Reflexive fetishism of Anatoly Osmolovsky

Victor Misiano

If to offer quite a wide definition, then the main interest of Anatoly Osmolovsky in his new series of objects titled «Untitled» is socio-cultural functioning of art: rules of production and consumption. Such interests might be alien to the previous period of the artist's work. His new role of an individual author, a producer of artifacts and a gallery artist seems to be also alien to his previous statements and declarations. This text will try to disprove these ideas.

As it's known Osmolovsky earliest work was an action titled «EAT - text». On the 18th of April 1991 a group «Expropriation of Art Territories» («EAT»), made a Russian word «hui» («prick») on the Red Square with their own bodies. At that time the group «EAT» made another action, in the Medical House, in a course of the film festival of the legendary «Nouvelle Vague». The members of the group went to the stage, approached the screen, trying to make a contact with the characters on the screen: the film was stopped. Both actions - what is ignored -were dual and supplementary.

By attacking the film performance Osmolovsky marked the exhaustion of insti­tutional functioning of visual product: by the action at the Red Square he suggested a new type of visual representation, adequate to the changed situation. After that this strategy became the core event of the 90-s and got a name «Moscow Actionism». Ideologically, the actionism of Osmolovsky appealed to neo-avant-garde slogans to overcome the borders of art and life. However, actionism did not reject disciplinary norms; by attacking elite forms of visual dis­tribution, actionism did not refuse distribution itself, but made a bet for mass-medial distribution.

In a similar manner having broken status qvo of language norms prevailing in art at the end of  80-s. Osmolovsky's  actionism  did not refuse language reference. The outburst of actionism towards reality was recognized as the work inside art tradition; moreover, as the work with tradition and not only reality. Consequently, the action at the Red Square was preceded by the manifestation in the Medical House as the exit into the reality was the main goal of the «Nouvelle Vague». Jean-Luc Godard put the appeal to break the borders of art conventionalities in the mouth of Belmondo's character, who spoke straightly with the audience from the screen. The exit of «EAT»'s activists to the stage, together with the exit to the Red Square, was an answer to this invitation.

It is symptomatic that Osmolovsky refers to Godard even today when he substantiates the poetics of his new objects; he cites the program thesis of the French avant-gardist - «it is necessary to make films politically and not political films». In other words, the artist identifies himself with the idea that artistic program should be realized not on the level of a topic but on the level of thematisation of an artistic media, i.e. at the expense of revelation of rules, typical for socio-cultural functioning of an artifact.

Such procedure was typical for the actions of 1991. After that the Moscow actionists needed to justify their works by topical context - «zoophrenia», «end of optics», etc. However, there, in the Red Square, that form was pre­sented just as it was, in all basic components - physical presence of the author, symbolical importance of the place, provocative character of the action, following public and medial scandal, etc. These components were presented in their basic structure; now Osmolovsky presents visual and plastic components in his new objects. The text written by the bodies of the «EAT» group near the Kremlin walls was so senseless that it proved that their main goal was not to present a new political manifest, but to present a new political method of art production.

However, very soon the group «EAT» broke up and Osmolovsky initiated a new group, called «Revolutionary Carriers», then «Nezeziudik» and later «Non-governmental Control Commission», and so on. This inclination to the group work and to the form of action was an answer to the situation of communication break in the culture, institutional paralysis, indefinite social status of art practice. If actionism allowed external representation and legitimization of art in the mass-media, then group communication and work constructed internal communication and legitimization. Those groups. Osmolovsky took part were not net communities (that were important for the art of 90-s) but mostly hierarchically structured groups of associates. Osmolovsky's understanding of group solidarity as a hierarchical community led him to the curatorial practice, to the leadership in the mag­azine project «Radek». to the teaching in the School of Contemporary Art, founded by Avdey Ter-Oganian. This adherence to the disciplinary principles in internal communities' organization recognizes itself also in their external strategy and tactics. Osmolovsky's groups cultivate classical modernist ideas of innova­tion, generations' conflict: («Generation Kills Generations»1), «competitive programs»2, etc.

Consequently, without disrupting his principles, Osmolovsky easily backed away collective work, when social justification and internal actuality of such kinds of works had already exhausted themselves and tried a role of pro­fessional gallery artist. Even before, taking part in dialogical projects3 , he never identified himself with their philosophy, and having contributed to the group work, he never dissolved in the Other. His personal exhibition in Marat Guelman Gallery in 1993 titled «My Way» was a vivid example of that position. Osmolovsky presented his author's status as a construction of disciplinary society, however, that construction was deconstructed and glorified at the same time.

Another example of Osmolovsky reflexive position in the system is a program of non-spectacular art proclaimed by him in the beginning of a new decade. That program itself is another example of the artist's sensibility to changes of socio-cultural art functioning: it appeared at the moment when resurrected institutions made the actionist strat­egy to be out of place. Non-spectacularity, i.e. the creation of group exhibitions, where the artifacts were unnoticeable in the space, means the problematization of the very fact of institutions' return as the show full of unnoticeable artifacts, represents the white cube as material easement. Besides, the return of institutions presumes the return of promotional tasks and, thus, a cult of spectacularity that was in the focus of critical pathos of non-spectacularity. However, inevitably, the subject of this critic was interiorized during this critical work. Contradicting hyper-visuality that conquered the society and bringing his non-spectacular visuality to the minimum point, the artist mobilizes maximum of the spectator's attention.

The series «Untitled» is a natural continuation of non-spectacular program, however, the focus has moved from expositional representation to another aspect of becoming Russian art system - to its market existence. In fact, these objects were conceived in the moment, when certain commercial mainstream was appearing in Moscow, thus, the phenomenon of commodity fetishism, known before only notionally. transformed into the fact of practical experience. As a result, creative and theoretical efforts of Osmolovsky are focused towards he creation of an object that refuses semantic obviousness and visual comfort, typical for commercially oriented art. He is trying to create an anti-fetishistic object, semantically encoded, visually indefinite, that is difficult to be identified with. Being exhibited in the gallery, these objects must become «extra objects», if to use a favorite term by Osmolovsky of more that a decade ago. New objects by Osmolovsky are as improper in the context of the art dominating most Russian galleries as the view of the vulgar word, done in the sacral square and a vision of an empty exhibition space. The main pre­destination of these objects, together with his previous works, are to extract the spectators' view from routine consumption of art product.

However, while analyzing the shock component of the new series of objects by Osmolovsky, one might find another association with the artist's previous works - with his old idea to focus a strong projector at the spectator, entering the exhibition hall 4. Osmolovsky's goal, both then and now, was not to deprive the spectator of the vision, not to turn his fetishistic desires but to correct them, to transform them into different reflexive regime. Like in 1994, during the work of «Visual Anthropology Workshops» challenging «the first who will pronounce a word», he was not going to abolish intellectual conver­sation but only to stop it and continue it after «the first blood» 5. In fact, I can witness, that after breaking the usual intellectual conversation, marking its limit by a radical gesture. Osmolovsky attached new dynamics and new dimension to the project.

Also now, by his objects that are not lacking some artifact's quality, he tries to add new dimension to market relations. If an art market is exclusive by its status, then the market of Osmolovsky's objects is exclusive inside exclusivity. His works are nothing but thematization of market relations in art and the symbolical representation of capitalism. Consequently, only the most reflexive con­sumers, realizing the rules of the art market and goods' fetishism should be the most adequate buyers and worshipers of Osmolovsky's new objects. One can also rec­ollect the words by Jean-Luc Godard: «lf you didn't like this work, it is your own fault – you just didn't manage to make a dialogue».

However, irrespective to the commercial success of these works, it is significant that these objects were created with a different purpose. Commercial quality has project character: rather then working for the market Osmolovsky is constructing its analytical models. The experience of his previous work shows that analytical sagacity allowed him to be the first one who defined new forms of socio-cultural func­tioning of art and offered an adequate type of artist. Having defined in 1991 a type of provocateur-actionist he left behind the Russian art and mass-medial situa­tion for several years. Now, the suggested type of reflexive market artist is not secured with the level of artistic sensibility. By the way, the Stella Art Gallery bears the same projective character as it offers a model of relations between artists and consumers, that outcome the standard borders.

However, in time, when reality catches up with the sug­gested standards, the gallery will be rewarded for the ability to outdistance the time. What will do the artist when his reflexive project is adopted by the market? Osmolovsky's way shows that others will get pragmatic benefit from all his creative revelations. At that moment he will be abscessed by different tasks.

«Generation Kills generation» - is the title of Osmolovsky's text in «The Moscow Art Magazine» # 3, 1994, p.2

This definition, acquired from Paul Feyerabend, was constantly used by Osmolovsky in the middle of 90-s.

I am meaning «Hamburg Project» and «Visual Anthropology Workshop» held in the Contemporary Art Centre (on Jakimanka street) in 1993-1994.

That was the opening of the exhibition «lmpudent, Insensible, Suffering from Delirium of Persecution...» in Regina Gallery, that was curated by A.Osmolovsky.

Ref. «Visual Anthropology Workshop. 1993-1994. Documentation of the Project/Project of the Documentation», M., «Moscow Art magazines», 2000, pp. 72-73.

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