Von Alexander Schikowski am 11. Dezember 2008 um 12:38

> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: Andreas Broeckmann <-berlin.de>
>> Date: December 9, 2008 1:39:26 PM GMT+01:00
>> To:
>> Subject: [spectre] <nettime> An Open Letter on the Russian 2008
>> Kandinsky Prize
>> Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2008 21:27:14 +0200
>> From: "Thomas Campbell" <>
>> Subject: <nettime> An Open Letter on the 2008 Kandinsky Prize (Chto
>> Delat
>> Work Group & Vpered Socialist Movement)
>> http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/an-open-letter-on-the-2008-kandinsky-prize/
>> An Open Letter on the 2008 Kandinsky Prize
>> We admit it upfront: we don't care much for the artist Alexei Belyaev
>> (Guintovt), and we don't care about him. His art is beyond the pale
>> of
>> criticism, and we have never had any illusions about his political
>> views. By the mid-1990s, he had already drifted into the orbit of
>> Eduard Limonov's National Bolsheviks, and he would later join
>> Alexander Dugin's breakaway Eurasian Movement. You do not have to
>> be a
>> political scientist to recognize these people for what they are: part
>> of a reactionary global trend toward ultra-right/ultra-left
>> nationalism. Belyaev's statements and artworks reflect this political
>> identity. His work glorifies violence, imperial domination, blood,
>> soil, and war. It does this in a consciously triumphal neo-Stalinist
>> aesthetic, mixing crimson with gold leaf to confirm its redundant
>> imperialist messages. Some members of the local bourgeoisie are taken
>> with this aesthetic. Fascism thus enters the salon-a salon we would
>> rather ignore.
>> [http://triumph-gallery.com/artists/Belyaev/]
>> We thus have no vested interest in criticizing the Kandinsky Prize.
>> Founded on the cusp of the recent Russian art boom, this $50,000
>> award
>> (with its longlist show of sixty artists) is a contemporary version
>> of
>> the salon, the institution that has defined art throughout the
>> bourgeois age. Initiated by the glossy art magazine ArtKhronika,
>> supported by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and sponsored by
>> Deutsche Bank, the Kandinsky Prize is clearly yet another neoliberal
>> franchise, easiest to promote with a servile, aggressively populist
>> local contingent. Its first edition earned at least some credibility
>> by supporting the beleaguered curator Andrei Yerofeyev and giving its
>> top award to activist-turned-formalist Anatoly Osmolovsky. But now,
>> as
>> the overall socio-political situation shows signs of changing for the
>> worse, the divided jury of the Kandinsky Prize has decided to include
>> Belyaev in the short list of its "Artist of the Year" nomination.
>> Belyaev, however, is a crypto-fascist. The liberal press immediately
>> picked up this scandal. Such scandals in the salon always play into
>> the hands of the artist, his gallery, his admirers, and the critics.
>> Most importantly, they promote the political views of these people.
>> We
>> do not share the rosy liberal illusion that the free market and the
>> circulation of capital can fully convert any kind of engaged art,
>> that
>> artists like Belyaev tame and defuse potentially dangerous
>> ideologies.
>> Instead, the market makes them fashionable among the salon's
>> novelty-loving clientele in a mutated, glamorous form.
>> Enough about Belyaev: he deserves the Leni Riefenstahl Prize, as
>> dissenting jury member Yerofeyev aptly put it. What is more important
>> is that this decision is acutely symptomatic of cultural production
>> in
>> Russia today. It is not that the curators and critics in the jury of
>> the Kandinsky Prize are fascist sympathizers, although "the jury's
>> decision can be interpreted as a show of solidarity with [Belyaev's]
>> position," as Joseph Backstein, Moscow Biennale commissar, noted. The
>> problem is that they are ultra-liberals. Their market utopianism
>> makes
>> no distinction between right and left, brown and red, fascism and
>> communism; it sees irony lurking around every corner to make
>> everything nice and normal again. "We didn't talk about the artist's
>> political convictions," says jury member Alexander Borovsky, head of
>> the Russian Museum's contemporary art department. Borovsky also
>> claims
>> that Belyaev's work is a distanced, playful take on the etatist
>> zeitgeist. But there is nothing playful in Belyaev's calls for
>> Russian
>> tanks to roll on Tbilisi, to execute the Georgian president, to
>> create
>> a "Greater Serbia" or to "liberate" the former Soviet republics under
>> the banner of a Eurasian (read: Russian) Empire. Most importantly,
>> there is nothing playful in his art. Much of it is propaganda, and
>> should be judged as such.
>> By airbrushing Belyaev, Borovsky proves that he is indifferent to
>> art's political dimension. It is this indifference that unites the
>> obscure "left-nationalist," essentially postmodern ideology of
>> Eurasianism and the pan-aestheticism of the Russian business and
>> media
>> elites who control the board of the Kandinsky Prize. "Let a thousand
>> flowers bloom!" "All ideologies are equal!" "Art beyond politics!"
>> cry
>> all these respectable people as one, thus legitimizing increasingly
>> overt expressions of genuinely felt fascism in the public sphere.
>> Their indifference is a form of complicity. This indifference also
>> extends to the non-Russian members of the jury such as future Moscow
>> Biennale curator Jean-Hubert Martin or Guggenheim curator Valerie
>> Hillings. They can always excuse themselves by saying that they are
>> not really familiar with the Russian context, and were not able to
>> participate fully in the selection of the Kandinsky Prize's short
>> list. But this "excuse" often disguises the cynicism of neocolonial
>> irresponsibility, when foreign experts choose to ignore the contexts
>> in which they plant the seeds of contemporary global culture.
>> The local context is indeed increasingly taking on an ominous form.
>> As
>> prominent Russian art critic Andrei Kovalev cuttingly puts it, the
>> presence of figures like Belyaev testifies to the "ruling elite's
>> rapid drift toward fascism" in a moment of crisis. This elite is
>> already deeply reactionary and anti-democratic, having accumulated
>> its
>> capital violently through shock privatization and expropriation. Five
>> years ago, it began using contemporary art as a means of civic
>> legitimation, establishing its hegemony over the more liberal,
>> glamorous side of cultural life during the Putin "normalization." The
>> recent Russian contemporary art "boom" is closely bound up with the
>> use of surplus oil profits, and expresses a peculiar
>> bourgeois-progressivist self-confidence that silences any doubts
>> about
>> the "bright and shining" future. In other words, the authoritarian
>> undertone has always been there. For example, when the first Moscow
>> Biennale opened, ArtKhronika's editor-in-chief Nikolai Molok wrote an
>> editorial entitled, "Everyone Shut Up!" in which he ordered the art
>> scene to suspend criticism and be thankful for what they had
>> received.
>> Now ArtKhronika prints sympathetic interviews with Belyaev. Molok
>> defends the artist's creative position, saying it "expresses the
>> tendency of state-building" with its search for a "great style." Does
>> he mean that, after the petrodollars dry up, Russian state-building
>> will consist of militarism and neo-imperial claims? Does the
>> Kandinsky
>> Prize want to tell us that a corresponding style of engaged art is
>> already a legitimate part of the Russian public sphere?
>> "Everyone shut up!" This is the result of fifteen years of Russian
>> society's political degradation, and the conclusion of the epoch of
>> transnational privatization. It has left society bereft of even the
>> most basic tools for critical analysis, democratic discussion, civic
>> consciousness, and class solidarity. We call upon artists, critics,
>> editors, and art lovers to boycott the Kandinsky Prize and to
>> distance
>> themselves from its model of valorization. We call upon anyone still
>> capable of critical thought to interrupt the fascistoid dreams of the
>> Russian elite and the apolitical indifference of those who follow in
>> their wake.
>> Vpered (Forward!) Socialist Movement (vpered.org.ru)
>> Chto Delat Work Group & Platform (http://www.chtodelat.org)
>> NB. The Russian version of this open letter, which differs in several
>> respects from this English version, has been published on the Vpered
>> website as well as the Chto Delat Live Journal
>> (chtodelat-info.livejournal.com)
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