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Olga Sviblova is Shit, or the End of the Critical Discourse

Avdey Ter-Oganian & Zoya Cherkassky

June 10 - 29 2008

It's easiest to notice the first part of the title of Avdey Ter-Oganian and Zoya Cherkassky's project. But we should mention in advance Ц in the installation itself, not a word will be said about Olga Sviblova. What appears much more shocking is the second part of the title Ц The End of Critical Discourse. It sounds ominous. If that is the case, then any criticism of processes and essences from now on becomes pointless. The responsibility for the general, i.e. the discourse, in the installation is borne by a hand-painted and hence almost illegible quote signed Slavoj Žižek, but belonging to Alain Badiou. One should take this to mean that no crutches made out of quotations from certified intellectuals will help any longer. In the sphere of contemporary art, such appellations have some time ago become both completely banal and entirely commonplace. For a young artist, it's just an excuse to pose as "one of our own," i.e. to make a career. Everything in art has become spic and span and most glamorous, which is why the walls of the gallery are painted, designer-style, in soft, moderately garish hues. It's customary to speak about the fact that in art, everything is consumed by the market Ц and here you go, have a giant dollar sign with hairy testicles attached. But it all seems too universalized. It won't do anymore, to speak about art in general.

The heroic pathos of Ter-Oganian and Cherkassky's project is found in their resolve to make it personal. Located in this calm atmosphere of a parlor are caricaturish pictures with recognizable depictions of powerful people on the Moscow art scene telling each other unbearable banalities. But the heart of the project is the portrait gallery of "shitty-ass artists." "Shitty-ass" does not mean "bad." It's when an artist used to work well, properly, but has gone to the dogs. Or, alternatively, if one is speaking of young artists Ц he could be doing the right thing, but has never managed to. Perhaps those who should be the most resentful are the artists whom the creators have not included in this star-studded list for reasons of insufficient "shitty-ass-ness" or lack of space.

Is it possible to correct the mores with this method and return the aforementioned persons to the path of righteousness, so that they might stop being "shitty-ass"? Is it possible to revive the institution of collective responsibility? The kind that existed in the good old days of nonconformism, when the members of the artistic communities themselves decided which artist was good and which not, which piece worked out and which not. Such relations were common at the Gallery in Tryokhprudny, which existed between 1991 and 1993 and was a kind of collective curatorial and critical project. Or Ц given the current situation Ц are all the judgments to be made by the market alone, with artists having nothing left to do but keep their genteel cool and discuss sales results.

As the authors admit themselves, there isn't much hope for that. But a passionate cry for self-improvement must be heard! And should things be called by their proper names?

Andrey Kovalev

P.S. I consider it to be a flaw of the project that its creators have circumvented in silence the role which in this situation belongs to the art critics; those, who write articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines.

P.P.S. Andrey Kovalev holds the view that Avdey Ter-Oganian is an incorrigible romantic and believer in utopias. Things are actually much worse than he thinks.

Translation: Ksenya Gurshtein

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