03 August, 2005

moscow biennale

A scandal has broken out at the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, as a group of Christian activists have lodged a suit with the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office against the organizers of a display that allegedly incites religious hatred, a crime punishable under Article 282 of the Russian Penal Code. According to the plaintiffs, the exhibits particularly offensive to the Christian faith include a video showing an effigy of Christ against a series of commercials and a performance involving the recital of sacrilegious poems, with a Crucifixion painting (The Sun of Truth, Love, and Grace) used as the backdrop. When speaking to the press, Marat Gelman, an established Moscow gallery owner and the curator of the highly charged exhibition, denied any impropriety, describing the show as «absolutely tolerant.» «There are no grounds whatsoever for opening a criminal case. But should such a case be initiated, I’m sure we’ll win it in court,» Gelman said. ....
Artists breaking taboos hardly make any headlines in Paris or New York these days, whereas in Russia, any controversial arts event may create a scandal, bringing its organizer to the attention of the judiciary as well as the media. In 1991, Russian designer Anatoly Osmolovsky and associates from the ETI group used their own bodies as letters to «write» an obscene word on Red Square, right across Lenin’s Mausoleum. Three years later, artist Alexander Brener staged an act of public defecation in front of a Van Gogh painting in Moscow’s Pushkin Art Museum. He entitled his performance «Plagiarism.» In 1995, another Russian artist, Oleg Kulik, distinguished himself as a dog impersonator. Standing naked on all fours in an exhibition hall of Zurich’s Kunsthaus, he attacked and bit onlookers. That same year, a Moscow gallery, Regina, staged the public slaughter of a piglet. The poor animal was cut up, packaged, and distributed among the visitors. The act was called «A Piglet’s Treats.» More controversial still was a performance in Moscow’s Dar gallery, where visitors were offered to partake of a cake representing the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin. The life-size figure of Lenin was cut into slices, and the visitors ate it up before television cameras. All those art events were far from low-key, but none proved scandalous enough to arouse public outrage their authors had wanted. The emerging post-Soviet society just did not know how to respond to such previously unheard-of violations of long-standing taboos.
from: Kitsch a la Russe: from public defecation to sacrilege // Anatoly Korolyov, RIA Novosti 02 February 2005 more readings on the moscow biennale
More seriously, the Russian State University for the Humanities has organized a series of exhibitions of works by underground Soviet artists who worked outside the confines of officially accepted art in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Because their works could not be exhibited publicly, the artists showed them in their apartments and studios.
you've got to admire a biennale whose venues include people's apartments
(viewing by appointment)
but moscow in february! no thanks

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