, which cannot be fully understood outside of the political context of the era. In the 1940s, poet Nikolay Glazkov produced a self-published collection of poems illustrated with drawings and collages and which, to imitate “real” books, had a colophon saying that it was released by “Samsebyaizdat” [“Myself by Myself Publishers"]. This is believed to have been the beginning of samizdat. Whether that was true or not, Glazkov’s publication marked the rise of the first generation of non-conformist poets who sought self-expression beyond the limitations set by the state. Nikolay Glazkov’s self-published book and similar works have been preserved in the archives of Albert Rusanov and Yury Abyzov. In the 1950s, samizdat became a default cultural and lifestyle choice for the poets and artists of Lianozovo Group, including Vsevolod Nekrasov, Genirkh Sapgir, and Igor Kholin. In their works and methods, it is easy to see similarities with the Western cultural scene-similarities that had seemed unthinkable in the first years after the Iron Curtain separated Soviet culture from the West. Early poetry collections, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings of the time offer insight into the group’s cultural scene and the way their contemporaries received experimental poetry-blank verse, concrete poetry and even graphic art. The archive of artist Anatoly Brusilovsky containing his correspondence with artists, poets, and publishers, offers another opportunity to take a closer look at the Soviet non-conformist art of the 1950s to the 1970s. Sabine Hansgen’s archive is focused on the Moscow underground art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. Created in the early 1980s, the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI) offers access to works by some of the key artists of Moscow non-conformist art, and in particular Moscow conceptualism, including Ilya Kabakov, Nikita Alekseev, and Andrei Monastyrsky. The archive also features several photographic series documenting performances and happenings organized by the artists. The Research Centre’s collection also features samizdat publications produced outside of Moscow and Leningrad. Some of the most interesting items in the archive include thirty-six issues of Transponans, a literary journal with a circulation of five copies published in Yeysk by the Sea of Azov throughout the 1980s. The format of the periodical continuously evolved-often within one issue-but each copy, containing texts, original drawings, and photographs, is a work of art in its own right. The Transponans archive was donated to the Research Centre by its editors and publishers Ry Nikonova and Sergey Sigey. Another key archive in the Centre’s collection is Boris Birger’s personal archive that contains his early sketches, drawings, and paintings as well as manuscripts, notes, handmade masks and dolls, a great number of photographs, and correspondence dating back to the pre-war years. The Centre continues to study alternative art and cultural movements and contemporary practices similar to samizdat. [Sources include Gasan Gusejnov’s article: Unabhangige Kultur. //UdSSR/Russland. Das Archiv der Forschungsstelle Osteuropa. Bestande im Uberblick: UdSSR/Russland, Polen, Tschechoslowakei, Ungarn und DDR. Hg. Wolfgang Eichwede. Ibidem-Verlag. Stuttgart, 2009. P. 29.]
4 February 2019
Maria Klassen on her work at the archive of the Research Center for East European Studies, University of Bremen
Lev Kopelev and Raisa Orlova. Photo: Maira Klassen. First flight to Moscow since involuntary emigration. April 7, 1989. Research Center for East European Studies, University of Bremen My father was born in a German settlement in Ukraine. My mother was from Lviv. They met in Yakutia-both had been sent there as “enemies of the people.” After Stalin’s death my father found his mother through the Red Cross. She lived in Karaganda and that’s where he moved with my mother in 1954. I was born there. We had relatives in Germany and Canada, who had emigrated before the war. We could not keep in touch with them during the Stalinist repressions, but with the Khrushchev Thaw contact resumed. In 1956, my father first applied for permission to leave the country in order to rejoin the family in Germany. Of course, they did not let us go. During the two decades that followed, he kept trying to leave the Soviet Union. This came at a cost: he was threatened and humiliated at work and I was bullied as a student. I had a strange childhood. We lived in the middle of the Kazakh steppe and my mother would tell me about the beautiful European city of Lviv with chestnuts in bloom and baroque churches. Meanwhile, my father would recall his childhood in the German settlement, with its cultural traditions, a local choir and orchestra, and his family’s huge private library. But I lived in the Soviet present, and my schoolteacher-a militant Stalin supporter-would tell me that my parents’ generation were young communists that came to Kazakhstan to cultivate virgin soil or mine coal in Magnitogorsk. My father spent nights by the radio, listening to Deutsche Welle in his headphones. He was interested in the protection of human rights. My mother was a Catholic and she was interested in religious news, so she would listen to Radio Vatican. As I grew up, I started listening to the BBC, Radio Liberty, and Voice of America. I listened to jazz, rock-n-roll, and programs about contemporary painting, theater, and cinema. And so we passed on the headphones: father would listen to programs on politics, mom to religious news, and I listened to rock music. I also learned about the “Bulldozer Exhibition” from those “enemy voices,” as they called them. It was only in the mid-1970s, thanks to the so-called eastern treaties signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Willy Brandt, we were allowed to move to West Germany. For me, everything in the West was interesting. I guess it was due to those years in which there was no access to information. I was especially interested in the lives of Soviet nonconformist artists-I knew about them from the same “enemy voices.” Some of the artists were already living in the West. A number of European art historians and Slavic scholars brought their paintings to the West and organized exhibitions for them. With every visit to such exhibitions I discovered a few new names. I was lucky to meet many artists, writers, and theater people from the Russian diaspora over the years that followed. At university I had four semesters of art history, but I was studying documentary film. After graduating I worked as a freelance at West German television in Cologne, where I was an expert on Eastern Europe. I had heard about Lev Kopelev before we moved to Germany. In 1975, he published the book To Be Preserved Forever and excerpts were read on Radio Liberty. I became interested in this man and his life. Towards the end of the 1970s, Heinrich Boll often spoke in defense of Russian dissident writers and I distinctly remember him saying, “My friend Lev Kopelev is in danger. They broke windows in his apartment; his phone was tapped and is now completely off. I cannot get through to him!” In November 1980, Kopelev was allowed to leave the Soviet Union. He and his wife came to stay with Boll in Cologne. In January 1981 they lost their Soviet citizenship. As resident of Cologne, Kopelev gave regular readings at literary evenings and meetings with students that I attended. He started a research project on the history of Russia-Germany relations-mutual understanding, images of friends and enemies-that came to be known as the Wuppertal Project (at the University of Wuppertal). I could really relate to that: in Karaganda, I was a German and was sometimes even called a fascist, but when we moved to Germany, I realized people always saw me as a Russian. Just asin the Soviet Union we did not know who we were, where we came from, and why we ended up in Kazakhstan, in Germany we still did not know who we were and why we had come. And then I see Kopelev announcing this project and saying that we should not politicize the relationship between Russian and German cultures, but we need to understand how they developed throughout history to overcome the hostility between them. So I came up to him at one of those literary evenings and told him I was going to make my graduation film on that topic. That’s how we met. When he found out that I was working in television as a freelance, which meant no regular work, he asked me if I would like to become his personal archivist, and as he had agreed to bequeath his collection to the Research Center for East European Studies in Bremen. In 1989, the Center’s founder and director Wolfgang Eichwede offered me a contract, which was later renewed several times. Журнал “Транспонанс” Сергея Сигея и Ры Никоновой. Архив Сергея Сигея и Анны Таршис. Исследовательский центр Восточной Европы при Бременском университете, Германия The archive of Lev Kopelev and Raisa Orlova is extraordinarily rich. Orlova studied American culture and was part of the editorial team at the journal Inostrannaya literatura [Foreign Literature]. In the 1940s, she maintained a correspondence with Lillian Hellman, met her in Moscow, and translated her works. She had her own Anglo-American circle, and Kopelev had his German one. Their flat in Cologne-the rooms, the corridors, the kitchen-was crammed with bookshelves and files. Working with their archive, I discovered a whole new world. It was like a mosaic that connected lives and events, time and space, and completed my idea of the scene I was interested in. Kopelev’s school was the best gift I could have been given. It taught me that we don’t need to narrow ourselves down to the constraints of our profession, that knowledge has no boundaries. When Kopelev passed away, I was among the executors of his will and transferred his archive to the University of Bremen according to his wishes. Then it seemed that episode in my life was over. “Граждане!..” / “Обращения Дмитрия Александровича Пригова к народу”. Из архива Бориса Гройса и Натальи Никитиной. Исследовательский центр Восточной Европы при Бременском университете, Германия Years later, a woman who worked at the Research Center for East European Studies approached me at a conference on Boll and Kopelev that I helped organize and suggested that I apply for the position of archivist, which was then open. I agreed, although I had no qualification to work in an archive and had some doubts. That said, the documents in the archive were the very matter I had studied with Kopelev and dealt with at the TV station. I knew many people whose collections were included in the archive and the opportunity to share my knowledge of the subject, to provide commentary and context for those documents, was too tempting to turn down. So, in 2012, I suddenly found myself heading the Russian section of the archive at the Research Center for East European Studies, which had previously been led by Gabriel Superfin and Galina Potapova. I cannot forget the huge responsibility that comes with this job. Since it was founded, the Center has accumulated a huge number of priceless archival materials. Today, our work is focused on classification and cataloguing of the archives and creating a clear and user-friendly structure. Materials relating to Soviet nonconformist art can be found in the archives of Sergei Sigov and Anna Tarshis, Boris Groys and Natalia Nikitin, Igor Golomshtok, Eduard Gorokhovsky, Henri Volokhonsky, Karl Eimermacher, and many other curators, poets, writers, and human rights activists. Materials from the Research Center for East European Studies archive collection are scheduled to become available online from 2019.
Klassen Maria | 24 January 2019
Alla Rosenfeld on the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection and the Zimmerli Art Museum
I developed an interest in art at an early age. I attended a specialist art high school and then moved on to the Serov Leningrad Art College (now St. Petersburg Art School) to study applied drawing. I worked as a graphic designer for a while. Later, I studied art history at Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and when I moved to the United States in 1987 I became a graduate student at The City University of New York. There I had a chance to learn from well-known teachers, including Robert Storr who was a curator at MoMA, and I wrote my thesis under Rose-Carol Washton Long, who had written a book on Kandinsky. My thesis was on children’s books illustrated by avant-garde artists in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1991, I was working at IBM Gallery of Science and Art and a colleague invited me to an exhibition of Russian art from Yury Ryabov’s collection at the Zimmerli Art Museum. I told her I’d go, although I actually thought it was a bit far to travel! I worked in Manhattan and the exhibition was in New Jersey-that’s an hour by train. So I felt like I was going to the middle of nowhere. What kind of museum would they have in a quiet place like that, anyway? But I went to the opening and I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibition and the museum’s collection. The Zimmerli Museum used to be famous for its collection of French drawing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For me, it was a curious, almost karmic connection: when I was writing my dissertation on French drawing in Leningrad, I visited the Hermitage library to read books written by the director of this museum! I met the museum’s director and curators. They had just received Yury Ryabov’s collection as a gift and told me they were looking for an expert to start working with it. I decided to give it a try, but I never thought I’d stay as long as I did: I was their curator of Russian Art for almost fifteen years, from 1992 to 2006. At first I was busy working on Ryabov’s collection, which had some wonderful examples of Russian set design from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Then, in 1992, we acquired Norton Dodge’s collection and the Zimmerli became the owner of the biggest collection of Russian art outside Russia. Dennis Cate realized there was no point in trying to compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA-a museum needed to have something nobody else had. He saw that Dodge’s collection was truly unique and that people from other countries would come to work with it. Alla Rosenfeld In fact, Dodge transferred his collection to the Zimmerli thanks to Ryabov, who introduced him to the museum’s director, Phillip Dennis Cate. Dodge was already set on transferring his collection to a university-based museum. He knew it meant that the collection would be studied by researchers, and students would use it to write their dissertations and theses. As far as I know, Norton Dodge offered his collection to several institutions, but they were only interested in particular artists and works. Nobody wanted to accept the entire collection. Dennis Cate realized there was no point in trying to compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA-a museum needed to have something nobody else had. He saw that Dodge’s collection was truly unique and that people from other countries would come to work with it. So they agreed and Norton transferred his collection to the museum. Later, Dodge and the Avenir Foundation financed the addition of a new wing to the museum’s building, so the collection got something like a separate home. Today, the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection is what the museum is famous for. Norton Dodge collected art until his the end of his life. He had no children, so the collection became his child. His choices were not limited to what he personally liked and his acquisitions were very diverse. The collection is sometimes criticized for this, but he managed to preserve so much of the unofficial culture of the postwar Soviet Union. I believe the collection’s diversity is actually an advantage: any historian studying Russian art of the second half of the twentieth century will find here something related to their research. If you are looking into conceptualism or Sots Art, the best works are in this collection, and if you are studying, say, hyperrealism, you might also discover something important. There is also a wide geographical spread. So you will not only find art from Moscow and Leningrad, but also from the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. As for Zimmerli’s archive, I was involved in its creation. I started discussing this with Dodge very early on, as soon as we began cataloguing the collection in the mid-1990s. I convinced him to try to add documents to his collection of art. He supported the idea and the first person I met about that was Igor Shelkovsky, the editor of A-Ya, which was a journal devoted to Soviet nonconformist art. I believed it was very important to get his archive, as Igor made sure the journal wrote about some of the key artists of the time. And Norton bought the archive. Then we got a collection of documents from St. Petersburg. I was in touch with Sergei Kovalsky, one of the founders of the art center Pushkinskaya 10, and we discussed the transfer of the archive of the Association for Experimental Fine Arts. It’s a vast collection with many interesting items. Later Dodge bought more archives using his connections in the art world. He acquired the archive of Lev Katsenelson, a big collector from Leningrad, and then a complete archive of the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI). I always wanted the Zimmerli to collect as much research material as possible-that was my main priority. At the moment access to those materials is limited. It would be great if they became accessible to the public. Dr. Alla Rosenfeld is an art historian, curator and teacher. She received her degree in the theory and history of art at the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Leningrad, Russia, in 1987, and her Ph.D. in modern and contemporary European and American art at the City University of New York, in 2003. She was Senior Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University from 1992 to 2006, and also served as Director of the Zimmerli’s Russian Art Department. From 2006 to 2009, she worked as Vice President and Senior Specialist in the Russian Paintings Department at Sotheby’s in New York. In May 2017 she was appointed Curator of Russian and European Art at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. Her independent curatorial projects include Leningrad Nonconformist Art (Meyerhoff Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, 2003); World of Stage: Russian Costume and Stage Design (Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, Fairfield University, Connecticut, 2004) and Soviet Dis-Union: Socialist Realist and Nonconformist Art (co-curator; The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis, 2006). From 1996 to 2017, Dr. Rosenfeld taught various courses on Russian art and culture at Rutgers University. She has published many articles and several books on Russian art, including From Gulag to Glasnost: Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union (1995), Moscow Conceptualism in Context (2011) and Twentieth Century Artists from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union Working in France, A Biographical Dictionary. Volume I (2017). Dr. Rosenfeld has been a member of the International Jury for the Kandinsky Prize in Moscow since 2009. Materials from the Zimmerli Art Museum archive collection are expected to be made available online from late 2018.
Rosenfeld Alla | 26 February 2018
Andrey Monastyrsky on the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI)
In late 1975 or early 1976, the three of us Nikita Alexeev, Lev Rubinstein, and me were at Irina Nakhova apartment on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street in Moscow, sitting and talking about how good it would be to create a magazine on unofficial art. It was during this conversation that the name for such a magazine was first mentioned. I don't remember who, but one of us said the word archive of new art. I think it was Rubinstein, as at the time he was involved with some sort of archive. On that day we didnt take it anyway further, other than coming up with that name: the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI).Лев Рубинштейн, Ирина Нахова, Андрей Монастырский, Никита Алексеев. Фотография Георгия Кизевальтера.Collective Actions first started its activity in March 1976. By the end of 1980, I completed the first volume of Trips Out of Town, which comprised documentation of the group's actions. I collected materials and developed a structure that included extensive descriptions and firsthand accounts of those who were involved, made a list of artists, wrote a foreword, etc. I was a kind of accountant, as I wasn't just an editor, but a publisher and printer as well. I printed the texts for all four volumes, Nikolai Panitkov bound the four books that were produced, and I glued the photographs into them.Акция группы «Коллективные действия» «Шар». Фотография Георгия Кизевальтера.After the first volume of Trips I still felt an itch. It was an interesting experience, and I remembered MANI, the Moscow Archive of New Art. I started discussing a possible form for the publication with Ilya Kabakov and Nikita Alexeev. Andrei Monastyrsky After the first volume of Trips I still felt an itch. It was an interesting experience, and I remembered MANI, the Moscow Archive of New Art. I started discussing a possible form for the publication with Ilya Kabakov and Nikita Alexeev. As the name contained the word archive we were open to doing something other than an ordinary magazine. Then it became clear that MANI should also comrpise four volumes, like Trips Out of Town. Finally, we decided that MANI should be a folder. Maybe Panitkov suggested it, or maybe me, or Kabakov or Nikita. I don't remember now. Anyway, MANI had a format and this format was a folder.I began putting together a list of those, who would go into the folder. I did this on my own just because I liked this work and no one else wanted to do it: everyone was busy with their own things. I was very strict in my choice of participants. I only picked those I liked, and that is why there are very few artists in the first MANI folder. I chose a theme that interested me: those artists who worked mostly with text (although there were also some photographs). I agreed with the artistsóIlya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev, and Ivan Chuikovóthat they would select works for the volume and asked them to let me have a small amount of money for photography. George Kiesewalter played an important technical role: photographing, developing, and printing. After I had everything ready, Panitkov made a beautiful case in which I placed all of the envelopes containing texts and photographs.I was criticized for my discriminating approach and voluntarism, for excluding too many artists. The next folder, which was made by Vadim Zakharov and Viktor Skersis, included over forty people. Skersis and Zakharov didnít only expand the list, but selected an easier format: the case was replaced by a regular cardboard folder.Our circle already existed: the archive wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been a circle. It formed around Collective Actions and the discussions we had about the actions. This is obvious if we look at photographs from the time. All the people who defined our circle appear in the documentation for the first volume of Trips Out of Town. There were also one-off events where everyone gathered: one-day shows at Kuznetsky Most exhibition hall or at the City Committee of Graphic Artists on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street. But there wasnít a single cluster of texts. First the Trips, then the first MANI volume became the key publications that defined the circle, representing the time and recording the discourse. That turned out to be of importance to everyone and so we continued to work on compiling MANI folders.Each folder was made in an edition of four. Ilya Kabakov and I had the right to retain a copy: that is why we had the complete series. I believe Anatoly Zhigalov and Natalia Abalakova also had the full set. One copy of each edition was always changing hands. The only folder I didnít have was the last, fifth folder, which Toadstool group and Kiesewalter started working on together. The Toadstools eventually gave up, but George finished it. My copy is in the Zimmerli Art Museum collection.A-Ya magazine, which included articles on Soviet unofficial art, was first published in Paris in 1979. The first MANI folder was completed in February 1981. If we compare the two, there are, of course, differences. The folder format is reminiscent of the portfolio of manuscripts submitted to a magazine, a material resource for a forthcoming publication prepared for future analysis. The other difference is that, unlike an archive, which contained objects, a magazine has neither original photographs nor physical objects. All of this was included in MANI. For example, my object Spool (1982) was specially made in an edition of four to go inside each folder. Gennady Donskoi made a secret object that was presented inside a sealed envelope. Nikita Alexeev included his absurdist advertisements on thick paper with his telephone number on them. The significant features found in MANI are its materiality, objecthood, and texture.The most precious things in any archive are contained in objects: the color and scent of paper from, say, 1976 or the particular aesthetics of a typescript. In this sense, any archival document is priceless. All these handwritten notes, stains, and creases represent a time. An archive delivers us the plastic nature and the reality of time, its materiality.Andrei Monastyrsky (b. 1949, Petsamo, Russia) lives and works in Moscow. He is the leader of the Moscow Conceptual School. In 1980, he graduated in philology from Moscow State University. One of the founders of the group Collective Actions (1976), he became its chief ideologist and the author of most of its actions. Together with Vadim Zakharov and Yuri Leiderman, he participated in the groups Kapiton (2008-2010) and Corbusier (2009-2010). Solo exhibitions include: Empty Zones: Andrei Monastyrsky and Collective Actions, Russian Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice (2011); Out of Town: Andrei Monastyrsky & Collective Actions, e-flux, New York (2011); Andrei Monastyrsky, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow (2010); and Earthworks, Stella Art Gallery, Moscow (2005). Group exhibitions include: Russian Performance: A Cartography of Its History, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2014); 52nd Venice Biennale, Venice (2007); Documenta 12, Kassel (2007); and 50th Venice Biennale, Venice (2003). He has been awarded the Andrei Bely Prize (Russia, 2003) and the Innovation Prize (Russia, 2009).
Monastyrsky Andrei | 26 February 2018
Norton and Nancy Dodge Archival Holdings of Nonconformist Art
MANI Archive The archive MANI: Moscow Archive of New Art consists of materials put together by individual artists, poets, and theorists in Moscow to represent their activities between 1980 and 1982. These materials include programmatic theoretical texts, documentary photographs, original artworks, and materials from exhibitions. Editors of the four volumes included Andrei Monastyrsky, Vadim Zakharov, Viktor Skersis, Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich, Anatoly Zhigalov, and Natalia Abalakova, who, like many of the contributors, make up the circle of Moscow Conceptualists. Nadezhda Stolpovskaya retrieving a large ball of paper from a folder. In the center, it contains a typewritten text on paper featuring a poem written by Boris Pasternak, 1978-1979. MANI Archive at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Peter Jacobs A-Ya Journal Archive The journal A-Ya: Unofficial Russian Art Revue, published by Igor Shelkovsky in Paris from 1979 through 1986, helped familiarize Western audiences with unofficial Russian art. The archive contains original manuscripts, correspondence, original artwork, visual material, and ephemera related to nearly every well-known unofficial artist and many poets working in Moscow during this period. It is an invaluable resource of firsthand information about artistic activity in Moscow in the late 1970s and 1980s, as well as a window into the relationships between Moscow artists and their colleagues who had immigrated to Paris and New York. An untitled work by Dmitri Prigov. A-Ya Archive at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Peter Jacobs Collective Actions Group Archive This archive documents the activities of the seminal unofficial Soviet/Russian performance art group Collective Actions (Andrei Monastyrsky, Nikita Alexeev, George Kiesewalter, Nikolai Panitkov, Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich, Sergei Romashko, Sabine Haensgen) from 1976 to 2003. Many of these materials were originally included in the group’s samizdat publication, Trips out of Town (later edited and published by Ad Marginem in 1998; and German Titov in 2009). The archive includes many annotated drafts of texts and diagrams for the production of Trips out of Town, as well as unpublished documentary photographs and some correspondence. The VHS tapes and CD ROMs contain documentary videos of selected performances. Although materials documenting the group’s performances are available from a number of other sources, the value of this archive consists of the additional photographic and video materials, as well as the sense it gives of the group’s working process in producing, documenting, and theorizing their actions. TEII Archive The TEII archive is related to the Fellowship of Experimental Fine Arts, an umbrella organization of unofficial artistic activities in Leningrad from 1981 through 1991, when it became the art center “Pushkinskaya, 10.” The archive includes selected materials from 1980 to 1988, and a guestbook from the TEII exhibition at the Kirov Palace of Culture in 1984.
26 February 2018
The First Conference of the Russian Art Archive Network
On October 5 the Russian Art Archive Network conference will take place at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg. Participants include representatives of the institutions taking part in the RAAN project as well as independent researchers and staff of museums and contemporary art centers from Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Nizhny Tagil, Perm, St. Petersburg, Sochi, and other Russian cities. Participants will share their thoughts on the project and discuss archives that reflect local histories of art in various Russian cities. They will also explore questions relating to art historical research in Russia’s regions, the specificity of working with local artistic communities, and new ideas and methods for working with big data in archiving and museums.The co-organizer of the conference is the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, which includes an art gallery that has been gathering a contemporary art archive related to Yekaterinburg. It comprises documentation of art events from the early 1990s to the present. Digitized materials will be accessible online on the RAAN platform and many of the originals will be available in the archive of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center. From September 28 to November 7, the Center will show the exhibition Let’s Make a Boat and the Water Will Come. It will feature part of the archive about the artists’ collective Atomic Province. The partnership between the Russian Art Archive Network and the Yeltsin Center is an important stage in making visible various institutional archives of contemporary art.The conference will be in Russian without translation.
1 October 2021