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Russian Art

Russian art has always been awe-inspiring and revolutionary.  Russia is a gorgeous country with many talented people.  Russian artists, similarly to Russian scientists, writers, doctors and other pioneers of invention have been recognized world-wide for their enormous contribution to the arts. 

Modern art, especially, has been getting some well-deserved attention. Some of the most famous contemporary artists are really shocking, such as Alexander Brener who ”pushes the envelope” every time he does something that many people question the merit of.

Sergei Shutov

Shutov was one of the artists chosen in 2001 to represent Russia at the Venice Biennale of contemporary art. This artist usually works with video and mixed media.

At the Biennale, Shutov made an impressive installation in the Russian Pavilion, ’Abacus’. It was made out of 40 automated, praying figures, all dressed in the same black robes. They were kneeling, bowing to the ground and reciting prayers from different religions and in different languages. As they were reciting, the texts they were saying were shown on television screens in the corners of the room.

Alexander Brener

Alexander Brener is actually against the market of contemporary art. For him, the most important is to act. ’One shouldn’t only write poems, they should be shouted’, is one of his statements.  In his first actions, he enforced himself to show the inability of contemporary artists.  

Brener was born in 1957 in Kazakstan, he hated school, liked to lie under the sun, and to make love in weird places like in a library, on a bench in a park.

In 1978 he studied philology in St Petersburg, got married and then emmigrated to Israel in 1981.

He started making some performance art there as well with his wife.  One of their famous performances was hanging big yellow banners, with black digits painted on them, in the main street of Tel-Aviv on Shabbat’s day. It was hanged down by the police. Brener says he wanted to fuck’ the police in every country where he was.

One of the interesting performance acts was when he met with his wife on a freezing day on the busy Pushkin square and they tried to make love together in public. It wasn’t working.  Brener yelled: ”It doesn’t work! Nothing works for contemporary artists! Only for Jeff Koons and Chichulina...”

Another time Brener went to Pushkin’s museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and shat in front of Van Gogh paintings, the statement was to show how ”impressed” he was. He  loves to ruin official conferences.  For example, he once went half naked in winter in front of the Kremlin and called Eltsin to fight.

In January 1997, while visiting Stadejlik museum in Amsterdam he used a spray can and painted a dollar sign $ on Malevich’s painting ’Suprematism’. This was a huge green dollar sign on a white cross on a white background. According to Brener Malevich’s painting was a symbol of art business.  The businessmen were all the people involved in it: critics, museums, art collectors, people who own galleries as well as the artists themselves.

Brener says that he hates authority, power of money and considers museums ’the bastion of cultural power’”.  Brener claims to express his ideas through the $ graffiti.  He actually spent years in a Dutch prison because of his expressiveness. There he wrote the book Obosani Pistolet where he discusses his beliefs and explains reasons behind his performance art actions.

In the book Brener talks about democratic art. He writes that he dreams that people would go on the streets and protest in silence or in laughter against the ’criminal power’ that governs.

Brener also believes one should express one’s beliefs by ’simple, funny, fast, clean hearted, naive actions’. He imagines ’a mass of people gathering on the Red Square and silently picking their nose, then the fat, boring government would shake and fall’.  

In 1992, the artist came to live in Moscow after leaving Israel. He fast became a conspicuous artist in the little circle of Moscow contemporary art. Brener was coming to poetic lectures and was reading about sexual illnesses.

Eventually, Berner claimed that he found Russian artists were too worried about money.  He says that for him art is like an orgasm, an ejaculation of energy, it is an amazing ritual.  

The last thing he says he’s up to is setting an artistic revolution in Mexico.  Good luck Mexico, we’ll pray for you.

Oleg Kulik

Kulik used to go in public places in Moscow and pretend he was an animal.  One of the acts involved standing in front of a store, naked barking so loudly that it would actually prevent people from getting in.

Kulik’s performances were filmed, and not surprisingly they all share a similar ending – the police would take him away.

Sometimes the people who would watch him act like a dog would get involved in his game and treat him accordingly but he would never let himself be stroked.   According to the critics this performance showed an nonsensical  and violent representation of communication.

One of Kulik’s famous performances involved staying for weeks in a wooden box in a gallery, acting like a dog in a cage. Some claimed this was a modern response to Joseph Beys, who stayed in a gallery locked in for the time of the exhibition, caged with a coyote.  Another performance act of Kulik’s involved milking a real dog in Rijina gallery.   The most disturbing performance was when Kulik had sex with a dog being both on the receiving and giving end.  He also put his head in a cow’s ass in an art show in Paris, France. 

In his statement Kulik wrote: "I am an artist possessing a powerful projectional will. My projects are just as interesting as they are dangerous or repugnant to society. When I am able to materialize the phantoms of my imagination through my knowledge of the mechanisms of reality, I experience supreme bliss which I try to share with my admirers and connoisseurs."

Currently Kulik is no longer performing as a dog but is making quite startling images of wild animals with faint human figures imposed over the picture.  They are much less disturbing than his earlier work but if you look closely you can see human couples making love.