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When exhibiting in foreign museums and art galleries, the artists Mizin and Shaburov where surprised to find the archetypes of many Russian masterpieces there. So they asked themselves: what is the Russian "contemporary art" after all? Why is it of so little mark on its native soil? May it be the result of the long self-isolation? A vestige of the Cold War?
In the American "Art-Forum" magazine Mizin and Shaburov read that "the Russian contemporary art" never existed at all. It's just a kind of the copy-cat creative approach. In other words: the Soviet Ц and later the Russian Ц artists looked at the Western models and did the same things, but worse. We can see a lot of examples. Exceptions are very few. Though, of course, there were many quotations, the remakes of traditional subjects and the deliberate appropriations. Admittedly, the Blue Noses used to "appropriate" as well...
That was the way of the world. The half of "the men of the sixties" were incognizant Cezannists and post-impressionists. In the 1980s the non-official art was an instrument in the ideological war, a message to the West: "I'm quite bourgeois, just like you are!" But after the USSR collapse there was no ideology to snatch this fallen instrument... In former days "the contemporary art" was just an attempt to broaden the outlook, to correlate with global trendiness. Then it shrank into itself and turned into a stylish trend, an amusement for the local compradors' coterie. Now it is an element of the standardized culture for the small pro-Western stratum, which in all countries reads "Time Out" magazine and stick to the "free market values", in exchange for this wanting to have a full street of brand-name boutiques. Not only IKEA and "The Lord of the Rings" of their own, but also the clones of art-brands. But the period of unconscious imitation of foreign patterns is running out. The Moscow Biennale showed that we had developed the knack of reproducing the cut-and-dried Western mainstream. Now we may as well supply supermarkets with dozens of refrigerated hamburgers. But these hardly content anybody. The public wants to have something more energetic.
The project of Mizin and Shaburov is trying to pool the results. The contemporary art still lives in the discourse of the 1990s. The allied spheres (e.g. literature) are progressing, while "the contemporary art" has fallen into stagnation. The so-called "contemporary" and "traditional" methods are long since equal. Our task is not to imitate this and that forms, but to use these forms for probing the collective psychodynamics Ц just now and here. All agree on this point. The majority of artists work like this. We should only be aware of our priorities.