"Everything You Saw, but Couldn't Come to a Halt"
Anton Litvin
Zverevskiy Contemporary Art Center, Moscow

Press:

Anton 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.

This 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.

Further 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.

Litvin 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.

Another 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" 39, 2001




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