"Quartett", videoinstallation, Praguebiennale1
National Gallery/Veletrizni Palaz, Prague

Ekaterina Lazareva

What means globalization for the art world today? Does the redefinition of the spaces indeed go on and do the world "centers" change places with the "peripheries"? Can the cultures differences assist to the real cultural exchange? And do they lead at last to the total homogenization of art? Can communication contribute for "globalization from below"? Is it indeed necessary to overcome the isolation?

The art projects of the Russian artists demonstrate very wide interpretation of the Biennale themes. Most of the presented here Russian artworks show up the direct documentation of reality, others are metaphors, which refer to the global aspect of contemporary reality. The clue for the understanding of these projects, from my point of view, may be the concept of "alienation" and the attempt for overcoming it.

As a matter of fact alienation is quite a general concept striking roots in philosophy, sociology, psychology and economics. Though it probably has the most important place in the labour philosophy of Marx. Depending on the abovementioned contexts the alienation can be overcame in different ways - from psychoanalysis to revolution. Further I will try to undertake the interpretation of these artworks in the context of diverse aspects of alienation.

The "labour" aspect dates from the early Marx and is closely related with the industrial society. Moreover alienation is the permanent state for most of the people in industrial as well as post-industrial society. In 1990s capitalism have conquered even in the reserve for experiment (USSR), where the utopian construction of communist society was going to finish with alienation forever. But does this means that capitalism is the inevitable mode of relations in which most of people are destined to live with more or less comfort in the XXI century?

In this context "The Beauty and the Monster" (or "The scarlet flower"), Anton Litvin art project acquires particularly penetrating ethical expression. The attention of the artist is attracted by the absolute reality of the object trouvee and whole situation, which could hardly be invented purposely. The interesting detail is that the photo series has been taken at ZIL, the factory, which used to be one of the basic industrial symbols of the fallen Soviet Empire generated by the Marxist thesis of revolution overcoming the alienation of industrial production. What can become an alternative way for overcoming it today? How can people resist the exploiter essence of the Factory? Can their red flowers prevent another revolution or is it just the ultimate refuge until they agree to live mechanically as they work?

Can the contemporary man feel the whole measure of alienation like the hired worker of the XIX century? Its influence is indeed only increase - nowadays it accompanies not the labour only but becomes one of the main aspects of contemporary meditated world. The alienation of contemporary society becomes total when goods and spectacle replace the surrounding reality. "In the phase of "second industrial revolution" the alienated consumption becomes a certain additional duty of masses with regard to alienated production" (Guy Debord, "The Society of the Spectacle").

Andrey Ustinov offers a critical project addressed to consumerism and corporations and chooses the most odious object of antiglobalists - McDonald's. His series of comics "The Banishment from the Paradise" documents the real performance that took place in one of St. Petersburg McDonald's restaurants whish becomes a metaphor of consumers' paradise. Similarly as our primogenitors Adam and Eva were banished from the Paradise - the World of Possibilities where only Freedom of Possibilities was tabooed, so the artist is banished from the modern paradise when he transgresses the generally accepted but absolutely artificial for him norms. The merging of Bible text and the text of corporate booklet only reveals the corrupted nature of the laws erected in the consumers' society. Andrey Ustinov in his series of art actions dedicated to McDonald's ironically explores the phenomenon of globalization and world standards unification subordinated to corporate ideology. Probably, the experience of long-time pressure of the communist ideology in Russia exposes the ideologies of global corporations even more clear then the context of Western society.

Another aspect of social relations - the problem of Parents and Children or, more precisely, of Grandparents and Grandchildren - appears in the "Intervention", artwork of Maxim Ilioukhine who speaks about the whole generation fallen out from the contemporary world. His art project is dedicated to the world of aged people, born and grown in USSR and identifying themselves with this nonexistent country. This reality meets quite another - the so-called "virtual reality", the world of new technologies and communications, which creates new space-time perception and new digital visuality. As a rule these realities do not interrelate and coexist apart being very close to each other. The artist tries to overcome this exactly alienation linking both the worlds together. Besides he is engaged in creating the positive image of the aged man, which as a rule remains outside the visual culture of mass media, nowadays glorifying Youth, Beauty, Health and Wealth. In the old problem of generations' relations Maxim Ilioukhine underlines the similarities, which let the encounter between them take place in spite of differences in values, beliefs and ways of life.

One of the definitions of alienation in sociology consists in the specific moment when the man's creative activity is restricted and he's enslaved by the products of his own activity. From the other side, the act of creating an artwork presupposes the necessary alienation of the artwork from the artist. Probably this kind of inevitable alienation is not so total and dramatic. Can we find examples of non-alienated creativity in contemporary world? In this context the photo series "Creativity" of Georgy Pervov can be perceived as the attempt to grope for a kind of new primordial state of art situated on the walls, minimally visual but maximally symbolic. The artist documents the wall images (too simple to be called "graffiti") of the Moscow suburbs. He reflects upon the nature of this kind of creativity and notes that the cultural (or subculture) distinctions expose themselves at the very simple, rudimental level. And here we come to another important aspect of alienation.

It is linked to nationalities and migrations since "alienation" became a synonym of "foreign". This aspect becomes essential in the epoch of globalization, mass migrations and cultures interrelation. The problem of national alienation is quite important today even for the less conservative environment as the world of art.

Born in Moscow and living in Berlin, Elena Kovylina reflects upon the possibility of representing contemporary art by nations since migrations became customary in the art world. Which country should Picasso, Kandinsky and Chagall belong to? Do the contemporary artists traveling all over the world today preserve their culture distinctions? Or should they obligatory preserve them to become in the eyes of international community a kind of exotic? Or is artist a citizen of the globe, a cosmopolite who uses the myths and things he finds under his foot? Elena herself prefers to balance over the verge of two extremes without giving her preference neither to internationalization nor to nationalization of art. Though speaking on her identity she determines it rather as "post-soviet" then the Russian or German. Her artwork "Domophone" is dedicated to emigrants from Russia and USSR. Marking their "alienation" in the Western Europe context she thinks about which culture do they belong the most - many of them have been emigrated decades ago, many were born abroad from parents-emigrants. And this is about 800.000 of 3,5 millions of Berlin citizens…

The project of ESCAPE Program and the personal project of one of the Program's participants Liza Morozova continue the reflection upon the new reality of cultures and territories interactions and the communication within united art space. Both of the projects are executed in aesthetics and ideology of "non-spectacular art", for which the ESCAPE Program is the most precise exponent at the Moscow art scene last years. The "non-spectacular art" appeals to the criticism of mass-media, entertainment industry and culture production creating the imperceptible frame for the everyday life, leaving space for the viewer's activity.

Liza Morozova explores the paradoxical washing away of the precise limits of states and cultures, the disappearance of the "mainstream" and "marginal" notions. As the result the artist's gesture radically cancels the binary positions such as "peripheries" and "center" demonstrating their equality in the Prague Biennale 1 space itself. "The Multicultural Show" gives a poetic reflection upon the theme of the Biennale, which exactly becomes the subject matter and the context for the project.

The video-installation "Quartet" of the ESCAPE Program on the contrary calls in question the globalists' myth about the possibility of all mankind merging in total communication. Our inclination to see ourselves in the Other becomes the main communication obstacle. "I seem to guess why you're always agree with me. The reason is not even in your indifference, you simply hear only your own thoughts in my words and by that you condemn yourself to the everlasting loneliness". The perfect illustration for this message is a stringed quartet performing Beethoven while the visitors can hear Shostakovitch. It's not so simple to discover the disparity between text and image - it can be caught by the person who understand music, one of the most elitist art, or by those one, who can do a hyper effort. If the adequate communication and cultural exchange in our globalized world are still impossible, or they are possible at the cost of individual hyper effort, does not it means that individuals (artists) can really do this effort to overcome the alienation of cultures, languages, religions etc?

In conclusion I would presuppose that the big interest of the Russian artist to the reality of contemporary world let us foresee the direction which contemporary Russian art will take in the next future. The intervention in the social, politic, economic and other spheres is probably dictated by the attempt to find the new (or the proper) place for art in contemporary society. And for me personally the attempt to overcoming the total alienation of contemporary society seems to be a good project for art in XXI century especially as art seems to have all the essential means if not to overcome it totally but to make something constructive and interesting in that way. So, using the words of Osip Brik, "Forward! - to the overcoming of this alienation" .

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