Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Post Pop at Saatchi Gallery

At the time of the much-talked-about exhibition opening I was selflessly labouring on what the day after would become an auction of Russian art, which, however didn’t prevent myself from absorbing a great amount of anticipation and gossip. An artist best friend of mine (i.e. an industry virgin and an innocent contemplator) who managed to sneak an invitation was so dazed by the numbers of guests and cocktails on offer she missed the exposition itself. Hence, especially for her, to cover up for all this distractive socialising, I embarked on the below.

The Post Pop: East Meets West colloquially known as “the Russian exhibition” apart from attracting an art-loving Chelsea-strolling crowd, also lures culture pilgrims from the East, as my precious mother-tongue is heard around the place. This is partially due to the man behind the show and this time it is not solely Mr Saatchi. The show is a second venture of a businessman and a collector Igor Tsukanov, the first being a renowned Breaking the Ice. A stark contrast to an ill-fated oligarch, Mr Tsukanov represents the best and the rarest of the new generation of Russian elite. He is a patron of the artists and a family man, his nonchalant persona is usually seen at private views and receptions politely making himself acquainted with young and unemployed admirers like myself.

Enough of the gossip. The idea of the show is to produce a broad overview of pop art legacy across consumerist monsters represented by USA and UK alongside the newcomers in the field - young and weird capitalist states of China and Russia. As Jeff Koons meets Komar and Melamid, we are witnessing an unprecedented co-presence of masters of kitsch and voices of dissident generations.

The show is split into thematic sections, each of these presenting one of the fundamental reference sources for post-pop. As its prefix presupposes renovation, post-pop redefines good-old Andy Warhol etc. and consciously or not, takes materialism and idolisation into new directions. Mass Media, Advertising and Consumerism and Sex and the Body rooms make it almost impossible to distinguish a Chinese artist from an American, as the heavy and crude semiotics of its subjects appear to be universal. Being surrounded by mock advertising campaigns, slot machines, phallic symbols and celebrity figures in a very literal sense, I ended up feeling bombarded. Which, I guess, entirely fulfils a purpose of the works and is made even worse by their profusion.

I would recommend slowing your path in the rooms titled Habitat and Ideology and Religion, as they pleasantly assist in comprehending that prefix. Masters of paraphernalia Ilya and Emilia Kabakov take us away from a pop-art classic Lichtenstein’s studio into a drastically different domestic realia of a Soviet communal apartment. Through their installation titled Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen they celebrate the absurdity of the shared space through their beloved metaphor of a flying object. Saucepans and pots are at the centre stage of byt and conflict, by revolving around in impressive numbers they take a witness of the incident above the routine, to where it is best observed and defied.

However filled with over-reproduced variations on the subject of a charismatic leader, Ideology and Religion rooms surprise with a refreshingly shocking installation by Sergey Sokov. The noise it makes destructed me from observing a socialist take on Bosch’s triptychs by Liu Dahong and what I saw scared my media-influenced self to a quiet scream. What first appears as a performance, comprises numerous entirely clothed mechanical figures kneeled down in religious prayers. They hardly face the direction of Mecca, but a wall of empty icons of brown bread (the one you cannot buy in the UK) by Anatoly Osmolovsky.

Horror gives way to wit and wit gets lost on the way to something horrible. The Post Pop show is overwhelming and hugely entertaining. My personal attention was won by a bunch of Soviet non-conformists, perhaps because I was biased and therefore more receptive to their art. Hopefully the meeting of East and West will go smoothly and the British public will succeed in making sense of this extraordinary layer of Chinese and Russian cultures, specially as they were making an attempt to speak the Western language of pop.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Ana Mendieta at Hayward

I always found Latin American art candid and morbid at the time, especially when it tries to reach back to its own roots. Ana Mendieta only lived in her native Cuba till the age of 12, she moved to States when the revolution had embarked. Throughout her short life Ana tried to explore two particular states that interest me a lot: the state of being a woman and the state of being a Latin American woman.

Hayward exhibition starts with Mendieta's early feminist body engagements. Distorting her pretty facial features while parodying plastic surgery, acquiring a moustache made of natural hair or deforming her curves almost cutting through them with a glass pane. You might have seen it all before, however, please note 80% of the exhibition (maybe less) is made up of Mendieta's work as a student (!). If we for a second think of the present day art students, who are struggling to come up with anything smarter than Art School Stole My Virginity  The Remains Of My Brain, we would probably start seeing Ana in a different light. 

Ana's performance art of the 70s, shown on bulky TV sets (just so Hayward!) or preserved in photographs drastically moves away from good old feminism into the centuries-old pagan philosophy. Her Siluetas series mimic corpses about to resurrect or probably dissolve in the soil. The artist was reinterpreting legends and legacies of African voodoo, Mexican Day of the Dead, Aztec rituals... Her body was often her main medium, she wrote that she couldn't work "on paper" as other artists do, her creative process needs to start right on the location. She began with covering herself with blood and restaging a rape scene in front of her fellow male students at University of Iowa and proceeded to immersing her body into the ancient grounds, rivers, leaves and mud of Latin America. 

The paradox is: the fact of Mendieta working with the heritage of so-called primitive art oversimplifies the artist's potential in the eyes of some members of public. The second half of the exhibition that showcases Ana trying to come up with the new revelation in her art through working with wood and mud sculptures is paid too much attention for what it is... a transitional period that led nowhere... to the artist's most touching and tragic performance - her death.

No matter how hard Stephanie Rosenthal - curator of Mendieta's retrospective tried to move away from the shocking ending of the artist's life, her death is firmly and forever stuck to her works. In 1985 she fell out her apartment's window, located on the 35th floor, Greenwich Village, New York. Reportedly a suicide, her death is believed to be her husband's evil will. (Ok, being a bit of an art historian feminist, and knowing his work, I personally blame him for everything). The horror of the situation is its symbolism, since Ana had eventually turned into one of her Siluetas.

Had Mendieta lived, we could probably have more advocates of her ideas and works. But seeing something disrupted so abruptly, it is both hard and unfair to judge. Hayward retrospective rather cleverly ends with slides and personal notes of Mendieta never shown to public before. It is appalling how keen was Ana on documenting her own work, considering how much her archive can tell us about that relatively little left of her.

Ana Mendieta Traces is on at Hayward Gallery till the 15th of December

Русская версия

Monday, 4 November 2013

On qualified magicians

A small article (that looks huge on the blog) I wrote for one Russian magazine and translated specially for my beloved The Museum of Everything. This is more of an introduction to the practise of The Museum with merely two paragraphs of critical vision included. However biased I was, I was also well-informed. Thank you. 

In an era of paintings on white walls and unbearable conceptuality, when things are mindlessly gone under the hummer and relation to the world of contemporary art is just so on trend, The Museum of Everything comes to Russia. 

The arrival of James Brett's red trucks to Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Saint-Petersburg and Moscow created a stir. Last summer the world's only travelling museum for self-taught artists (the rest call them "outsiders") wandered across Russian lands in search of the homegrown talent. This summer has seen the fruits of that hunt as Exhibition #5 opened at Garage Centre for contemporary culture. Then, "outsiders" stormed Venice Biennale and it became absolutely impossible to disregard those timid amateurs surviving in the world of so elitist and so significant art. 

James Brett, a film director in the past, today is probably one of the most influential patrons of art brut in the world. Once he found out about his namesake William Brett a former builder and a keen cricket player who lives in an Isle of Wight. Back there William started his own Museum of Everything in something reminiscent of a shed filled to the bottom with all the treasures he gained throughout 80 years of his life: from the collection of empty wine bottles to an array of toilet seats. Bretts turned out to be sharing not only a surname but the whole way of thinking.

After getting William's permission James founded a London branch of the Museum of Everything, intellectually unpretentious, but still a proper exhibition space. In London they managed to do without sanitary accessories. In 2009 the Museum turned into an establishment for self-taught artists both already quite known and those discovered by Brett. Meanwhile, that space has neither roof nor walls or a regular place of stay. The Museum of Everything is like a travelling circus touring the world with its bright funky exhibitions, showcasing artists whose lives haven't been easy at all. Some of them have mental and physical disabilities. Brett has found some of them in the corresponding institutions to exhibit their work in some of the world's biggest galleries.

The Museum of Everything has already managed to make a couple of stops in its native London (art Meccas - Tate Modern, Frieze Masters and shopping Mecca - Selfridges) as well as in Turin, Paris and Venice Biennale. One of its exhibitions was curated by the father of pop-art Sir Peter Blake himself, artists such as Damien Hirst and Cindy Sherman were also actively involved in the Museum's various undertakings.

Having made some noise in Europe, the Museum started off to the wild spaces of our Motherland, calling everyone to take part in the fair casting. In every city jury were choosing the best self-taught artists coming from all walks of life, from retired plumbers to children bound to wheelchairs. Their works were showcased to the local public straight there in the van, then they moved to the second round of competition - a selection process that would result in taking part in the final exhibition at the notorious Garage - Dasha Zhukova's art temple. 

James Brett arrived at the opening wearing a "Russian hat". He did a tour for the first visitors, telling them about each of the many artists exhibited in the little cardboard pavilion. Talents found by the Museum crew were presented alongside famous Russian self-taught artists, such as Aleksandr Lobanov and Pavel Leonov. The lifeless white walls of Garage were replaced by a complex wooden construction with podiums, hidden corners and a maze.

Some were left impressed, some were explicitly against Brett and his British fellows, who, arguably, came to Russia in search of lunatics, alien to the realm of "proper" serious art. The Museum was accused of ridiculing the country of Repin and Briullov, while the artists were deemed unprofessional. But why in Europe do they regard The Museum of Everything as a charity and the artists as a breath of fresh air in the musty world of visual arts? 

Professional artist is a nonsense equal to a qualified magician. In the country leading in numbers of university graduates we've forgotten what it means to be different. Having taken part in the organisation of that very exhibition I "met" a homeless man from Chistye Prudy, who was drawing in the books of Russian classics, a girl who couldn't walk but saw angels in her dreams and painted them in a rather mature manner, an old man who have been painting his beloved park in Nizhny every single day for many years, a boy who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 16. I discovered many more of them, who didn't even hope that someone other than cockroaches in the storage room or relatives will ever see their art. The exhibition was crucial not only for them, but for us, who really shall see and try to comprehend art brut - a forceful stream in contemporary art practise that doesn't need auctions, instagram or crowds of trendy youngsters lined up by the ticket office - this art needs someone to be free from stereotypes and open to appreciation.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

The flip side chronicles

Everyone is in love with the uber-conceptual happenings at the Central Saint Martins grand hall. However, owing to the very nature of the installation space full of people in Nikes carrying their giant project folders to the class and back to the Kings Cross station, not everyone gets a chance to fully comprehend the artworks exhibited. At least myself rushed past with the suitcase emptied from 20 kilos of books on feminism and Frida Kahlo. Therefore I would like to devote this post to my inattentive fellows and those who didn't get a chance to visit that swarming warehouse for the MA Photography final show. 

In this blog we've already heard about Fedor Toshchev Russian-bred and born photography artist who took part in the Oblivion exhibtion in Shoreditch this spring. His artwork Artel Incooprabis photo Nr 15 Ligovka 65 previously discussed here was also a fruit of his journey around derelict villages of Russia. That journey led him to explore and 'break into' long-abandoned houses left in oblivion by previously flourishing family lives. The area of his interest was dominated by a large kolhoz that gave jobs to everyone around and later on got abolished. Same happened to the whole Soviet blues, with the family ties and stories withering away in Perestroika.

Fedor's job as an artist was to find and save family photo archives. You mentioned art? Yes, the uniqueness of his approach came about when he decided to turn the visuals inside out, exposing the backside of the card to the public. The images were all laid out on the concrete floor of the CSM hall like little corpses of family history on the body of a cold totalitarian monster. 

“To remember”, “To my dear nan from Olechka” - can the scribbles on the backside tell us more than what the front has documented? Can it tell us more about the history and the way it gets forgotten and restored? You reckon? 

An interesting point noted by Fedor himself, people were prone to try and lift each photo from the floor to see what's there. Whilst this was staring right into their faces, telling a flip side story - all of the images were glued to the floor... 

An interesting point noted by myself, people could easily fantasise and interpret the work without understanding a word of Russian... 

Let these lifeless features remind you of something alive by Fedor Toshchev, discover more here


Helloooo, dear art lovers! Wait, I have an excuse! I was too busy writing my piece of scientific research into the art of Tracey Emin and Frida Kahlo and later on celebrating the fact I actually produced my own little exciting proper academic paper! You can actually see me celebrating as an undressed version of Frida Kahlo below.

Now please get me back to writing in the free-spirited manner. I think I am seriously artdicted to it. 

Monday, 8 April 2013


Marria! You've gotta see her! And you probably have already, if you are taking a last tube to Shoreditch every once in a while. When asked what shall I write about herself and her work in fashion, she said I am not the person to tell such things as I know her too well. Well, just finished tidying my flat from a three weeks trash happenings i.e. Marria Roslova aka Masha Raksha visiting this place...I need to say not only this girl is something to see, but her works instantly shut people up.

Her collection was titled something like 'look oh ah new talent' in Vogue Russia and Look At Me, while she's not really sure whether she was born to be a fashion designer at all. Partying like crazy she gives an impression of the biggest unemployed bum in East London, while in fact she often doesn't sleep sketching her nights away. And yet again, she is never sure whether she is an artist or a fashion designer who hates pattern cutting. I think, it's obvious from her collection that combines two things that never work together in fashion a) unwearable b) but wait, I was just trying to fit in one of those. This is arrrrrt *with a Russian accent* !!!

You know, I hate fashion as much as I hate hoover cleaning tobacco left in my living room.  But I love her stuff, therefore I will get hell loads of hits from you, guys. This post is about the girl, the artist (!) whose ego is big enough to spread on the clothes she does. Watch out! Cause she is going to Banzai!


Friday, 29 March 2013

A moment of couture in the ocean of shit-coloured snow...

Evening, folks. Tonight we have a very special guest inda blog. Rudi is one of those very gay people thinking they can write and their opinion matters. Fortunately, Rudi did an impossible thing and slept his way into my blog. So now I don't really care what he writes about the latest Dior Couture exhibition in Moscow Manezh. Absolutely uncensored and therefore a bit rude (for those of you who are dumb, I've included the original version in Russian at the very bottom). Tune in the track!

Hey, kitties. That's Rudi. 

пасаны привет

My Mum used to work in a theatre for quite a while. She was wearing all those cute dresses on stage later to queue up for Doktorskaya wurst. Her ever favorite perfume was J'Adore. Her style was all about Dior. Ever since 80s and till present.

End of Feb "Fashion and Style in Photography" festival arrived to Moscow. It is something to do with beauty, sex and blah blah blah. The person behind it was Olga Sviblova, who was recently given a Multimedia Art Museum located on the most expensive street in the whole of Moscow (which means, it is more expensive than all the streets in London). She was also generously provided with the space called Manezh that is, by the way, located right under the Kremlin walls.

courtesy: snob.ru
Olga Sviblova. (c) snob.ru

We are all so so grateful to the Moscow's Department of Culture, since before Sviblova Manezh was a place selling fur coats. Russian art as it is, yeah.

Patrick Demarchelier's exhibtion "Dior Couture" was brought to Moscow as a part of the festival. Patrcik and his companion Fabien Baron decided to get a bunch of models and other sexy kitties and dress them all up in 100 of Dior garments, from the post-war collections to the newest Raf Simons looks.

Moscow got blown away. Not only exhibitions of this kind don't normally reach us, this is Dior mon dieu! Now you can't enter Manezh, if you are not wearing a cocktail dress. Here dress code operates on the unspoken level. Rudi attended the event in his Mummy-made deer jumper...but he looked cute as fuck as ever.

So. I am standing there reading the introduction to the show and there we go. So you know, Moscow is a habitat of provincial ladies and their girlfriends. Purchasing an iPhone is like jumping up the class ladder (4 steps up straightaway).

While I was standing there with my adorable girlfriends readind the memo, 2 or 3 of those girls photographed opposite the word "Dior", that was printed on the wall! #dior #sexybiach #ilovemyfollowers

Some girls for you to jerk-off

Aspiring Demarchelier models

Grimes got out of her bedroom

I swear to God, these two are like twins

My fan on the right
She should have brought her pink chapstick with her

Blurry ladies are sexy. "Hach" blury ladies - 10x times sexier.
You'd better wear your wellies. It is disgusting outside

Oh, sorry. Can't stop laughing
Got her jaw not functioning properly
That girl forgot her "kokoshnik" in her "izba"

And here it comes. As a cherry on top of a cupcake:

The point of the exhibition (in fact!) is to show Dior was inspired by Russian culutre and by Sergei Diaghilev's ballet school in particular. In 1959 Dior was even given a permission to get through the iron curtain and throw a catwalk show. As if Alexander Wang travelled to introduce his style to North Korean ladies. However, they would probably treat him as a local.

Dior 1959 Fashion Show Poster & Show Runway
And only today Dior garments inspired by Rodchenko's architecture with all the Soviet gigantomania came back to Moscow. Unfortunately, only as prints on the walls and with the crowd of stupid cunts walking around discussing how fabulous is this and that. But still, Dior's back.

тут была машинка и модель
Soviet Dior Inspiration 

I was only disappointed they didn't serve canapees and champaign. But we still had fun.

Come and see it before some day in April.
Visit Moscow, snow is almost gone. <3 U & VODIANOVA

Thank you, Rudi. Come over and get your treat <3

P.S. We were literally composing this post together at the time 
P.P.S. If you are an instagram user and you are offended, WE DON'T GIVE A FUCK.