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War


Georgy Ostretsov

March 13-21, 2004



The entire exposition
It is well-known that when cannons speak the muses remain silent. Consequently, war seems to be completely opposite and antagonistic to art and culture. Its a pity (if only pity can have any sense in terms of art), but these statements arent so unambiguous. Even if we raise a question without restraining ourselves to the frames of culture and art and, verbalizing it as the problem of War and life, other conclusions, including those not so peaceful, are possible. Starting with an accepted truth that life is a struggle and ending with the Heraclitus "War is father of all, king of all. Indeed, both ancient and modern history knows quite a few examples of enrichment, economic growth, cultural upheaval, demographic boom as results of a war and, in the same time, it knows of examples of demographic, cultural and economic stagnation in the situation of a prolonged depressive peace. In the meantime, any forms of the mono-semantic militarism also lack sense and can be easily refuted by evidence and reasons. Wars often brought about demographic and ecological devastation not upsurge, they caused stagnation in economy and social relations, they led to the cultural degradation. It is obvious that we cant agree with the fatality of war. Although we can acknowledge the legitimacy of the struggle for peace, we cant (and that would have been a dangerous mistake) substitute real for desired. The reality shows that an ideal world without war has not yet been reached by the mankind. Eternal peace as always remains utopian. In the meanwhile, since the ending of the Cold-War, there have been made a number of attempts to present the status quo as a stabile peaceful world order, practically without any wars, where occasional conflicts in the half-wild hot spots and large-scale police actions (like Iraq and Chechnya) act as some deviations from the norm, but not as wars. It is this smoothly running suggestion that we already have the world without wars though wars and dangers of war are obvious for everyone that should be criticized.

Jean Baudrillards famous The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, does not tell about the ability of mass-media to simulate wars (as it is commonly thought) but, on the contrary, about the ability of mass-media to present a real war even when naming it as war as a non-war, as a local event, a military action aimed to establish order and peace. The title of the book is, therefore, ironic and sarcastic. This is a question of interpretation for the overloaded with information and globally overstuffed mind. This type of mind, in spite of all scary pictures on TV and even because of them, may still believe that we live in the world without wars. Indeed, we live in a post-war time, but people are dying and cities are being destroyed now as well. It is just not called war anymore. War lost its plastic characteristics and its erotic features, as according to Baudrillard.

So if all that is not available in the gigantesque machinery of the popular images, we can consider the fact that free contemporary art turns to the reconstruction of war plastics and war erotic to be a natural order. It is exactly this reconstruction process which is reflected in Gosha Ostretsovs project. The artist fits into the world art tradition (where art as it is and art of war has always been going together cheek by jowl) as well as into the avant-garde tradition (mind the word!) and into the Moscow conceptualism (with its quasi-war self-identity) at once and also breaks with all these art traditions. Ostretsov is not about making a war aesthetic or creating irony in regard to the war theme - he rediscovers war by means of art and articulates those allegedly well-known facts that, in reality, nobody wants to know.

Georgy Litichevsky



4.05.2004
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