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Mind Games


Ilya Chichkan and Blue Noses

March 2 - April 12, 2007. M.Guelman Gallery at Winzavod



A week ago I got a phone call from "Afisha" magazine. That's what they said:

- On the eve of the 2nd Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art we decided to publish the Art Dictionary, in which the artists will popularly explain to the public the meaning of 50 terms, widely used in the contemporary art. For example, what do such words as "mimesis", "estimate" or "interpretation" mean in this context?
- Mimesis is a good thing, Ц I answered, Ц but for the lovers of art it is of no use. Let's not defile our minds. These terms have been invented for softheads. "The terms," as the great ancient Someone used to say, "are the stakes for asses' tethering". The same may be said about brand-names. The learning of facts just prejudices the appreciation of art exhibitions. One should leave behind everything except perception. The art is a thing that affects our mind. All the rest Ц which is of no interest to you, and the understanding of which requires the reading of the philosopher Podoroga's 50-volume text about the permanence of some unintelligible rot Ц is nothing but swindle. That's what they call "interpretation" Ц when critics explain to an artist the meaning of his own works.

In order to be more consistent, without branching out into false interpretations, I'd like to tell you how the idea of our new exhibition has come into being. That's the way it goes:

Last summer Mizin and I went to paint en plein air to Shargorod (Ukraine). Here with a group of artists we were locked in the village gym; a truckload of canvases and acrylic paints was at our disposal Ц just paint to your heart's content. And suddenly it turned out that "the contemporary artists" did not know how to paint. Those who once knew Ц e.g. Gnilitsky and Mamsikov Ц now produce sheer rubbish. They outline photos through video projector as if working off some annoying duty. Utter boredom. One can fail to see this only in the atmosphere of "highly independent" Ukraine and the contemporary art's self-imposed isolation from other fine arts.

Mamsikov and Gnilitsky are our friends and I write this only to cheer them up (in the arse-kicking manner), otherwise they may grow rusty. Young Ukrainian artists of the next generation are in much more degraded condition. Only the artist Chichkan, who has never learned to paint, does his best to justify the existence of this Diaspora. Chichkan is full of vitality, artistry and other sticking-out natural qualities, which he transfers to the individuals he portrays.

In Shargorod Chichkan made a portrait of the local mayor with a crazed look and a wild grin Ц in fact those were the characteristic features of the artist himself, who gladly demonstrated them every other minute. Chichkan's excessiveness showed itself in the dimensions of a portrait: 3 x 4 metres (that was the space between the floor and the backboard in the gym).

- It will look better if you screw a basket on his forehead, Ц I said for a joke.

Chichkan answered:

- OK, let's make such an exhibition for Guelman Gallery!
And so the thing was settled: Chichkan was to make portraits, Mizin and I were to screw baskets on; money fifty-fifty.

Mizin refined upon the project:

- Let's portray popular philosophers and name it "Mind Games".
Mizin and I picked out the portraits of philosophers (those we could remember) from Internet Ц Aristotle, who had invented metaphysics (and maybe even the abovementioned mimesis); Darwin, whose evolutionary theory is acknowledged by 90 percent of the world's population (though in Russia this percentage is below 40); Hegel, the founder of modern dialectic; Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Einstein, the author of relativity theory; McLuhan, the inventor of "global village"; Wittgenstein, who used to say that every idea might be expressed in words of one syllable, etc. Even the amusing mathematician Perelman was not forgotten.

Unfortunately, ignorant Chichkan in spite of our instructions substituted some philosophers for Schwarzenegger, Fidel Castro and Mike Tyson. Take it as it is: artists are incontrollable. Nevertheless we do hope that our "art" will somehow touch your nerve. And that you will interpret it properly.

A. Shaburov




2.03.2007
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