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The Last Of Skomorokhs In memory of B.U.KashkinUmělec magazine 2010/2
Alexander Shaburov | in transition | en cs de ru
HE RUSSIAN FLUXUS AND WORD-OF-MOUTH AVANT-GARDE
Provincial geniuses are fated to die in obscurity.
That is why even at his home, in Sverd- lovsk, very few people know now about B.U.Kashkin (1938–2005), an abstract photographer, a conceptual poet, a performance artist and a lot more. The one who stirred up the minds of more than one generation of his countrymen and turned himself into a celebrity, that was famous in half of Russia during his lifetime (certainly not in the Russian capital, but beyond the Urals). All his creations were given away to casual spectators, his outdoor paintings have worn away, and the rest of his archives were buried in his studio, which has now been replaced by the brand new building of the Regional Bank.
But first a bit of ethnography; what distinguishes the ‘backwoods’ from the ‘capital’?
M.Grobman, in his History of the Second Russian Avant-Garde, clearly divides the Moscow artists of that time into those of; the “official” art, the “left wing” of the Moscow Regional Union of Artists, the true avant-garde and the rest of it—the amateur ‘unofficial’ art. He fairly admits, “Sometimes the significance of an artist would last only for a few years, no longer than that.” So in order to understand what is notable about one or another artistic biography, one has to undertake almost archaeological excavations.
However, the above-cited voluntary classification is not applicable to the city of Sverdlovsk. In the provinces there were no signs of the metropolitan segregation. Everything was primitively mixed up. Everybody would support everyone. All of them influenced one another. They would gather in the workshops, at the cottages and constantly portray each other.
The masterpieces were created not for exhibitions. Apart from the Union of Artists and the branch of the Technical Aesthetics Institute (VNIITE), there were neither institutions or galleries in Sverdlovsk; nor the ‘art market’; not even the Soros Foundation office emerged there in the times of ‘perestroika’. That is why the then ‘art’ cannot be separated from ‘life’. When I was in Moscow myself, I was amazed: why is everything not for real here? Why doesn’t the ‘dog-man’ Kulik run around his house on all fours and bite his wife’s, Luda Bredikhina, flanks?
“Everything we did,” my compatriot Zhukov (described below) says, “we did as arguments in our underground disputes. Where else could we place them? They would never expose this at the exhibitions! So, most of the materials were found at the scrap yard, and then got back into the trash. For we had nowhere to store our creations and they were absolutely “priceless”! Or we did like this: one would spit on a piece of paper, crumple it, title it somehow – and there it was! And where should this be placed? What was this?”
B.U.Kashkin even had his “theory of garbage”: how much more harmonious any piece of it (of the random unaesthetized reality) is than the one raped by an artist’s vision.
We will begin our tale about the Sverd- lovsk avant-garde artists with B.U.Kashkin. And here immediately bobs up a whole bunch of methodological problems.
I have called B.U.Kashkin, “an abstract artist, a conceptual artist and a performance artist,” just to brainwash the readers. I have oversimplified the matter. It is quite difficult to describe what he was actually doing. Firstly, no suitable and commonly used terminology existed in those days and I do not have the heart to retroactively call it “performances.” Secondly, B.U.Kashkin would be engaged in everything at a time. This was fundamental confusion of genres and non-observance of the borders (as in “Fluxus”). He would say: “One must do something peculiar, a step leftward or a step rightward!” Thirdly, he did not do anything with his own hands, and his anecdotal little ideas were implemented by his random gathering of casual assistants (anonymous and unprofessional). That is why externally this looks inhomogeneous and un-presentable; provincial conceptualism in the guise of neo-primitivism. Anti-elite anonymous works created collectively, with songs and dances. Moreover, as I have already said, they have not been preserved. This is why they have to be replaced by an oral tradition.
Anecdotes FROM THE LIFE OF B. U. Kashkin
“Bukashka” in Russian means “a very small insect,” “kakashka” means “a little piece of excrement,” (i.e. the artist’s pseudonym is an allusion to the line, cited or mockingly paraphrased, from “A Bureaucrat’s Song” by the Soviet composer Vasiliy Lebedev-Kumach, “Without a document you are nothing but a little bug/a little piece of shit”, which passed into general use just as a proverb in the Soviet times).
B.U.Kashkin (or K.Kashkin until 1989; the autonym is Yevgeny Malakhin) spent half of his life working as an electrical engineer at the Uraltekhenergo Institute (at one of the units of the Organization involved in the rationalizing of the public district electric power stations and networks). He went on missions to get going the heat and power plants and the state district power plants. As all ‘physicists’ in those times he was as well ‘a lyricist’. An amateur photographer and a rhymester. This future, “engineer of human souls,” after his graduation to full operational status, named his first independent development the “Adjustments Control Panel” abbreviated in Russian as “Pook-1” which means “a fart”, upon which his colleagues began to entrust him with making up thematic rhymed greetings for the superiors and titles for the hand-made wall newspapers.
In the 1970s he experimented with photographic materials–taking pictures of then-freethinking coituses and nudes, he boiled the negatives before printing or watered them with acid. The following anecdote has remained from that time: Once upon a time Malakhin brought a shameless couple into his basement ‘studio’. And they got so engrossed by their work that they forgot about the photographer. But then the model saw him out of the corner of her eye and said to her partner, “Hey, slow down, slow down, the man is working!”
Malakhin would splash around not only acid, the American ‘dripping’ technique was fashionable then as ‘action painting’ or otherwise ‘abstract expressionism’. By means of which the CIA was intending to strangle the fuddy Soviet ‘socialist realism’. Malakhin, wanting to cross the foreign forms and the native traditions, started producing ‘icons’–he poured the canvases with floor enamels (the ‘authentic’ paints which one could buy at the store). At the same time he cut out iconic abstract reliefs from kitchen cutting boards, on which he drew fundamental suprematist forms.
It was the common practice then. In the daytime the artists ‘sculpted’ portraits of Lenin ‘on request’, and in the evenings they pictured the iconographic scenes in their studios, “for the soul.”
Malakhin said something like this about his photographic experiments, “A classical photograph, as it is commonly supposed, is to be sharp, glossy and fine-grained. A so-called ‘photo artist’ is meticulously selecting the plot, focuses the lens, frames the image, reframes it while printing according to his taste and calls it ‘artistic photography’ ...It would be much more artistic to blindfold one’s eyes and go clicking everything that gets caught, without pointing. When he is framing, he pulls a piece, which he considers to be the only successful one, out of the infinite ideally organized environment. Framing is generally anti-artistic! One must shoot at random! I came to my friends’ workshops and used an entire film not looking in the viewfinder, and then I glued the pictures together in succession, as folding icons… Or exposed everything on one sheet, so that to make the ‘Photographic Black Square’… Then I began to boil the film hoping that the nature itself will do everything I needed. I believed that a technique could pass for an artistic method! But I was wrong ...The artist Zhukov’s wires, for example, no matter for how long he has been curving them, still remain a technical device!.. I called my boiled items ‘Haps’. And Biryukov, behind my back, called them ‘Mishaps’. I scolded him for that. But afterwards I started making my fold out photo books neater…”
Malakhin would hand out typewriters to illiterate children and then replicate the collections of their works. From his photo-books he moved to rhymes. In the 1980s the publishing house Kashkin’s Book which he established already as K.Kashkin, released more than 20 samizdat collections of poems (mostly with educational and environmental content):
If we take the number Five
And divide it by two, at that,
We will receive a Two at first
And a Five only then!
Later Kashkin’s Elements, Kashkin’s Words, Kashkin’s Proverbs and other books were combined into Kashkin’s Teaching Systems, Provided with the Appropriate Stereotyped Pictures (the Russian abbreviation of which “SOK SSSR” is also somewhat meaningful, it sounds like, “the JUICE of the USSR”).
However, none of the state publishing houses would print it. He sighed, lying on the couch, scratching his head and saying, “Well, they do not understand!”
I should remind you at this point that, in those ancient times, the unauthorized copying of texts was difficult in the Soviet Union. Not so difficult, of course, as they describe it nowadays. But the songs intended for public performance were to be approved by the special state institution Glavlit (the Main Directorate for Literary and Publishing Affairs). Copiers were available only in the closed scientific research institutes—only to manifold technical documents and drawings (under a special permission).
First Kashkin retyped his books himself on a typewriter (by 6 blueprints). And then the satisfying of Kashkin’s need for the publicity of his creations took a very original form. At some point he got tired of his daily guests sitting idly and began to give the kitchen boards (which he used for cutting out his suprematist icons) available in his basement to all the guests so that they could paint on them, illustrating his verses:
Animals are my friends everywhere,
I’ll treat a hedgehog to a pear,
The kind hedgehog will sit on a hill,
Cut a slice for everyone he will.
Then ‘perestroika’ came. The USSR collapsed—one way or another. This new life offered new roles to the former Soviet people; a bandit, a broker, a rock musician, an underground artist, a Krishna. Women could become ‘shuttles’ (hauling jackets from China for sale) or ‘Intergirls’ (the majority of schoolgirls dreamed about such a career). However, our citizens could not decide quickly into whom they should transform. Life splashed out onto the streets. The population would go rather to the political meetings than to the museums—in order to identify, “those promoted by the communist party apparatus,” among the speakers; and after this aimless wandering people would finally wander into B.U.Kashkin’s basement.
When the accumulation of the boards, ornamented by his guests became excessive, the invitations to take part in the first ‘left’ exhibitions rained down, usually including the request to read his verse. His throat, accustomed to crying out even in the years of the lack of publicity, forced him to resort to the simplest musical accompaniment, and soon around B.U.Kashkin there gathered, The Mighty Handful of cacophony fans. The innocent public would like to buy their favourite pictures, thus he began to give the boards away.
“My favorite saying is,” B.U.Kashkin used to say, “I never had, never have and shall never have money…And I never need it!!! Those are not ‘pictures; and it is pointless to pick out ‘quality’ and ‘substandard’ items, beautiful and ugly ones among them. They are all equally naive, as well as their texts. Take this one for example, “Ethiop Sergeyevich Pushkin/ more than anything liked the girls’ legs,” any poem of this very Pushkin is certainly better! The main thing in them is playing, giving the boards away, the fact that nobody wants to rack your money for the ‘art’, but on the opposite you are given a free gift! Moreover nobody is forced to do something. The pictures are given only to those who like them.”
B.U.Kashkin invented giving out his works regularly for the sake of illustration of his views, and in defiance of the views of his friend, the blacksmith Lysyakov, with whom he used to go to the banya (the Russian public steam bath) on Thursdays until they had a row due to their disputes on art. This was the time when the first cooperatives emerged; Lysyakov’s business prospered, and he would declare, “Art is something that brings income. Something that is done soundly and forever! Something tangible that could and should be sold!” But B.U.Kashkin would put forward a counterargument, “Art is not a thing, but an idea! An act of communication, a granted renewal of the world image in the mind of an individual having perceived this very art!”
In 1988 B.U.Kashkin organized the interurban artistic association Kartinnik (his own neologism which can be translated as A Paintings Maker) with no permanent membership. It happened incidentally. While composing an inscription for a board intended for a birthday gift for some of his colleagues, he came up with this title just to avoid looking for the necessary rhyme; it went something like this:
Bla-bla-bla… (I cannot now remember it exactly now) …as the birthday cake backer,
Get a painting from a paintings maker!
The anonymous members of the Kartinnik association (under fandangle pseudonyms) gathered in B.U.Kashkin’s basement in order to paint the boards with primitivist images illustrating his verse. And on weekends these works were given away to the first comers—those who responded to the songs and dances composed by B.U.Kashkin.
For this purpose the, Maximum Commu-
nicativeness Devices were developed (1989): universal texts, knowing the first line of which, any passer-by could join in and sing along, changing, for example, the last word, “I stand gaping and think: well, well! (now, now; yes, yes; peas, peas; bow-wow, moo-moo and so on).”
On his head B.U.Kashkin always had a cap with bells and on his chest he wore a board with the text which he composed himself: “I am a great Russian poet”. When asked by a passerby why he informed his fellow-countrymen in a foreign language, B.U.Kashkin would reply, “Otherwise they will not understand!”
The paintings were given out like that. B.U.Kashkin started to sing the text of his own composition, written on the board, in his off-key bleating (backvoiced by other kartinniks) to a balalaika and a tuba accompaniment. The text was something like this:
Lonely little crocodilly,
Lack of love made your eyes teary...
Are there any crocodillies here?
B.U.Kashkin asked after the chants, and the board went to the one who first stretched out his hand and shouted,
“Me, I am a crocodile!”
Two more examples,
“Hippies, don’t hang out and booze, / You will miss the TV news. Any hippies today?”
“Punks, do not hang out and booze / Watch polemic interviews. Are there any punks here?”
“A rotten apple fell down on the grass and it will not relive: / It is high time for me to die, but I’m still alive. And is there anyone here, it is high time for whom to die? Here you are, die well and good!”
“I remember how in the first ‘perestroika’ years the audience once got so into the spirit of it and responded so beautifully: “Me! Me! Me!” I could just pull out a board and they would immediately snatch it straight from my hands. I thought to myself, “How can I sting them to the quick?” I pulled out another board: “If you are the KGB informer / don’t drink much, be always sober! Any KGB informers here?” An awkward silence, “Well, what about the KGB agents, informers, is there any of them here? Anyone?” Finally one of them got the joke, came to me and said: “I am!” And a month later, lo, everyone was already able to get the humor!”
For the field representations a movable tent was developed on which these pictures were posted. From 1989 to 1991 Kartinnik toured over many cities of the former Soviet Union (Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Tallinn, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, Chelyabinsk, Perm, Tyumen, Rostov-on-Don, Cherepovets and others), involved about 500 people in their performances and gave away, it is estimated, more than 5,000 ornamented boards. They appeared at the festivals of the, “alternative informal culture,” and The Komsomol (the Soviet youth organization), in street theaters and documentary films.
Once on the Arbat, during a break between two punk festivals, a satisfied American tourist approached B.U.Kashkin and said cheerfully, “I guessed who you are! You are ska-ra-mo-khi!” (He mispronounced the word “skomorokhi” denoting “medieval East Slavic harlequins”).
Afterwards B.U.Kashkin began to call himself, “a punk-skomorokh”, and dubbed their gathering as, “a folk-punk-show-skomorokh-mix.”
In the late 1980s rock festivals were held almost every weekend in different edges of the former Soviet Union—until January 2, 1992, when the, “prices liberalization,” was held. Goods and products immediately disappeared from the shelves, and the prices for air tickets went up like a rocket. The rock festivals would now invite only those performers who would fill entire stadiums. But the Sunday performances of B.U.Kashkin continued in the public garden near the Sverdlovsk Central Department Store (in summer) and at the ‘informal’ exhibition located at 11 Lenin str. (in winter). And then the intellectual stir caused by ‘perestroika’ was finally over, all the former idlers were busy now, nobody would come to B.U.Kashkin’s basement on Sundays, and the performances faded away.
In September 1992 the first basement, which used to shelter B.U.Kashkin, was razed to the ground, and B.U.Kashkin, in order to meet the image of the perestroika artist created by the mass mythology, quit the engineer’s position and started to work as a street cleaner. But he would not settle down there either. He began to arrange exhibitions, “for the birds,” in the territory, “under his jurisdiction.” Soon, the new unnamed volunteers of the movement, The People’s Street Cleaners of Russia that he invented began to paint the trash cans, the fences and garages with commandments about the need to observe outer and inner cleanliness,
“Don’t champ, my boy, don’t champ, my girl,
You are not young pigs, and that is all!”
The son of B.U.Kashkin,
“It was in 1992. What did he do? At his work at Uraltekhenergo he wrote an application to be shifted to a cleaner. From the position of the leading engineer! A wild step, nobody could understand why he did this. I helped him before school, I came at 7.00 am and after 8.00 am I left for school, and then I came again in the evening ... And we shoveled the snow with all of our might, but not as smart people would have done—only a path to the director’s car... We first shoveled the snow along the path by which the workers went to the disposal dump. Naturally, all my friends (who worked there) said, “Do think with your heads! Normal people would first clean around the Director’s, and let it all get frozen at the backyard!” The ruble got terribly devaluated then, it was mixed with the external economies, and they all just thought about the money... The departments were transferred to self-support, but my father could not go on business trips already because of his health condition. But nobody cared now; they cared only for their own survival... This was what he ran away form, I think! He had tolerated the ‘communism’, but he could not stand the ‘capitalism’. And unlike in the previous times when he had always tried to stand out, to look trendy, he would now look totally ascetic. He decided: I would look as a complete negation of that capitalism. Of those ‘New Russians’ with leather pochettes… Our scrap yard was terrible, for it was located right beside the workshop—some pig iron, scrap metal all around... But it took us two or three days to sort it out, to arrange it ideally and to start decorating it—so far just refreshing the paint. And suddenly an idea stroke him: we would take those rusty iron sheets home now, paint them at home, then bring them back to the scrap yard and hang them out. And even more than that—we would start painting the scrap containers! Of course, all his friends from Uraltekhenergo would say: “Well, what’s that?!” Then he made the next step. He began to drum up his friends to the scrap yard every morning. We bought meat or chicken from our own money, marinated it in a three-liter jar, then we did some sweeping-and-painting, and then we invited everyone to the barbeque. At the scrap yard! And it so happened that all the chief engineers went to the scrap yard to talk to Malakhin (they did not know who B.U.Kashkin was, my farther still was Malakhin for them) ... To talk to Malakhin, to eat barbecued meat and to watch our artistry. Thus he turned it the other way around. That enterprise thinking only about ‘thousands’... Those cleaners sweeping the paths only for the superiors...”
“We differ from the current avant-garde post-modernist artists,” B.U.Kashkin explained, “because they want to turn the museum into a scrap yard, while we want to turn the scrap yard into a museum! The scrap yard is the indicator of the social changes in the country, the indicator of the level of civilization! The Art belongs to the people in our country, thus we are painting the scrap containers in order to bring this very ‘art’ closer to the people, so that it was pleasant to throw something in it, to take something out of it...”
The life of B.U.Kashkin may serve as an illustration for the treatise by Leo Tolstoy’s What is Art? “An artist of the future will live an ordinary life of ordinary people, doing some job for the living. As for the fruits of that supreme spiritual force, which passes through him, he will seek to give them to as many people as possible. The artist of the future will understand that to compose a short fairy-tale, a short song, which will touch people, a riddle, a joke, which will make them laugh, to draw a small picture which will delight children and adults, is incomparably more important and fruitful than to compose a novel or a symphony...”(1897-1898).
But thIS IS not ALL yet
As it is known, the Ural land is rich with nuggets, and the Sverdlovsk avant-garde life did not end with B.U.Kashkin.
In 1964-1974 right here, in the Uktus district there existed the Uktus School (Anna Tarshis, Ry-Nikonova, Valery Dyachenko, Sergey Sigey, Yevgeny Arbenev and Aleksandr Galamaga) who invented ‘conceptualism’ independently. The first ‘conceptual’ picture in the USSR Whose Cloud Is That? (1965) by Valery Dyachenko represented the actual cloud and the inscription by which it was titled. According to Anna Tarshis it was, “the second coming of conceptualism on the Russian soil,” (the first coming is associated with the poet A. Chicherin’s works at the beginning of the century; and for the third time it was the Moscow Conceptualism of the late 1970s). According to the local legend it was the very Anna Tarshis, who, having arrived in Moscow, told the artist Ilya Kabakov about this term, quite an extraordinary one in those days, in order to specify his unnamed searches. Later Tarshis and Sigey moved to the town of Yeysk, and then they moved to Germany. They were engaged in visual poetry, published The Number and Transponans journals.
Yevgeny Arbenev, in May of 1973, learned that his mother, due to some unexpected health trouble, would live no longer than a year, and started clocking the remaining moments of his life with her. The diagnosis was proved to be wrong, but Arbenev—during the last 25 years—did not cease to keep his per-minute diary, meticulously marking every occurring meal, or taking of medication, shopping, changing the linen, meetings, dreams and other physiological functions of the body,
Fried sausage—4 slices
“Borodino” black bread—2 slices
“Mustard” white bread—2 slices
He does not believe in any aesthetic value of this idea, but agrees with its future scientific interest, one can see how people lived the 20th century, what they ate and so on.
For the Experimental Art Exhibition held in 1987 Arbenev brought, “The samples of unrecycled glassware,” the jars left from the Bulgarian canned vegetables which had accumulated in his balcony, explaining that since they had not been accepted as recyclables, he would exhibit them here.
Valery Dyachenko—the aforementioned founder of Soviet ‘conceptualism’, the organizer of the first exhibition in Sverdlovsk in 1987 without the sanction of the exhibition committee under the Communist Party City Committee, which was obligatory at those times (something like the 17th Youth Exhibition in Moscow); he invited all willing, “non-formals,” to participate in it, and later they formed the 31 Surikov Street Association. In 1992-93 Dyachenko, like the majority of unemployed artists, turned into an icon-painter but was expelled from the restored Verkhoturye Monastery for his liberal interpretations of the iconography canons. He failed to restrain himself and organized his own innovative school, as usual. Having been expelled, he would go even further and paint one and the same plot for the last years; he would place naturalistically looking vaginas from dirty magazines in lozenges (Mandorlas) and decorate the edges with tetragrammas. The quarrelsome pensioners were then concerned primarily with their physical survival, so the police did not file any statements of, “offended religious feelings,” at that time.
Nikolay Fedoreyev (1943-1996), a decorator, who manufactured the large-scale sots-art objects and spatial structures from fence pales colored with nitrocellulose enamel. Anticipating the threat of nationalism, he would litter the floors with spawning Nazi swastikas or hang oversized bomb disposal digging tools on the walls (after the events of 1990 in Tbilisi). In 1988, when it was ‘democratization’ time already, the local Department of Culture and the leader of the ‘Democratic platform’, invited by them, Gennady Burbulis (the future secretary of state), demanded to remove Fedoreyev’s work The Communist Boris Yeltsin from the exhibition regularly held by the 31 Surikov Street Association members. It was a 2m high wall-mounted plywood box depicting the then disgraced first secretary of the Moscow Communist Party City Committee. Fedoreyev replied, “I was born in the USSR, studied in the Soviet school, have worked on construction sites of the Soviet economy from such and such a year, and therefore I consider it absurd that my works are accused of any anti-Sovietism!”
Nick was more than a sensible man, so I was very surprised when during one of the last meetings he began telling me about the insufficient number (in the dashing 1990s) of urban public toilets. None of Fedoreyev’s objects remained.
Vladimir Zhukov is my compatriot form the town of Berezovsky, Sverdlovsk Oblast. Zhukov was a professional shaper who dreamed, of course, of being an independent sculptor. He had already planned all his future life and all his accomplishments till he was one hundred years old, but then he happened to be in Moscow in the studio of the sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, and saw the statue, which he himself planned to sculpture at the age of 60. Then he turned around; and found the sculpture, which he intended to make only when he was about 80. And then Zhukov decided that he would not do sculptures any longer, because Neizvestny had already created everything that he wanted to create.
Having arrived home and thinking over what he was going to do next, Zhukov divided all the possible art into, “emotional and speculative,” and engaged in the second-half. His first achievements were the minimalist objects made from sheets of tin, depicting the simplest actions: cutting, bending, piercing, twisting and lacing (Metal Plastics, 1985). They were followed by the objects made of glass, demonstrating its transparency (Invisibles, 1985). After that, the artist Zhukov decided that it was even easier to spread on the floor ready-made bricks, painted white and black for more meaningfulness (1986). At the same time these objects were exhibited in Moscow at the Exhibition Hall at Kashirka, some of them remained in the Andrei Yerofeyev’s collection in the Tsaritsyno Museum. However, since Zhukov was not known in the capital, Andrei Yerofeyev could have lost them.
Later Zhukov would still further simplify his creations; for example, on his way to the studio he found a box spring from a tubular bed, and welded a piece of metal grating and some other piece of scrap metal to it. Just in the same way as Dima Gutov does it now. The next series consisted of plywood sheets with wood sticks bolted to them with wire, or with a metal rope provided with a humorous caption (3,493,857 7 m on the way to the Sun, 1993). Zhukov called it “occasional art” (form the Latin word “occasionalis” meaning “random”).
Zhukov strived to make everything with his own hands. His wife asked him to buy a cupboard for the kitchen, and he, without thinking twice, knocked up this cabinet himself and even painted it with white paint.
“It’s just left to saw out a hole at the bottom,” his wife complained, “and it will be the spit and image of a loo!”
She divorced from him and immediately married some Swedish pensioner whom she found through the internet. And what do you think? I arrive in Sverdlovsk and ask: where is Zhukov? In Sweden, they respond, at his ex-wife's house. She is travelling with her new husband, and Zhukov lives at their place for months, watching the house. And when they come back, both husbands boat together to fish:
“I cannot say a word in Swedish,” Zhukov laughs, “and he cannot say a thing in Russian!”
But that is still not all
The Sverdlovsk ‘perestroika’ youth was also nuts.
Take for example, the translator Aleksandr Vernikov, who would go without a coat in winter and wear a fur coat in summer—in order to make winters warmer and summers, respectively, cooler.
Or his friend, the poet Vadim Mesyats, who, with a similar purpose, collected rain in jars and then mixed them up to achieve unpredictable climate changes (1986). Vadim Mesyats’s dad was the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, so his son, having time and the needed facilities, started, “mixing the sacred soils.” He transported water from the White Sea to the Black Sea—and the Cold War was immediately over. He moved flowers from the grave of Chaadayev (Venice) to the grave of Brodsky (ibid.)—and it snowed in Moscow. He moved stones from the Mountain of Moses (where Yahweh agreed with Moses about the 12 Commandments) first to Stonehenge, and then to the Namo-Buddha Monastery (in Nepal, where the Buddha fed a tigress with his own flesh)—and on the same day a shoe was thrown at the U.S. President Bush!
Or another poet, Sandro Moksha, whose real name was Aleksandr Shmakov (1952-1997). His poems were schizophrenic jumbles of words. But when ‘informal’ exhibitions emerged, Moksha moved in with the artists—he began to disassemble the available home appliances to their components and bind them together in bizarre assemblages with the help of a sealant. Once his friends lost the poet Moksha—they failed to reach him by phone. Alarmed, they went to his place. It turned out that in his search for material for his crafts he had disassembled his telephone too! And six months later Moksha had really gone ... As it turned out later, that he was taken to the woods and killed because of his apartment.
Or a lecturer of the Sverdlovsk Institute of Architecture Sasha Golizdrin, who stripped naked at somebody else’s exhibition in the institute’s gallery, after which he was fired! Then he called the fans of his work to the foundation pit at the suburbs, undressed again and declared himself the Ichthyander of the Sverdlovsk Botanic Garden District (Ichthyander is a fictional character from the book by A. Belyayev The Amphibian Man who had the ability to freely reside under water). He dumped a canister of half-dead breams at the bottom of the pit, caught one of them with his teeth, and then (keeping in mind the glory of the Moscow artist Kulik) attempted to copulate with the beam. The TV news block with the naked Golizdrin was sent for porn attribution, but the experts concluded, “The purpose of pornography is sexual excitement, and the imitation of sexual intercourse with fish cannot provoke it.” (1998).
Well, and so on and so forth. What is the outcome?
Once I was called in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to participate in the exhibition Maslov and others. Maslov was the local forerunner of the entire Central Asian avant-gardism, who turned even his own death into a project. The Bishkek guys were pestering us with the question, “What should we do? Maslov is everything for us here, but he is unknown to ‘the history of the world art’. How could we nest him in there? So that to combine our and their ideas?” Impossible. The “Single Art History” does not exist. Those who loved Maslov should continue to do so. And should not buy into, say, the Damien Hirst brand. No matter how much it might cost.
And this is what we do.