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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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First APTART Exhibition

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Dates: October – November 1982

Participants: Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), TOTART – Natalia Abalakova (b. 1941) and Anatoly Zhigalov (b. 1941); SZ group – Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959) and Victor Skersis (b. 1956); Mukhomor group –  Sven Gundlakh (b. 1959), Konstantin Zvezdochetov (b. 1958), Aleksei Kamensky, Vladimir Mironenko (b. 1959), and Sergei Mironenko (b. 1959); Sergei Anufriev (b. 1964), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952)

Organized by: Nikita Alekseev along with other unofficial Moscow artists

Location: Private apartment of Nikita Alekseev, Moscow

In the fall of 1982, the “APTART” exhibition was held in the apartment of artist and former member of Collective Actions Nikita Alekseev. The show included work by a younger generation of artist collectives who had recently appeared on the scene like the Mukhomor (Toadstool) group and SZ, as well as several established Moscow-based Conceptual artists such as husband-wife collaborators Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov (TOTART), Alekseev, and fellow Collective Actions members Andrei Monastyrski and Nikolai Panitkov. Visitors to the show were both friends and members of the public who had heard about the exhibition through word-of-mouth. Alekseev granted access to the apartment “gallery” anytime that he was home. For the two-week exhibition run, works were hung on every available space in the apartment, filling each room to create a cacophonous environment where viewers could interact with the artwork and each other. Both Zhigalov (in his artist’s statement) and Gundlakh (in his account of the event for A-Ya, the Paris-based journal on Russian contemporary art) described “APTART” as an attempt to break free from the habits and conventions that had set in among the artists of the Moscow Conceptualist circle during the 1970s, and gave the first indication of the colorful new art style that would come to be called the New-Wave in the 1980s.

Documents:

Sven Gundlakh, “APTART (Pictures from an Exhibition),” exhibition writeup (1982)

Anatoly Zhigalov, “Analysis – Action,” artist’s text (1982)


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