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Gatherings in Ilya Kabakov’s Studio

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Dates: 1967–1987

Organized by: Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933)

Location: Attic studio, 6/1 Sretensky Boulevard, Moscow

Soon after Ilya Kabakov built his sixth-floor attic studio on Sretensky Boulevard and until his emigration in 1987, the space became a meeting place for Moscow’s unofficial artists, particularly for those who would eventually be associated with Moscow Conceptualism. Artists, poets, philosophers, critics, gathered there to discuss new work or for festive occasions.[1] Starting in the mid-1970s, Kabakov began to “perform” a series of conceptual albums. He used his training as a book illustrator to create metaphysical or conceptual narratives on sheets of gray or white paper. The readings would consist of Kabakov slowly turning the pages and reading the texts of these albums before a seated audience for periods that could last hours. In a short text from the time, entitled “…the point is in the turning of the pages,” Kabakov attempts to describe the sense of pure time that occurs in these durational performances, a concern that is echoed in the work of other Moscow Conceptualists such as the poet Lev Rubinstein with his index card poems, or the Collective Actions group with their actions for Trips Out of the City.

See also Matthew Jesse Jackson, The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

[1] Many members of Moscow’s artistic underground who gathered at the studio included: Yuri Kuper (b. 1940), Erik Bulatov (b. 1933), Eduard Steinberg (1937–2012), Vladimir Yankilevsky (b. 1938), Oleg Vasiliev (1931–2013), Viktor Pivovarov (b. 1937), Pavel Pepperstein (b. 1966), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Dmitri Prigov (1940–2007), Boris Groys (b. 1947), Joseph Backstein (b. 1945), Ivan Chuikov (b. 1935), Vladimir Sorokin (b. 1955), Lev Rubinstein (b. 1947), Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), Elena Elagina (b. 1949), George Kiesewalter (b. 1955), Igor Makarevich (b. 1943), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952), Sergei Romashko (b. 1952), Sabine Hänsgen (b. 1955), Viktoria Mochalova, Irina Nakhova (b. 1955), and others

 

Documents:

Ilya Kabakov – “…the point is in the turning of the pages” – artist’s text (1970s)

Ilya Kabakov – excerpt 60-e – 70-e… Zapiski o neofitsial’noi zhizni v Moskve [1960s-1970s… Notes on unofficial life in Moscow – memoirs (1982)


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The First Open Studio

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Otvorený ateliér / The First Open Studio, 16 mm film transferred onto DVD, 7:04 min. (courtesy Marian Mudroch, Bratislava)

Date: 19 November 1970

Participants and organizers: Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Václav Cigler (b. 1929), Róbert Cyprich (b. 1951-1996)), Milan Dobeš (b. 1929), Igor Gazdík (b. 1943), Viliam Jakubík (b. 1945), Július Koller (b. 1939-2007), Vladimír Kordoš (b. 1945), Ivan Kříž-Vyrubiš (b. 1941), Otis Laubert (b. 1946), Juraj Meliš (b. 1942), Alex Mlynárčik (b. 1934), Marián Mudroch (b. 1945), Jana Shejbalová-Želibská (b. 1941), Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946), Ivan Štěpán (b. 1937), Dezider Tóth (b. 1947), Miloš Urbásek (b. 1932)

Location: Private house of Rudolf Sikora, Tehelná 32, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The collective exhibition ”1st Open Studio,” opened on 19 November, 1970, in Rudolf Sikora’s house—with an adjoining courtyard and garden—on Tehelná Street 32 in Bratislava. It was the first organized protest (in the form of an exhibiton) against the intervention of power over the visual arts, following the events of 1968. The nineteen participants, who gathered there at the invitation Rudolf Sikora, one of the young, emerging artists, shaped the unofficial art scene in the following years. Through the ”1st Open Studio” the artists declared their adherence to the progressive, Slovak art scene in the 1960s. In their work they developed experimental creativity, playfulness, a sensitivity to civilistic poetics of the painting, the art of object and the environment. On the threshold of the period of normalization, in the stifling atmosphere of a closed society and ongoing political purges, the artists’ studios became, not only a place to confront individual artistic practices, but also a space for participation in creative, collective experiences.

(Eugénia Sikorová, ”The Coming of a Generation,” in 1. Otvorený ateliér. Sorosovo centrum súčasného umenia (Bratislava, 2000), 31.


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Rusovce – cross generation friendly meeting by lake (another of the many attempts to be invisible)

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Date: 4-7 August 1978

Participants and organizers: Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Ľubomír Ďurček (b. 1948), Stano Filko (b. 1937), Vladimír Havrilla (b. 1943), Juraj Mihálik (b. ), Ladislav Snopko (b. 1949)

Location: Rusovce, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

By a lake in Bratislava, participants created mini events and ephemeral artworks out of materials found at the location, including pebbles, stones, plastic, etc. The event was initiated by Ľubomír Ďurček, a conceptual artist, performer, filmmaker, and author of experimental texts and books. The entire event was documented in a series of black-and-white photographs taken by participants.

In comments made Ďurček about the event, he points said that situations created did not necessarily correspond to reality.

 


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For Art as Knowledge Production and Theoretical Inter-Textualism: The Seminars of the Group 143

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Date: November 811, 1978

Participants: Jovan Čekić, Miško Šuvaković, Paja Stanković, Darko Hohnjec, Igor Leonardi, Maja Savić, Boris Demur, Bojan Brecelj, Biljana Tomić, and Marko Pogačnik

Location: SKC gallery, Belgrade

The Seminar by Group 143 was conceptualized as theoretical artistic event. It was paradigmatic for the work of the group whose main artistic medium was conversation, and as such, events were often presented in the form of artistic seminars and theoretical performances. The Seminar in SKC was an exploration of various formal, semantical, and contextual issues of art placed behind the “surface of visible” of an art object (as the assumed fetish of modernist aestheticism). Artists, critics, and philosophers—members of Group 143 and their guests from Šempas and Zagreb—were interrogating and performing different artistic, philosophical and logical questions, emphasizing process-based work (or thought) and focusing (aesthetically) to the very process of lecturing. Some of the investigations by participants of the Seminar unfolded under titles such as “Specific character of the structure or of the process,” “Specific character of meaning,” “Theory of numbers in the domain of visible-sensible manifestations,” “History of art as the process of education of the humankind,” “The art of nature and the art of man,” and so on.

The Seminar experimented with the concept of art-as-knowledge-production in line with the tradition of analytic Conceptualism in Britain and the United States, but also with the other institutionalized avant-garde forms of artistic education such as the Bauhaus school where the learning of art making coincided with the urge for theoretical reflection on art by the artists themselves. In the similar fashion, the occasion for the artistic talks and investigations where their artworks exhibited in the gallery space in the medium of film, photography, performance, and analytic drawings. Some of the theoretical references, important in the development of Group 143 and the structure of their (internal or public) seminars and workshops, were the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Art & Language, the concept of a “paradigm shift” by Thomas S. Kuhn, Joseph Kosuth’s investment into linguistics, and Germano Celant’s concept of critical critique. The work of the group was oriented toward “non-utilitarity, non-partisanship and ethical, rather than political statements. In other words, the group didn’t support any forms of artistic activism, but rather insisted on theoretical intertextualism.”[1]

Group 143 was established in 1975 by curator and art critic Biljana Tomić, one of the most influential figures in the history of Student Cultural Center (SKC), Belgrade, who became head of the visual arts program at the end of 1975, when Dunja Blažević moved to the directorial position of SKC. Tomić was also one of the editors of the Likovni program of the Belgrade International Theater Festival (BITEF), which was the visual arts program organized by Atelier 212 as an accompaniment to the festival of avant-garde and experimental theater, held in Belgrade since 1967. Within the context of BITEF and Tribune of Youth, both predating the establishment of the SKC gallery, Tomić organized different projects of experimental art, collaborating with early Yugoslav conceptualists (OHO, Braco Dimitrijević, Goran Trbuljak, KOD Group, Group E, etc.), and presenting various actors from the international art scene—from performance artists to protagonists of Arte Povera and Conceptual art (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Daniel Buren, Germano Celant, Catherine Millet, etc). At the time, Group 143 was joined by young philosophers and artists who were often influenced by analytic philosophy and logical positivism—among these were Jovan Čekić, who later called himself a media theorist and artist, and Miško Šuvaković, who later became a significant theorist of the art of 1960s and 1970s in both the Yugoslav and international context.

Group 143 continued working until the 1980s. One of the reasons why the members of the group dispersed was, according to the statements by its members, the perceived lack of interest in conceptual thinking within contemporary art production at the turn of 1980s, and their refusal to participate in the new “paradigm shift” that lead to the supremacy of painting. This particular period was marked by the return to image and painting, which, in the local context and within the microclimate of SKC, was probably fostered by visits of Achille Bonito Oliva, and promotion of the concept of Transavanguarde by the local critics and curators, including those who supported New Art in the 1970s.


[1] Miško Šuvaković, Konceptualna umetnost (Novi Sad: Muzej savremene umetnosti Vojvodine, 2007), 308.


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