Against movement

Interview with Anatoly Osmolovsky by Vladimir Levashov

Vladimir Levashov: In your opinion is political activity currently opposed to artistic one?

Anatoly Osmolovsky: Political activity is becoming anti-artistic when it reaches its ontological boundary of struggle for power. If a politician and an artist both go determinedly to the limit they will certainly part. The most vivid examples to prove the case would be relations between Bolsheviks and Russian constructivists and those between French communists and surrealists. Politicians and artists have always understood that their cooperation is a fight for being engaged one by another. When surrealists joined the communist party they subconsciously intended to engage communists, rather than to be engaged themselves. Upon realization of the case they parted. In its own fundamental sense, art is an alternative political project. Though if we limit art to purely a political project we are risking to lose other meanings present.  

As for Moscow art scene of the 90-s, many artists including me and my circle did treat their artistic activity as an element of political struggle. Although it was quite a special kind of political struggle. No one claims that we wanted to become presidents, members of the State Council, etc. What I mean by political struggle, is pure revolutionary activity. Revolutionary activity was aimed to transform society, create new laws and new relations between citizens, and we fought for that. Aesthetics of the struggle has been shaped directly in action. “Street” aesthetics is an accurate choice of place and time: one finds a certain place (for example, one runs up the tribune of the Mausoleum) and combines it with actual time (for example, an election campaign in the State Council). Thus, the message is public at most, and it is transmitted via mass media.       

Art of the 90-s found itself in an ambiguous situation. On one hand it produced rudimentary aesthetic gestures, as we treated our activity as a continuation of the 20th century revolutionary project with ideals of progress, equality and democratic dialogue. We had to present all those values that political parties have irresponsibly thrown into the trash bin in the 90-s. However it was surely not a mass activity, but actions by single persons, by renegades and turncoats.  

All political organizations are ontologically based on regularity, constancy, mass character and irreversibility. Such mechanics is secured with people, money and connections. When you enter politics, the structure is imposed on you with whole weight of its resources. It is impossible to resist it using only aesthetics. Artists as a rule try to avoid regularity, constancy, and - in the very end - even mass character of art, as they keep inventing new heuristic moves. We could have acted differently of course. When you are attacked by some organizations you can found one of your own. However, then your friends and you become genuine political figures: dissidents as in the Soviet era or revolutionists as in the Tzar times. I faced this dilemma in the 90-s, and I realized I could probably sustain it both morally and physically, yet I wasn’t interested. It is impossible to treat organizational activity artistically, as if it were art, because it is not effective. You are condemned to losing because you must obey the laws of political field, so you simply stop doing art, and that is it.

V.L. This means that artistic activity to be realized in political form works against regularity, constancy, mass character and irreversibility, thus – in other words – it demolishes routine and does this in the name of freedom and as another way of accumulating energy. So the moment art reaches its maturity phase and therefore finds itself in opposition to politics, it transforms from an action (which is politics in its true sense) into an object. Is it possible for aesthetics – in its full-scale completed form - to exist as an action? Or can a terminal aesthetic product only exist as an object, a static structure that generates action itself and surrounds itself with it?   

А.О. Fine art differs from others types of art such as theatre, cinema, music, etc… It creates psychically single objects. Western culture of the 20th century perceived this aspect of fine arts as inescapable sin. Avant-garde art tried to overcome it constantly. However I believe it is a very important detail that needs to be handled precisely. That is why I create works of art that are similar to each other, and at the same time I insist that they are works of art indeed. In a way I dispute these works of art myself. It is of course necessary to doubt uniqueness of each of them, but it is also necessary to understand that there is certain uniqueness to them. Apart from uniqueness of an artistic object, the second important aspect that derived from non-spectacular art is a rule that binds to create such works of art that cannot be understood adequately through mass media and their reproduction. Therefore, I began to create sculptures, objects. However, they were not created through analysis, this is my reasoning postfactum. I am not a religious person, rather an atheist, yet when I discovered Russian icons four years ago I was very inspired.   

V.L. What exactly inspired you?

А.О.. In my opinion Russian orthodox icons represent some sort of ontological dullness. I am speaking about dullness in creative, constructive sense of the word. Monotony, repetition, immobility and even numbness are original attributes of an orthodox icon. You can look at it as an analogue of political practice that I was describing above, but as its negative analogue. Search for lofty ideals and images in an icon seems to be a sign of its inadequate understanding. The main idea of an icon is the idea of tradition and repetition, which is dullness. I wanted to make dull works of art, to create an object that cannot be interpreted. Dullness in that sense is - as a matter of fact - very subtle. It means absence of apparent interpretations as well as absence of purpose and single understanding why and for whom it is created. It is slow groping for essence.    

            For example people come to Donald Judd’s exhibition and get entirely lost as they don’t understand what it is and what purpose it serves.  I believe, minimalism is a very serious practice that strives to show nothing but what it contents. This is the rule I followed when creating the most recent objects. Yet I wasn’t inspired precisely by minimalism as it mostly values space geometry.      

V.L. Going back to the issue of politics, I would like to repeat that it presents a repeated, irreversible action. It is also necessary to add that is always an action performed by a group of people, not by individuals, for a certain mass of people (not for individuals). If aesthetic activity is opposed to political activity, then it is this very activity of one person for single persons. It is also known that the radical change in art has been connected (as some art historians phrase it at least) with introduction of mass exhibitions in Europe, where visitors could come in groups, such as families, etc. Tradition of an exhibition opening day is also worth mentioning, as it breaks all the previous conventions of art contemplation. Today an opening day is an event for the main target audience, for the”right” people and that of course influences art itself greatly. Contemporary art directs its efforts towards instantaneous interpretation, utmost simplicity of reproduction and meaning, etc. Your position nowadays seems opposite to this kind of practice. Thus, itisdeeplyconservative

А.О. That is why I do not go to any exhibition openings recently. They have nothing to do with those who would like to understand the essence of art. Its place and means of production are connected with loneliness that transforms into peculiarities of artistic language. These very important factors are hardly valued in contemporary society. And such colloquial terms as conservative or progressive position needed to be thrown into the garbage, in my opinion.  

            I interpret contemporary fine arts as a sort of a halt in philosophical sense. A halt of an image, a halt of a person in front of an image, it differs from current situation in cinema or video where thousand of images alternate constantly. An elementary physical halt of an image changes its perception radically. An artist who produces a halt treats an autonomous image differently from an artist or a director who makes thousands of images. When a viewer finds himself in front of an art piece that awoke his interest, he is brought to a physical halt: his brain, imagination and thought start functioning simultaneously. In this sense art is entirely anti-political activity, because politics, as I am convinced, is nothing but a skill to move objects around in space. Mao Zedong has a great phrase about politics: “The table wouldn’t move unless somebody moves it”.

V.L. Your new pieces of art also give rise to one more theme: connection of an object and its title. Existing object as a rule certainly has a title. An object’s title is a sign of its function. So, a ”dull” non-functional object should have no title. In case of art, physically external movement transforms to subjectively internal one, it can also develop into producing various titles for art objects - into naming. A title communicates certain content to an object. My question is, how is your artistic object connected with naming - not-naming?   

А.О. For now I can only say that a strange object that arises and exists beyond the bounds of pragmatic world, pragmatic appliance and ordinary meanings, should not be named as logic suggests. On the other hand, human brain is made in such a way that when it collides with something that tumbles out reality it tries to name it. I created objects in such a way, even in purely mechanical sense, that they are very difficult to be distinguished one from another. Therefore I entitle them “untitled” and use slang words to describe it in brackets. Yet nowadays it is not clear to me what role a title plays. I think it is the first step towards neutralization of an art piece. The main meaning and goal of an art piece is to stay unidentified as long as possible, bodily at maximum, be a material object. Any title would always be a way of defining it. However, at the same time it seems to me (and this is not an analytical belief, but a sensual feeling) that abstract art is impossible in contemporary situation. It seems that subjective creative will today lacks resources that would provide an opportunity to create objects not connected with reality…  

V.L. Would the reason for that be degradation of human consciousness?

А.О. Yes, I think because of degradation, but not of the consciousness in general, but of sociopolitical  atmosphere in the society. At least, I myself have thoughts about some abstract objects yet cannot find moral resources for their production. Therefore I am speaking of imitating abstract art, and thus something mimetic is important to me, I cling to it, I draw forms and ideas from it. It might also be a disease for Moscow art scene. Now we do not have moral resources to perceive art in its subjectivity. Therefore we can speak about imitation here. But at the same time it is not imitation for its sake, as is the case with simulacra, but for the sake of image so to speak. The main task is to create abstract art that is possible for contemporaneity. This niche existed potentially in pop art system, although it almost never depicted images that twinkle between the abstract and the material. So all the art works that I create now stay on the very boundary between “too abstract” and “too material”.

2004 г. Как политические позиции превращаются в форму

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)

Artist’s Talk: Anatoly Osmolovsky

 Artist’s Talk: Anatoly Osmolovsky

27 Feb 20156:30 pm | Nash & Brandon Rooms | £8.00 to £10.00

Book Tickets

Russian artist, writer and theorist Anatoly Osmolovsky delivers a lecture examining the history of Russian Actionism and its value system. Osmolovsky began his career as a writer in the (then) Soviet Union and has been engaged in radical publishing and collective art-making throughout his career. The artist was involved with the Radek Community of the 1990s and early 2000s, collectivising Moscow Actionist-inspired artists who made a number of key public protest performances. Osmolovsky lead the younger artists in actions like Barricades (1998) and Against Everyone (1999), for which the group stormed the Lenin mausoleum, unfurling a banner with the titular words printed in large letters. Osmolovsky has since founded the independent art school Institute BAZA (2012).

Read more…

Post Pop: East Meets West (26 November 2014 - 23 February 2015, Saatchi Gallery, London)

Post Pop: East Meets West

26 November 2014 - 23 February 2015

Post Pop: East Meets WestThe exhibition brings together 250 works by 110 artists from China, the Former Soviet Union, Taiwan, the UK and the USA in a comprehensive survey celebrating Pop Art's legacy. Post Pop: East Meets West examines why of all the twentieth century's art movements, Pop Art has had such a powerful influence over artists from world regions that have had very different and sometimes opposing ideologies.

The exhibition celebrates the art being produced in these four distinct regions since the heyday of Pop, and presents them in relation to each other through the framework of six themes: Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body. 

Read more…

9/09-30/11 2014,Mike Nelson selects the first in a series of four displays of the V-A-C collection at the Whitechapel Gallery

Mike Nelson selects from the V-A-C collection:
Again, more things (a table ruin)

Known for his atmospheric, immersive installations British artist Mike Nelson (b. 1967) transforms the gallery with sculptures drawn from the V-A-C collection.

The space, with a rough wooden floor and mass of modelled figures, is suggestive of an artist’s studio, but it is filled with sculptures of the body by some of the 20th century’s greatest artists.

Displayed on this common ground, Constantin Brancusi’s The First Cry (1917) dissolves the human form into elliptical shapes, and Alberto Giacometti’s Femme Debout (1957) elongates a woman’s body into abstraction. While contemporary artist Pawel Althamer’s depiction of three figures around a campfire becomes a focal point around which the other sculptures – by artists including Petr Galadzhev and Anatoly Osmolovsky - seem to be gathered.The display highlights the V-A-C collection, Moscow, as part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of opening up rarely seen collections from around the world.

The publication for this exhibition will available from the end of September.  More (press-release)

Read more…

Exhibition BLIND HOLE - 31/03/2012 – 04/06/2012, Thomas Brambilla gallery, Bergamo, Italia

Thomas Brambilla gallery is proud to announce on Saturday 31 March 2012 the opening of the
group show Blind hole, with William Anastasi, Lucio Fontana, Udomsak Krisanamis, Anatoly
Osmolovsky, Nathan Peter, Grayson Revoir.

31/03/2012 – 04/06/2012
Opening: Saturday 31 March 2012 h.18.30.
Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday h.14:00-19:00.

Thomas Brambilla
Via Casalino 25
24121 Bergamo Italia
Ph: +39 035 247418

Read more…

Ostalgia VIP Preview Invite

New Museum will present “Ostalgia,” an exhibition that brings together the work of more than fifty artists from twenty countries across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. Contesting the format of a conventional geographical survey, the exhibition will include works produced by Western European artists who have depicted the reality and the myth of the East.

The exhibition takes its title from the German word ostalgie, a term that emerged in the 1990s to describe a sense of longing and nostalgia for the era before the collapse of the Communist Bloc. Twenty years ago, a process of dissolution began, leading to the break-up of the Soviet Union and of many other countries that had been united under communist governments. From the Baltic republics to the Balkans, from Central Europe to Central Asia, entire regions and nations were reconfigured, their constitutions rewritten, their borders redrawn. “Ostalgia” looks at the art produced in and about some of these countries, many of which did not formally exist two decades ago. Mixing private confessions and collective traumas, the exhibition traces a psychological landscape in which individuals and entire societies negotiate new relationships to history, geography, and ideology.


Read more…

Saulius Stonys. Ieškant ryšio (fotoreportažas)


Fotoreportažas iš Rusijos šiuolaikinio meno projekto parodos „Estetika VS Informacija“ atidarymo (paroda veiks iki lapkričio 14 d.)...

Read more…

Презентация журнала «БАЗА» 12 октября в «Гилее»

Презентация и обсуждение первого номера журнала "БАЗА" состоится 12 сентября в 20.00 в книжном магазине "Гилея" по адресу: Тверской бульвар, 9. Вход свободный.

Read more…

Письмо Анатолия Осмоловского участникам круглого стола премии Кандинского-2010

Уважаемые участники круглого стола, к сожалению я не могу принять участие в обсуждении, так как в этот момент нахожусь в поезде Москва-Вильнюс. Будучи первым обладателем премии Кандинского мне, конечно, не безразлична судьба этой в высшей мере благотворной инициативы, потому я предлагаю вашему вниманию собственные соображения.

Read more…

Туринский гамбит. Выставка «Модерникон» в Фонде Сандретто Ре Ребауденго.

Газета «Коммерсантъ» № 180 (4480) от 29.09.2010

Выставка "Модерникон" счастливо соединила деньги олигархов с креативностью художников.

Read more…

Поступил в продажу первый номер журнала БАЗА

Журнал о современном искусстве БАЗА, № 1В сборнике публикация центрального эссе немецкого философа Гарри Леманна «Авангард сегодня». Подборка статей и лекций Клемента Гринберга. Новый поэтический цикл поэта Дмитрия Пименова. Полиграфические художественные проекты С.Огурцова и С.Шурипы. А так же аналитические статьи современных российских художников по теме «Произведение искусства».

Read more…

23 сентября–27 февраля,Выставка «Модерникон.Современное искусство из России», Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Турин,Италия)

23 сентября–27 февраля,Выставка «Модерникон.Современное искусство из России», Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Турин,Италия)Этаблированный фонд с шикарным выставочным залом Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Турин, Италия) и новый российский фонд «Виктория — Искусство быть современным» (Москва) показывают выставку русских художников сегодняшнего дня, кураторами которой выступили Франческо Бонами (художественный директор фонда) и Ирене Кальдерони. Выставка исходит из гипотезы (навеянной идеями Анатолия Осмоловского), согласно которой русское искусство раньше имело радикальную и провокационную эстетику, а ныне вступило в новую фазу своего развития, где прямое действие уступило место более эстетическому подходу.

Read more…

Печатные издания Радек
Поступили в продажу печатные издания группы Радек
Read more…

«Тупые, наверное. Книжек не читают»

Ирина Постникова /03 сентября 2010

Художник, куратор, философ Анатолий Осмоловский политике никогда не был чужд. Более того, всегда считал себя оппозиционером — и власть публично критиковал. Тем не менее, месяц назад Осмоловский поучаствовал в молодежном форуме «Селигер», чем изрядно всех удивил. Сам он, впрочем, считает, что степень его оппозиционности от пребывания среди прокремлевских активистов не уменьшилась. Потому что не контекст красит человека, а человек — контекст.

Read more…

Matthias Meindl - «Мы перешли в другую эпоху...». Беседа с художником Анатолием Осмоловским об искусстве и политике.

ММ: Анатолий, мне интересно, как начиналась Ваша творческая деятельность?

АО: Я сам из Москвы, начинал как литератор, как поэт. В 17-18 лет, когда здесь началась перестройка и была объявлена свобода и гласность, я читал стихи в публичных местах, на улице. Но дело в том, что российский литературный круг в интеллектуальном смысле достаточно примитивен, и довольно быстро меня и моих друзей эта деятельность перестала удовлетворять. Постепенно я стал смещаться в область перформанса, а потом и изобразительного искусства.

Read more…

Шедевры русской архитектуры: Свияжский Успенский монастырь

 Во время летнего путешествия по Уралу мы – я, Александр Липницкий и Светлана Баскова – проездом посетили Свияжский Успенский собор. Собор этот известен сохранившимися фресками 16 века. В России совсем не много сохранившихся фресок 16 века. За исключением Ферапонтова монастыря кое-где сохранились небольшие фрагменты, да и то в крайне плохом состоянии. Фрески Успенского собора сохранились в большом объеме. Качество фресок выдающееся. В некоторых фрагментах видны отголоски «дионисиевого» письма.  

Read more…

English Русский