You Saw, but Couldn't Come to a Halt"
Zverevskiy Contemporary Art Center, Moscow
Litvin is one of the few contemporary artists who consider the theme
of ethics in their work. In his various works he treats it in different
aspects - thus in his "biblical" series of performances
he regarded it in the light of Christian tradition and in the performance
"Look Out - Children, or Bivis and But-Head are Here"
he used the material of child folklore. In these project genuine
faith is contrasted with hypocrisy, and authentic children's subculture
is opposed to its TV-imitated version. In this case the artist contemplates
in the prism of ethics the art sphere itself, particularly its spectacular
aspect. But the emphasis here is not put mainly on the problem of
contemporary art perception in situations of information surplus
as it's pointed out in the catalogue, rather, the exhibition is
focused on the spectacular aspect of the contemporary art as such
regarding it in the light of ethics. Thus the matter here rather
concerns the price of this spectacular show.
exhibition-performance was featured by unity of visual and psychological
dimensions created neatly in dramaturgical and structural terms
i.e. almost according to Proppe: preparations for the journey, the
journey trial, happy-end return. On entering the exhibition hall
the spectator finds himself in a small room with a video monitor
displaying Litvin "dingle-dangling" on a sport training
machine ironically called a "magic helper" - a fetish
and an apanage of consumption society. Before the "trial"
the spectator also got "empowerment" (a ritual strength
boosting procedure) by getting sozzled with a customary opening-day
treat i.e. wine.
was the curtain queued by spectators "for a ride". Only
one at a time was permitted behind the curtain. The spectator was
offered to get on a stool set in a rusty cart after that the curtain
was pulled shut and the Journey itself commenced: Litvin was pushing
fast the cart with the spectator in a long tunnel with real rails
set in the middle. The tunnel walls were covered with paintings
and photos representing different periods of the artist's creative
work (they were exhibited not as works of art but rather as a cultural
background). Frustration occurred on both visual and kinetic levels,
since thanks to the movement orientation was impaired making perception
acute and psychedelic to a certain extent.
shows that a contemporary artist is not free for inevitably on one
hand he belongs to the social sphere permeated with mesial trends
and on the other hand he is trapped in a personal subjective sphere.
He is tearing between the market situation where art is taken as
business and ranked as a service rendering and noble ideas and strivings
to serve faithfully to the society. In his project these two themes
are closing up and merging with each other in a paradoxical manner.
Litvinov's project still contains some echo of Christianity expressed
in themes of faithful service and redemption (though based as usual
on pagan tradition and horrors from Russian fairytales). The
project can also be apprehended as a side-show where Litvin at the
same time is a barge hauler or a convict, exhausted by pushing a
heavy rusty cart along the rails, and a modern expiator - Wise Man
or Vergiliy showing the way to the other world, a stalker, and a
show-man entertaining the crowd. As many spectators later confessed
the artist's role was strongly associated with the image of an old
witch from Russian fairytales (on the side of art) who figuratively
tries to "eat" the little boy (i.e. the spectator) offering
him to sit on a spade so that to put him in a "furnace"
(the spectator's getting into the cart resembled this very episode
of a fairytale). But in contrast to the tale where the boy proved
to be smarter and having asked the witch to show him what to do
defeated her, in the duel artist vs. spectator (will the spectator
manage to perceive or not) both turned out to be winners. As a result
the exhibition-performance turned into a peculiar cross initiation
for both the artist and the spectator who are now bound by interdependence,
since both have to make efforts and undergo the trial.
In the laboratory conditions of the gallery Litvin sort of works
out and approves an ideal model of a spectator's encounter with
the art, he develops a two-ply project structure i.e. the outer
entertaining level which gives back a spectacular aspect to the
modern art and the other - a more profound one "for esoterics".
The artist is deftly balancing on the border between art-business
and the art precisely highlighting this border and distinguishing
the spectacular event implying personal contact with the spectator
from the spectacular show which doesn't require personal efforts
(which mostly introduce aesthetic dimension). Thus Litvin clearly
reveals fictitious nature of the mass-media spectacular show.
distinguishing feature of Litvin's creative work is his personal
physical involvement in his projects practically always including
some performance. In its course the artist tries on seemingly opposite
roles but at the same time preserves an analytical metaposition.
This characteristic feature is also typical of all Escape program
activity in the framework of which this project was carried out.
Liza Morozova "Moscow Art Magazine" ¹39, 2001