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

First APTART Exhibition


[Anatoly Zhigalov]

The First APTART Exhibition, October-November 1982. Moscow.

This event is not an exhibition, and certainly not a private showing. It is an artist’s apartment where his artist friends have gathered to do collaborative work. And those who have gathered are in no way a unified group. These individuals are too different for that. This is, rather, a direction or a movement. The only unifying factor among all is a certain common tendency, a tendency that distinguishes these artists from the vanguard Russian artists of the 1970s who remain within the bounds of traditional art. The artists gathered here destroy the borders between commonly held notions of art and lived reality, and between the artist and the spectator. They approach the “art product” itself in a completely different way. Working on the hypothetical borderline between art and life, they investigate the problem of this “borderline,” analyzing the very essence of the artistic phenomenon. They are interested in the mechanism of art, its structure, its function in life and in society, its ability to communicate, to teach, to engage, its ability to create distance, its social aspects, etc. The question is directed to the artist himself. It dethrones the myth of the artist as demiurge, an inscrutable lone genius. All models and conceptions are reevaluated. But this is not analysis in the usual sense. It is above all action, creative realization. The avant-garde artistic methods of today are critically tested, as are the fixed myths of “cultural consciousness” in the actions, performances, projects, texts, and collages of Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov, two artists who worked for many years as painters before turning in recent years to the “global” project, “Investigation of the Essence of Art as Applied to Life and Art.” The group “Mukhomor” (Toadstool) (Sven Gundlack, Vladimir and Sergei Mironenko, Konstantin Zvezdochetov, Aleksei Kamensky) actively employ youth culture, fashion, and the mass media as models in their work. Nikita Alekseev inserts his posters and announcements into the very heart of life itself, restoring to the world its attributes turned upside-down, and in so doing, illuminating ever so dramatically the problem of “artist – surroundings.” Vadim Zakharov and Victor Skersis (SZ) work with the function of art, the problem of art and life and their influance one upon another. The works of Mikhail Roshal and others speak of the  place of art in society and about the “estrangement” of artistic work. By analyzing the position of the artist, the status of art in society, and the structures of the language of art within their own creative activity, these artists continually pull the rug out from under themselves. And that is why this art cannot develop according to any canons or patterns (even the most individualistic), because in any canon or method one find only convention and technique, and in the exploitation of method, dumb interminability. Analysis and action – this is the untiring search, the continual rejection of everything that is mistakenly taken for the sine qua non of art. It is the simultaneous  broadening of the boundaries of art to the “total swallowing” of life, and the complete narrowing of the borders to near total merging with life, which is perhaps the eternal and unsolvable problem of art.

And so, this event is not an exhibition in the normal sense of term. It is the continuation of research, one of its phases, not in a specifically artistic space, but in a real live apartment. And those who came will find work and cooperation rather than the habitual contemplation of art “objects.” There are no art “objects” here in the usual sense. These are not “finished works”, but rather, art-in-making.

[According to the author, this text was written in advance of the first APTART exhibition in the fall of 1982 and discussed with and accepted by most of the exhibiting artists. On the eve of the exhibition, however, it was rejected and was not distributed to viewers during the run of the show. After the close of the exhibition, Zhigalov read the text aloud during a public discussion of the show.]

Source: (Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov, TOTART: Russkaia ruletka [TOTART: Russian Roulette] (Ad Marginem, Moscow, 1998): 121-2. Also available online: http://conceptualism.letov.ru/TOTART/aptart.html