«E.T.I. - TEXT» (popularly – «ХУЙ», which means “dick”)

April 18, 1991

The venue: Red Square, opposite Lenin’s Mausoleum
Quantity of participants: 14 people

Formally, the action was coincided with the moral legislative act, which come into force on April 15, 1991. Among other things this law prohibited usage of foul language in public places. 

The idea of action (besides its obvious meaning of the protest) was to combine two symbols with opposite statuses: Red Square as the highest hierarchical geographical point on the territory of the USSR, and the most prohibited marginal word. Actually, it is the most effective way of scandal. Most of the scandals are made that way: injection of something marginal, forbidden, repressed to the highest, sacred, official context.

With regard to the meaning of protest, it was a protest against rising of prices and almost a physical impossibility to exist and to work.

Before that we were doing our performances in some DKs (houses of culture), renting their spaces and collecting money for the rental from the tickets. But after the first price increase all DKs began to request 100% payment in advance. Sure, we didn’t have that money. Artistic life was completely frozen. People impressed in deep depression for a long ten years as well. In fact, none of the spectators was going to art exhibitions, performances or something else. Gorbachev era was over.

A criminal case was opened on article 205 part 2 “Disorderly conduct with particular cynicism and impudence” (it was also imputation in insulting Lenin) because of the action. The case was terminated in three month owing to the absence of elements of a crime.

The Soviet intellectuals helped in this issue. Famous people sent letters to our support. Poet Andrey Voznesensky offered to answer on imputation in insulting Lenin the next way: “You should say, that if you wish to insult Lenin, you would put a dash before the word”. We really didn’t want to insult Lenin. But it turned out on the photo that there was written “LENIN” on his Mausoleum and there was “written” “DICK” on a cobblestone.

According to experts, this action was the beginning of a new period in the history of Russian art – the period of Moscow street actionism. Actually, ETI were doing street actions long before the action on Red Square, but exactly this action marked the beginning of a new period by virtue of its extreme popularity and its scandalous.

The theory.

It must be said about the problem of borrowing. Almost immediately after our action, the group “Mukhomor” (“amanita”) was proving its “priority” for putting this sacramental word using human bodies. As it became known later, some year (long before ETI action on Red Square) “Mukhomor” “wrote” on the snow the word “dick” by using three people and photographed it.

In the era of postmodernism, any priorieties is something highly questionable. In this case, there are some evidences that conceptualists Gerlovin had made this gesture before “Mukhomor” (but the photo did not survive). And “Mukhomor” themselves started talking about their action just after action of ETI gained notoriety.

Here again works typically postmodern trope of changing the importance of cause and effect. Nobody would have realized the importance of “cause” (action of “Mukhomor”), and indeed its existence, without the “effect” (action on Red Square). Therefore, the effect is the cause of the cause. Context is more important than text.

It seems that for such “works”, which are simple in visual and content aspect, this dubious triviality is quite true. Put it otherwise, the word “dick” was laid out exactly on Red Square, and it contained a contextual accuracy of the gesture.

“Innovative sense” (“surplus element” if we use the term of Malevich) in the action was not in writing some words using human bodies, but in realizing the action on Red Square. Moreover, the “background” (cobblestone of Red Square) for this action was as well very important along with the “message”.

Certainly, ETI had some continuity (at least in the formal aspect). Conceptualism in all its forms, from its “comic” version (“Mukhomor”, “Gnezdo” and others) to “analityc” (“Collectivnie deystviya” – “Collective action”) was important historical phenomenon for ETI. The principal difference was more in ideological (political) aspect. Radical left discourse (in its various forms) was important for ETI. Political was conceptualized as an important part of the activity. For conceptualists so-called “formal moment” was more important.

But the most important aspects of new period were publicity and direct relationship with mass-media (in some sense, newspapers and television were documenting all actions).


The preparation and realization of the action

We needed 14 people to come. 13 people for writing the “text”, and the 14th (G.Gusarov) had to cover us and to distract cops.

Five people came to the meeting. It were art critic Alexander Obukhov and Milena Orlova, anarchist Max Kuczynski and I (Anatoly Osmolovsky) with Grigory Gusarov.

Then we went to look for people near to a monument to Gogol on the subway station “Arbatskaya”. There we persuaded a few hippies and punks (only eight people) to go with us. We were 13 people and we had to find one more, otherwise Gusarov would have lie down with us.

When I put all them and lay down myself, the last was a passerby, who turned out to be thirteenth.

We must lay a minute or something. The photographer was a correspondent of the newspaper “MK”, he was the one, who posted the next morning the article with the famous photo. There is no good photo or negative nowadays (or they lie somewhere in archives).

Периоды творчества

1987 – 1990 («Министерство ПРО СССР»)

1989 – 1992 (Э.Т.И.)

1992 – 1994 (Necesiudik)

1992– 2001 (Personal projects)

1997 – 2000 (Против всех)

2000 – 2002 (Нонспектакулярное искусство)

2002 – 2012 (Personal projects)

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