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Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park – outdoor exhibitions

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Date: Bulldozer Show – 15 September 1974; Izmailovsky Park – 29 September 1974

Participants: Oskar Rabin, Evgeny Rukhin, Vladimir Nemukhin, Lydia Masterkova, Nadezhda Elskaya, Yuri Zharkikh, Aleksandr Rabin, Alexander Melamid, Vitaly Komar, Viktor Tupitsyn, and others

Organized by: Oskar Rabin and Aleksandr Glezer

Location: Bulldozer Exhibition – Profsoyuznaya Street and Ostrovityanova Street, Beliaevo, Moscow; Izmailovsky Park Exihibition – Izmailovsky Park, Moscow

The Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park exhibitions were pivotal episodes in the history of unofficial Soviet art. A small group of artists, led by painter Oskar Rabin and poet and collector of underground art, Aleksandr Glezer, attempted to stage the First Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings on an empty site on the outskirts of Moscow. Several participants were detained on the way to the show, and the rest were met by militia with dump trucks, bulldozers, and “volunteer workers” who announced that they were building a park on the site. The spectators–around 400 artists, local residents, as well as Western journalists and diplomats–were asked to leave, and the scene turned violent when the “workers” charged at the artists, knocking their works to the ground to be destroyed. Several foreign journalists were beaten; police arrested Oskar and Aleksandr Rabin, Rukhin, Elskaia, and Tupitsyn; and twelve spectators were taken for interrogations. While the Soviet press called the show a “provocation” intended to harbor anti-Soviet sentiment, front-page coverage in the foreign press highlighting the violence and objections from the US embassy in Moscow put pressure on the Moscow authorities to ease their stance. As a result, the Second Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings was allowed to take place two weeks later on 29 September 1974 in Izmailovsky Park, for which the show takes its more common name. It lasted for four hours, was seen by hundreds of spectators, and was the first uninterrupted public display of unofficial art in the Soviet Union, albeit not without repercussions. Many of the original participants of the Bulldozer show were persecuted or exiled, and several died under mysterious circumstances. Exhibitions of unofficial art began to be mounted through the new Painting Section of the Graphic Arts Union, which was soon established as a means to bring nonconformist art under the management of the official art bureaucracy.

Document: Invitation to the Bulldozer Exhibition (1974)

 


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Exhibitions-Actions by the Group of Six Artists

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Date: 1975-1979

Place: City of Zagreb (various outdoor and indoor locations); Mošćenička Draga beach; City of Belgrade, SKC Gallery, Belgrade

Concept by: Group of Six Artists

Participants: Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović

In the period of 1975-1979 a group of artists and friends (later dubbed “Group of Six Artists”) — Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović  — organized a series of twenty-one “exhibition-actions.” With the exception of Demur, who graduated painting at the Zagreb Academy of Arts, the group members were not trained as visual artists, but rather approached the “new art practice” from other fields, such as poetry (Martek), photography (Sven Stilinović, Vučemilović), amateur photography (Jerman), amateur film (Mladen Stilinović). This determined their shared anti-aesthetic, anti-programmatic and anti-professional stance to art production, resulting in experiments with photography, poetry, text, concepts, ephemeral interventions and actions, as well as exhibition experiments. The initial distance from academic and art institutions led them to the concept of “exhibition-actions,” a series of self-organized public presentations of their work, initially taking place in the open, public spaces of the city and its surroundings: the streets and squares of the Zagreb city center, residential neighborhoods, the river banks, beaches, university hallways.

In his chronology of the group’s activities, Darko Šimičić traces the group’s self-organized presentations to the action performed on the night of the 9th of October 1974, when three group members (Demur, Jerman, Martek) intervened on the advertising board under the railway bridge of Savska Street in Zagreb. In this action, Jerman presented his famous slogan “This Is Not My World,” written in hypo on photographic paper. According to Šimičić, “[t]his illegal exhibition in a public site was to become in somewhat modified form the prototype [of] the later group appearances.” 1 The first exhibition of the whole group took place on the 11th of May at the Sava River public bathing site: works were installed along the embankment, on sunbathing boards, and the grass. The term “exhibition-action” was first used to describe their second collaborative exhibition, which took place on the 29th of May, at the Zagreb neighborhood Sopot, part of the newly-urbanized zones of the “New Zagreb” built during the 1950s and 1960s. In their exhibition-actions, the artists exhibited paintings, photographs, installations, objects, as well as performed actions. For example, in the Sopot exhibition-action, Jerman showed two childhood photographs pasted on styrofoam boards: one in which he became member of the pioneer organization, and the other where he received his first Holy Communion. Mladen Stilinović showed paintings from the cycle Me, You, Mine, Yours, and performed an action of jumping up in order to appear higher than the skyscrapers in the background.

The group’s public presentations gained more visibility and attention with their October 1975 exhibition at the Republic Square, the central square in Zagreb. Jerman exhibited his “elementary photographs,” along with the slogan “Life, and not slogans”; Sven Stilinović showed a series of photos of a dead dog juxtaposed with photographs deemed to possess artistic beauty; Mladen Stilinović handed out photos of smiles to passers-by; Demur pasted the advertisement board with the poster on which only the word “Eto” [There you go] was written; Vučemilović asked the passer-by to take a photo of him. Judging from the reactions that the artists recorded and later published in one of the issues of their Maj 75 magazine, Zagreb citizens were not impressed, dubbing the exhibition “international idiocy” and seeing it as a symptom of disease, or simply students’ immaturity and idleness. Polemics in the newspapers ensued when a local art critic dismissed the artistic validity of the action. 2

An interesting twist to the form of exhibition-action was added with the May 1976 action City Walk, in which the artists walked through the streets of Zagreb, carrying their paintings, photographs and art objects. Demur carried a black painting with the text “I’m not crazy to paint bourgeois paintings” written in red. In June of the same year, they staged an exhibition-action on the beach of Moščenićka Draga. Jerman laid on photo-paper, leaving behind the imprint of his body; Martek performed an action of tearing banknotes: “In my opinion there is no greater contradiction than the contradiction between the sea as a reality and a the money as an abstraction.” 3 Sven Stilinović painted beach stones, while Vučemilović, who was not present, declared the movements of Jerman to be his own art (live sculptures). Several works testify to the centrality of the dematerialized idea of art for the group’s work: art — as well as collective and collaborative work — was conceived as a process, and a form of immediate sharing that cannot be reproduced or materialized. For example, Demur made a series of “mental works,” works that were not realized and that were forgotten: “I left my mental process of action in its original form without translating it into communication of any kind whatsoever.” 4 Similarly, Mladen Stilinović stated that part of the works conceived for the exhibition-action “was neither produced, noted down, now memorized. It was lived with friends.” 5

Starting from 1977, several exhibition-actions took place in gallery spaces. For the January 1978 exhibition at the Nova Gallery in Zagreb, the artists played with the idea of “oral tradition.” Keeping the tradition of their street presentations, the concept required a mandatory presence of the artists next to their work exhibited in the gallery, so that they could engage in conversations with the visitors and communicate their ideas about each particular work, as well as more general ideas on art. In June 1968, in the framework of the April Encounters festival in Belgrade, the group decided to organize a public working meeting at the SKC Gallery, making the very workings of the group and the plotting of their contributions to the festival transparent to the audience. This idea of openness, communication, and sharing was central to the group, and resonated with other artistic and curatorial practices that engaged in the conversations around the “democratization of the arts” that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. However, also crucial was the idea of self-organization and autonomy, and the freedom from institutional and ideological conditioning and censorship. Alongside the unique concept of “exhibitions-actions,” the group’s samizdat “catalogue-magazine” Maj 75, initiated in 1978, as well as their engagement in Podroom — the Working Community of Artists from 1978-1980, became additional platforms through which the group strove to achieve these aims.

DocumentComments of passers-by recorded during exhibition-actions at the Zagreb Republic Square (1975 and 1978)

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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Appearance – action by the Collective Actions Group

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Date: 13 March 1976

Organizer-Participants: Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Lev Rubinstein (b. 1947), Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), and George Kiesewalter (b. 1955)

Location: Izmailovsky Field, Moscow

Appearance was the first action organized by the group of artists and poets who would later become the Moscow Conceptualist performance art group Collective Actions.[1] A group of around thirty fellow artists and friends received invitations to attend Appearance. These viewer–participants included: A. Abramov, M. Saponov, I. Golovinskaia, V. Chinaev, N. Panitkov, N. Nedbailo, R. Gerlovina, V. Gerlovin, N. Lepin, and twenty other people. As instructed, they traveled just outside of the city and gathered on the edge of a field to wait for the action to start. After a short time two figures—Lev Rubinstein and Nikita Alekseev—appeared from the forest on the opposite side of the field. Crossing the field to meet the audience, they distributed documents for viewers to sign as testimony that they were present at Appearance. In the following years, other actions were staged where viewers were invited to listen to a bell ringing in the snow (Lieblich, April 2, 1976), to pull a rope out of the forest for hours (Time of Action, October 15, 1978), or to have their pictures taken as they crossed a field (Place of Action, October 7, 1979). Inspired by the work and writings of John Cage, by Zen Buddhism, and by the philosophies of Kant and Heidegger, these actions explored the limits of viewer perception, while also serving as social meeting places for the Collective Actions group and the circle of Moscow Conceptual artists. Over time, hand-bound volumes documenting the actions were produced and called Poezdki za gorod (Trips Out of the City). The representational and aesthetic qualities of photographic and textual documentation themselves became subjects of the group’s further investigations.

[1] Rubinstein did not participate in in organizing actions following Appearance. Subsequent members of the group included Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952), Igor Makarevich (b. 1943), Elena Elagina (b. 1949), Sergei Romashko (b. 1952), and Sabine Hänsgen (b. 1955).

Document:

Irina Pivovarova, viewer recollection from Lieblich (1976), The Lantern (1977), and Time of Action (1978), November 1980.


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Deposition by Josip Vaništa

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Date: 1986

Concept by: Josip Vaništa

Participation: Marijan Jevšovar, Radoslav Putar, Josip Vaništa

During the 1960s, Josip Vaništa created a series of paintings in which a thick, horizontal, monochrome line was set against a monochrome background. The paintings were part of his experiments towards formal and narrative reduction, which characterized his individual work, as well as the work of the Zagreb-based Gorgona group (1959-66) of which he was a founding member. 1 Twenty-two years after the group’s regular activities ended, joined by two other Gorgona members, Vaništa performed Deposition, an action in which his 1968 painting, Black Line on Silver Background, was left in the snowy forest landscape near Zagreb. Performed during the era of the “return of painting” in the 1980s, Vaništa’s action seemed to rather return painting to its end. In fact, by staging a crossing between the black line horizontally cutting through the glimmering, silver background of the canvas, and the upright, elongated bodies of the black tree trunks interrupting the white, glimmering purity of the snow, Deposition was a pronouncement of a whole series of deaths. The death, not merely of art, but consequently also that of nature, or rather, the vanishing of the line that had served to separate, and thus keep them alive. Another cross was planted by the 1968-1986 inversion, marking the birth and the death of Vaništa’s painting, and commemorating the very death of time, or a special kind of time, which, in the 1960s, was still able to dream about its artistic and political future, while in 1980s it was merely able to acknowledge its futile deposits. The 1980s were the time when Vaništa marked the death of Gorgona, through his Postgorgona samizdats, nostalgic documents of the history and myth of the group and a forever lost spiritual community. 2 Deposition was, above all, a peculiar kind of exhibition of all these deaths, meticulously arranging its ghosts as the objects to be displayed for a yet unknown audience of the snowy forest. It is this act of exhibiting which nonetheless keeps a certain anticipatory time alive, and with it, the persistence of the Gorgonic engineering of the impossible, like in Đuro Seder’s “Collective work” exhibition scenarios, with which this chronology began.

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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The Art Holiday. Narva-88 – seminar on non-official art

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Date: 21–30 May, 1988

Participants: Artists from Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. Belarusian artists Andrej Bialou, Aliaksander Zabauchyk, Ihar Kashkurevich, Yauhen Kirylau, Artur Klinau, Uladzimir Lapo, Valer Martynchyk, Viktar Piatrou, Vital Razhkou, Ludmila Rusava, and  Dzmitry Yarmilau.

Organizer: Department of Culture of Narva Gorispolkom (the city’s Executive Committee) of Estonian SSR, and curator Ninel Ziterava

Location: Narva, Estonia

The USSR seminar on non-official art that took place in in Narva, Estonia, was titled “The Art Holiday. Narva-88,” and was organized by the Department of Culture of Narva Gorispolkom (the city’s Executive Committee) of Estonian SSR and curator Ninel Ziterava. Participants included artists from Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. The seminar included individual performances by artists, spontaneous collaborations between artists to make outdoor installations, site-specific sculptures, and other forms of visual art. It was first time that Belarusian avant-garde artists had participated in a large art festival in the Soviet Union—this was made possible thanks to Perestroika, a political movement for reformation. During the festival, Belarusian artists who usually felt isolated from those artists working in other Soviet countries, were able to introduce their artwork to their peers from other parts of the USSR, to make connections, and to become part of the larger network of non-official, avant-garde artists. Some fruitful, international collaborations between artists formed at this historic festival stayed viable for many years after.

Sourcehttp://partisanmag.by/


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