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Why Am I Worse?

Vladimir Kozin

Opening January 29, 2009. 7 p.m.

Vladimir Kozin's Why Am I Worse? can surely make informed public weep. This series is both our home-made encyclopedia of contemporary art and Russian art's manifesto of failure to join international art scene, blended with an urgent desire to climb this scene and become part of it.

This is not Vladimir Kozin's first attempt at creating a consistent museum of contemporary art out of any materials available. Some ten years ago, he has made his "Portable Mousetrap Museum": artists he knew were offered to make an artwork based on a unified module: a simple mousetrap. As a result, Kozin has obtained a collection fitting perfectly in a suitcase: over a hundred art objects made of wooden bars with a spring and a trap attached. Each artist designed their bar to express their statement, and all the mousetraps together made a unique small-scale art museum. The project Why Am I Worse? is based upon a similar striving to embrace the whole history of art and put it in the artist's pocket, now due to the effort of one artist only.

In Why Am I Worse? Kozin is self-humiliatingly sincere as he represents the situation of an average Russian artist. He knows something about contemporary art, he has read a couple issues of Artchronika and even, once, Flash Art. However, he lives in a small town of Tosno 1 hour away from St.Petersburg, he has only heard of (but never been at) international shows or biennials, and celebrities like Hearst or Kabakov are his gods, not colleagues, he sees them in glossy magazines and can hardly dream of once being equal to them. Nevertheless, they, from classics like Duchamp or Warhol to today's superstars like Pistoletto or the Chapman brothers, are his pantheon for today. They are his role models, his universe. And, if joining their circle is totally impossible, he makes up his own circle populated by all artists he is worshipping, from Rembrandt to Nam June Paik. That's a kind of minimalism coming from poverty. Why not? Russian artists are accustomed at making their own worlds alone, of any materials at hand, with their cheap apartment as the background and old stuff from the garage as props.

However, the kitchen performance of Why Am I Worse? is not exclusively an act of the artist's self-reproach. Oppositely, it uncovers an attempt to find a loophole to the Big Art Stage, to steal there through the backdoor, if the front door is closed for him. An attempt to present one's failure, poverty and obscurity as the artistic truth. In other words, to make misery a brand name: in present times, a precious capacity.

Anna Matveyeva

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