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Lap-horse Video. Film retrospective 1999 - 2009

Blue Noses

October 4 - 31, 2010 Arched Hall, Winzavod

Arched Hall, Winzavod

Co-organized by
M&J Guelman Gallery
WINZAVOD Center for Contemporary Art

The essence of our video programme is as follows.
We are artists. We deal with so-called "contemporary art".

The term is relative. "Contemporary art" in no way differs from just "art". It differs only in the fact that it started using genres and technologies which appeared abroad in the 20th century (photo, video, actions, installations). It has become multimedia in form (that is to say "multi-technological") and research-orientated in terms of content. If earlier it was important who you were Ц "graphic artist", "sculptor" or "painter", now you have to master diverse technologies. Or even use hired workers. What is more important is what you want to say.

All of this is also simple. "Art" differs from "design" in its objective. It is not interior decoration, but research. It is part of cognitive activity. The artist becomes utterly engrossed in television, in the collective unconscious, cultural traditions or in the life of the lower classes and tries to understand at least something and express it metaphorically. Or pretends to do so.

The subject of our study is as follows.
In Russia "contemporary art" emerged as an elite project, export-oriented and in no way associated with its traditional and popular cultures. Incomprehensible to anyone outside the narrow professional community. As a sphere of entertainment for the Soviet "Westward-looking" intelligentsia, and later for the local "comprador bourgeoisie". Is it possible to expand the range of its addressees? Is it possible to breed a more democratic hybrid, adapted to the conditions of the surrounding environment? Art, accepted not only at international exhibitions, but also at home. Not only by intellectuals but also by average men. It is a task of paramount importance.

As a result we have created a more populist, "folk" type of contemporary art. Or "very contemporary" (as per the expression of the critic E. Degot). Low-tech in form and acutely social in content. And with unfailing success we have tested it at many exhibitions, refusing no one. For low budget exhibitions (to which artists are not called to set up their masterpieces at the venue) we made video works. It is simple: you send the disc Ц there it is inserted into a player and is projected onto any wall.

We also had to re-invent "video art".
Prior to that video art was long, boring and uninteresting even to the specialists. It did not take us long to decide in which direction it should be refocused. We considered it pointless to compete with Hollywood blockbusters on the number of effects. And invented a method of producing "video art" almost without editing. And sometimes even without a camera ("Verbal cinema").

We have taught our own method of making a "video using makeshift tools" in different institutions and institutes. In the Russian provinces (in Novosibirsk, Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo, St. Petersburg and other cities) and abroad (in Switzerland, France and Norway). In the same way we filmed police series, as well as advertisements, commissioned by "Absolut" vodka, "Chanel" bags and the "Svarovski" factory. We relied on Internet folklore Ц video clips posted on "Youtube" and "Rambler-Video".

Now, let's move on to the content.
Here we also found support in local traditions. There is more than enough "abstract minimalism" even without us. Even in Chelsea it casts a gloom. What do we have that is unique? Russian tradition says: "You may not be poet, but you must be a citizen". Since the times of critical realism, of "the Itinerants" (and thereafter) Russian art was socially oriented and socially significant. Communication with the community. "The vehicle for topical social ideas" (Leo Tolstoy).

It is just that "contemporary art" forgot about it.
A paradox: while overseas artists tried to distance themselves from the "consumer society", ours with every fibre of their souls strove towards merging with it. Strove towards producing something big and flashy, that some resident of Rublevka would buy and hang near his pool. Abroad, the whole of "contemporary art" is "leftist", and here it's just the opposite.

There are, of course, exceptions. However, the domestic version of "leftist" contemporary art Ц is "leftist" in content, but not in form. No one outside his own circle can understand them. In this way they differ, to their disadvantage, from the film "Battleship Potemkin" by S. Eisenstein, for instance. Wherein lies its greatness? In the avant-garde form Ц film enthusiasts would answer and would be wrong. It is worth watching the film again, and you will see that there is no formalism there at all. From the effects of editing Ц there is only one (lions raising their heads). And the rest is the contrary Ц simplicity of form and clarity of the presentation of ideas. It could easily be shown in factories now!

Generally, we are increasingly being asked to show videos on political issues at exhibitions. The war in Iraq. The elections of Medvedev. "The hard 1990s". Relations between Russia and Poland. Or why it is more profitable for the Murmansk Fleet to harbour in Norway. We shall show some of them this time.

At the same time we shall present our recipe of what video art, "socially close" to our compatriots, should be.

It is as follows. The democracy of form: our know-how Ц is not high-tech, but slapdash! Social relevance: in the morning it is in the newspaper, and in the evening it is in video art or a light box! The populism of content: so it is interesting for both pioneers and pensioners. The most important Ц is clarity and simplicity in the expression of meaning. For if your "message" does not reach the addressee Ц it is not a "message", but is merely hot air!

This exhibition presents a video retrospective of the "Blue Noses". It includes almost all the films made by us over the past decade Ц from the first experiments to the work of our students.

Translation: Pavel Glebov

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