National Gallery/Veletrizni Palaz,
means globalization for the art world today? Does the redefinition
of the spaces indeed go on and do the world "centers" change places
with the "peripheries"? Can the cultures differences assist to the
real cultural exchange? And do they lead at last to the total homogenization
of art? Can communication contribute for "globalization from below"?
Is it indeed necessary to overcome the isolation?
The art projects of the Russian artists demonstrate very wide interpretation
of the Biennale themes. Most of the presented here Russian artworks
show up the direct documentation of reality, others are metaphors,
which refer to the global aspect of contemporary reality. The clue
for the understanding of these projects, from my point of view,
may be the concept of "alienation" and the attempt for overcoming
As a matter of fact alienation is quite a general concept striking
roots in philosophy, sociology, psychology and economics. Though
it probably has the most important place in the labour philosophy
of Marx. Depending on the abovementioned contexts the alienation
can be overcame in different ways - from psychoanalysis to revolution.
Further I will try to undertake the interpretation of these artworks
in the context of diverse aspects of alienation.
"labour" aspect dates from the early Marx and is closely related
with the industrial society. Moreover alienation is the permanent
state for most of the people in industrial as well as post-industrial
society. In 1990s capitalism have conquered even in the reserve
for experiment (USSR), where the utopian construction of communist
society was going to finish with alienation forever. But does this
means that capitalism is the inevitable mode of relations in which
most of people are destined to live with more or less comfort in
the XXI century?
In this context "The Beauty and the Monster" (or "The scarlet flower"),
Anton Litvin art project acquires particularly penetrating ethical
expression. The attention of the artist is attracted by the absolute
reality of the object trouvee and whole situation, which could hardly
be invented purposely. The interesting detail is that the photo
series has been taken at ZIL, the factory, which used to be one
of the basic industrial symbols of the fallen Soviet Empire generated
by the Marxist thesis of revolution overcoming the alienation of
industrial production. What can become an alternative way for overcoming
it today? How can people resist the exploiter essence of the Factory?
Can their red flowers prevent another revolution or is it just the
ultimate refuge until they agree to live mechanically as they work?
the contemporary man feel the whole measure of alienation like the
hired worker of the XIX century? Its influence is indeed only increase
- nowadays it accompanies not the labour only but becomes one of
the main aspects of contemporary meditated world. The alienation
of contemporary society becomes total when goods and spectacle replace
the surrounding reality. "In the phase of "second industrial revolution"
the alienated consumption becomes a certain additional duty of masses
with regard to alienated production" (Guy Debord, "The Society of
Andrey Ustinov offers a critical project addressed to consumerism
and corporations and chooses the most odious object of antiglobalists
- McDonald's. His series of comics "The Banishment from the Paradise"
documents the real performance that took place in one of St. Petersburg
McDonald's restaurants whish becomes a metaphor of consumers' paradise.
Similarly as our primogenitors Adam and Eva were banished from the
Paradise - the World of Possibilities where only Freedom of Possibilities
was tabooed, so the artist is banished from the modern paradise
when he transgresses the generally accepted but absolutely artificial
for him norms. The merging of Bible text and the text of corporate
booklet only reveals the corrupted nature of the laws erected in
the consumers' society. Andrey Ustinov in his series of art actions
dedicated to McDonald's ironically explores the phenomenon of globalization
and world standards unification subordinated to corporate ideology.
Probably, the experience of long-time pressure of the communist
ideology in Russia exposes the ideologies of global corporations
even more clear then the context of Western society.
Another aspect of social relations - the problem of Parents and
Children or, more precisely, of Grandparents and Grandchildren -
appears in the "Intervention", artwork of Maxim Ilioukhine who speaks
about the whole generation fallen out from the contemporary world.
His art project is dedicated to the world of aged people, born and
grown in USSR and identifying themselves with this nonexistent country.
This reality meets quite another - the so-called "virtual reality",
the world of new technologies and communications, which creates
new space-time perception and new digital visuality. As a rule these
realities do not interrelate and coexist apart being very close
to each other. The artist tries to overcome this exactly alienation
linking both the worlds together. Besides he is engaged in creating
the positive image of the aged man, which as a rule remains outside
the visual culture of mass media, nowadays glorifying Youth, Beauty,
Health and Wealth. In the old problem of generations' relations
Maxim Ilioukhine underlines the similarities, which let the encounter
between them take place in spite of differences in values, beliefs
and ways of life.
of the definitions of alienation in sociology consists in the specific
moment when the man's creative activity is restricted and he's enslaved
by the products of his own activity. From the other side, the act
of creating an artwork presupposes the necessary alienation of the
artwork from the artist. Probably this kind of inevitable alienation
is not so total and dramatic. Can we find examples of non-alienated
creativity in contemporary world? In this context the photo series
"Creativity" of Georgy Pervov can be perceived as the attempt to
grope for a kind of new primordial state of art situated on the
walls, minimally visual but maximally symbolic. The artist documents
the wall images (too simple to be called "graffiti") of the Moscow
suburbs. He reflects upon the nature of this kind of creativity
and notes that the cultural (or subculture) distinctions expose
themselves at the very simple, rudimental level. And here we come
to another important aspect of alienation.
It is linked to nationalities and migrations since "alienation"
became a synonym of "foreign". This aspect becomes essential in
the epoch of globalization, mass migrations and cultures interrelation.
The problem of national alienation is quite important today even
for the less conservative environment as the world of art.
Born in Moscow and living in Berlin, Elena Kovylina reflects upon
the possibility of representing contemporary art by nations since
migrations became customary in the art world. Which country should
Picasso, Kandinsky and Chagall belong to? Do the contemporary artists
traveling all over the world today preserve their culture distinctions?
Or should they obligatory preserve them to become in the eyes of
international community a kind of exotic? Or is artist a citizen
of the globe, a cosmopolite who uses the myths and things he finds
under his foot? Elena herself prefers to balance over the verge
of two extremes without giving her preference neither to internationalization
nor to nationalization of art. Though speaking on her identity she
determines it rather as "post-soviet" then the Russian or German.
Her artwork "Domophone" is dedicated to emigrants from Russia and
USSR. Marking their "alienation" in the Western Europe context she
thinks about which culture do they belong the most - many of them
have been emigrated decades ago, many were born abroad from parents-emigrants.
And this is about 800.000 of 3,5 millions of Berlin citizens…
The project of ESCAPE Program and the personal project of one of
the Program's participants Liza Morozova continue the reflection
upon the new reality of cultures and territories interactions and
the communication within united art space. Both of the projects
are executed in aesthetics and ideology of "non-spectacular art",
for which the ESCAPE Program is the most precise exponent at the
Moscow art scene last years. The "non-spectacular art" appeals to
the criticism of mass-media, entertainment industry and culture
production creating the imperceptible frame for the everyday life,
leaving space for the viewer's activity.
Liza Morozova explores the paradoxical washing away of the precise
limits of states and cultures, the disappearance of the "mainstream"
and "marginal" notions. As the result the artist's gesture radically
cancels the binary positions such as "peripheries" and "center"
demonstrating their equality in the Prague Biennale 1 space itself.
"The Multicultural Show" gives a poetic reflection upon the theme
of the Biennale, which exactly becomes the subject matter and the
context for the project.
The video-installation "Quartet" of the ESCAPE Program on the contrary
calls in question the globalists' myth about the possibility of
all mankind merging in total communication. Our inclination to see
ourselves in the Other becomes the main communication obstacle.
"I seem to guess why you're always agree with me. The reason is
not even in your indifference, you simply hear only your own thoughts
in my words and by that you condemn yourself to the everlasting
loneliness". The perfect illustration for this message is a stringed
quartet performing Beethoven while the visitors can hear Shostakovitch.
It's not so simple to discover the disparity between text and image
- it can be caught by the person who understand music, one of the
most elitist art, or by those one, who can do a hyper effort. If
the adequate communication and cultural exchange in our globalized
world are still impossible, or they are possible at the cost of
individual hyper effort, does not it means that individuals (artists)
can really do this effort to overcome the alienation of cultures,
languages, religions etc?
In conclusion I would presuppose that the big interest of the Russian
artist to the reality of contemporary world let us foresee the direction
which contemporary Russian art will take in the next future. The
intervention in the social, politic, economic and other spheres
is probably dictated by the attempt to find the new (or the proper)
place for art in contemporary society. And for me personally the
attempt to overcoming the total alienation of contemporary society
seems to be a good project for art in XXI century especially as
art seems to have all the essential means if not to overcome it
totally but to make something constructive and interesting in that
way. So, using the words of Osip Brik, "Forward! - to the overcoming
of this alienation" .