Exhibitions

The exhibition curated by the Moscow-based art critic Andrey Erofeev and his co-workers Alexandra Kondrashova and artist Elizaveta Konovalova presents the development of Russian politically engaged art from performance to art activism, illustrated by leading examples of artworks, video clips, documents and props from particular mass actions. The project was, on a smaller scale, presented within the Alertes! exhibition series at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. For the MeetFactory International Centre of Contemporary Art the authors present recent reflections of the Pussy Riot action in a wide historical and contemporary context of the Russian art and activist scene. After Prague, the exhibition will travel to Paris, Milan and elsewhere.
The project investigates aesthetic aspects of the oppression-struggling creative act: street art-vandalism, ridiculing flashmobs, clownish posed photos, parodic video clips, idiotic role games in urban environment or costume personage performance realized in Russian art for the first time in the last 30 years and reflected in the performances and video clips of the Pussy Riot band.
Both the supporters and opponents of the “Punk Prayer” by Pussy Riot, an action that took place in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow almost a year ago, interpret it as a demarche, a politically incorrect commentary addressing the pre-election pact between president Vladimir Putin and Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill. This action is in fact an art performance, which has played an important role in the tradition of this genre, at least within the context of Russian contemporary art scene.
Before Pussy Riot and their allies, the Voina group, Russian political art was reduced to individual actions, often accommodating open and eccentric role-plays. The artists exhibited themselves as extravagant personalities, “lunatics” or “cranks”, engaging in illogical or even inappropriate acts. Ridicule was a key element, mocking the verbal or visual rhetoric of power, its propaganda, signs, symbols and personifications. All these elements were taken to absurd levels. The historical predecessors of such political statements are clowns and the carnival atmosphere ridiculing all values. Pussy Riot and the Voina group gave up unique authorship to enhance banal imagery and an anonymous, yet universal character of their statements. A simulation of the “voice of the people” replaced the cry of an alienated artist. However, the clear distinction between the performers and the public remains: the artists as a group of street troublemakers or a teenage band performing a daring action, while the viewers subsequently experience it through its documentation shared on YouTube. The turning point, which transformed these viewers into “politically engaged art activists” were the mass protests held in 2012 and the beginning of 2013. In this context, it becomes nearly impossible to separate a performance from a political gesture, a demonstrative interpretation of an event from the event itself. These elements coexist in the mass spectacle of a parade, where both the form and the content relate to the concrete meaning and goal of the protest. The artists direct such an art-activist happening as a theatre production, with all the participants of the demonstration featuring as actors.

 

Vika Begalskaja (RU), Blue Noses Group (RU), Alexander Brenner (RU), Dmitry Bulnigin (RU), Lusine Djanyan a Alexey Knedljakovskij (RU), EliKuka Group (RU), E.T.I. Group (RU), Gnezdo Group (RU), Alexey Iorsh (RU), Komar and Melamid (RU), Masha Kiseleva (RU), Alexander Kosolapov (RU), Oleg Kulik (RU), Rostislav Lebedev (RU), Victoria Lomasko (RU), Artem Loskutov (RU), Vladislav Mamishev-Monroe (RU), Igor Mukhin (RU), Vikenti Nilin (RU), Anton Nikolaev (RU), Maxim Novikov (RU), Avdei Ter-Oganian (RU), Anatoly Osmolovsky (RU), Boris Orlov (RU), PG Group (RU), Pussy Riot (RU), Leonid Sokov (RU), Tsvetophory Group (RU), Voina Group (RU), Olga Zitlina (RU)

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