Dedicated to the 7th Congress of the People's Deputies . . .
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A series of exhibitions which closed the season of the years 1992-93 convincingly demonstrated that the artists' address to the whole rang of social problems is, as a matter of fact, the main characteristic of the Moscow art nowadays. This phenomenon can be regarded as a means to widen the audience, or an attempt to charge art with the energy of turbulent society. Be that as it may, but it was for the first time that not only professional art critics but mass media too: press, radio, TV both in Russia and abroad gave a vivid response to the exhibit "Dedicated to the 7th Congress of the People's Deputies . . . "
Excerpts from a catalogue
By Alexander Guelman
ONE MUST GIVE A SIGN
Today we are in dire straits. Now, that Russia is facing the danger of restoration of the totalitarian regime, those who could be in opposition to it, stay aside, having lapsed into apathy. The disparity between political reality and the people's mood is disturbing. The political situation demands maximum activity from the most conscious part of the people, but it's not suffice to say that this activity today is weak or insufficient, its any form fills people with disgust.
People are sick with politics. No one cherishes hopes any more. People don't want to hear about the Parliament. They don't care whether the Parliament made a decision or not, whether it adopted a law or rejected. The President hasn't come up to expectations. According to some convincing forecasts no referendum or election would take place, since nobody would come to the ballot. All strata of society are drawn into political indifference, intelligentsia is not included. When the 7th Congress of People's Deputies has recently almost deprived people of their ballot right, there was no indignation either among wide masses of common people or in "narrow" circles of intellectuals.
Why did it happen? What is the reason for this gainsay between the objective necessity and current reality? In my opinion it can be accounted for almost eight-months-long inactivity of both democratic forces and their opponents. Neither made a positive step. The first didn't succeed in improving conditions of life, the second, couldn't score off. Both reformers and restorers got disappointed with their leaders. Equal inability of the both sides infected the society with total apathy and imposed a feeling of doom. People resigned themselves to the 20-years long expectation with slow, drab and useless flow of life. Many believed that with all the perversion of this unhurried motion it would still be a way to inevitable market economy and democracy. It turned out to be different. There happened to be exceptions in this burdensome and limp existence. The reactionary forces took advantage of this psychological demobilization of the society and unfolded their assertive activity. The ghost of Fascism began to loom over Russia. Meanwhile, the self-confident democratic community keeps its somnolence occasionally interrupted by uneasy wakening.
What may the finale be? Is their any hope for a new round of democratic activity? I don't know. I am not sure.
The reactionary forces , on the other hand, are quite united. They know for sure what they want. They are aware of our inability to repulse. Frankly, I am depressed.
There are laws of psychological inertia of social movements. That kind, that type of political apathy, disappointment and disgust which gripped intelligentsia today can hardly be swept away by words, calls, or any separate creative acts. It's intelligentsia's chronic ailment to suffer disappointments so vividly that the worst expectations begin to come true. And it's only blood and terror that usually awakes in such cases. But awakening comes too late.
But why am I writing these words, tracing out letters painstakingly? I am doing it because I expect a miracle-- a miracle of a sudden social recovery. This recovery of sight, as history has it, happens sometimes. It is preceded and helped by an outer impulse. To make a miracle work, one must give a sign.
Print media on the project
"Diary of the Congress" T.Iskantseva, Kuranty, No.62, April 2, 1993
"...the contributors to the exhibition don't conceal their social engagement. According to them, it's not the time to meditate over life, it's time for active interference."
"Exhibits" I.Dzhokhadze, Vek, No.13 (32), 1993
"In the opinion of the organisers and contributors of the exhibit, contemporary art is unjustly alienated from current and social political reality. The target of Guelman Gallery's April action was to attract attention of people of art to the problems of social practice and to put an end to their political apathy."
M.Kaminarskaia, Art Salon Magazine, 1993
"There is a certain cool artificiality, too rigid sophistication in the project. Alas, this is an unfortunate quality of all contemporary art."
"Aesthetic Narcissi" A.Kovalev, Segodnia, 1993
"According to Guelman's scheme, the exhibit was to practice different aspects of the poll."
"Guelman Gallery Covered the Congress in Artistic Manner"
V.Pogodina, Commersant-Daily, No. 62, April 6, 1993
"...In Guelman's opinion, Russian art was always politicised. As to this particular exhibit, it is his concern with the situation in the country and an obvious helplessness of politicians that pushed him to set it up."
"Looking for the Third House without White, Black, Millionaires, Beggars, Patriots and Cosmopolitans"
A.Yakimovich, Izo-soobrazhenija, 1993
"It turned out like in a final scene of Romeo and Julie. Practical people know that there are the Montagues, on the one side, and the Capulets, on the other. There is no third side. Strangely enough, but despite his pragmatism, Marat Guelman has organised the whole exhibit about the "third house". That is we need neither ideological cannibals of the past, nor a scum of the present."
"Performance as a Mirror of Revolutions"
"Artists, nowadays, can't keep pace with the Congress coverage. This concerns the "left-wing" artists. As to the "right-wing" ones they are already painting the Sovereign and Cossacks. In their parlance August of 1991 is a performance (a set up show)..."
"Gorbachev! That's a Head!"
V.Konstantinov, Moscow News, No. 15, April 11, 1993
"Art historians are given a rear chance to coin a name for the new trend. I prefer "Parliament Art".
"Thank You, Deputies that Artists Enjoy Themselves"
S.Beretstov, Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 17, 1993
"What do artists need to sort out the December Congress of the Nardeps (People's Deputies) and to comprehend it. The materials of this "historical" event should be thoroughly studied. They have been studied. They have been fulfilled. A referendum has been regarded as of paramount importance. A totalizator will be installed at the Central Artists' House. All participants will be able to stake on their variant of an answer. I don't know what prevails in this game: sarcasm of cynicism". "The leit-motif of the exhibit will evidently be the following: it doesn't matter who will really rule the country--be it Eltsin or Khazbulatov, as long as it is not Red."
"To Fall Asleep - to Wake Up"
I.Razgonova, Rossia, No.12, 1993
"The exhibition, organised by Marat Guelman's private gallery, is a warning to the viewers" "The contributors to the exhibition don't conceal their regret that artists stay aloof to politics and social life. "Don't sleep, don't sleep, Artist!" is roughly a leit-motif of the exhibit. Nevertheless, how sweet are dreams of artists in the rooms of the Tretiakov Gallery! We want to believe that those are these sweet dreams that their confreres from Guelman Gallery try to scare off. Prophetic dreams are nicer than real politics."
"Of Congresses Blessed Memory" A.Skobelev, Mezhdunarodnaya gazeta, 1993
"The idea of this exhibit is quite serious, and its target is to waken up civil activity of the nation that has become indifferent to politics as a whole."
"I Bet on Referendum!"
E.Liudin, Narodnaya gazeta, No.63 , April 3, 1993
"Guelman Gallery believes that artists' freedom of creativity makes masters to confront actuality. To enter it not as an executor of jubilee orders, like it was through the 70 years, but as a real participant of events."
"Responses to the Politicians"
Tom Birchenpugh, Moscow Gardian, 9 April 1993
"Relations between art and politics are often very uneasy - in Russia, perhaps, even more so than elsewhere".