An exhibition exploring social provocation and Westernization in contemporary Russian video art


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions



Nina Zaretskaya

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to present "Détente: Russian Contemporary Art in Video Format," an exhibition from March 26-May 26, 2003, curated by Nina Zaretskaya of Moscow-based Art Media Center "TV Gallery." The exhibition features recent work by noted Russian artists Oleg Kulik, Olga Stolpovskaya, Leonid Tishkov, AES (Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky). "Détente" invites a reconsideration of Russian contemporary art being viewed as esoteric or subservient to the West. A series of live events and public conversations engaging contemporary Russian art and society will accompany the exhibition. An opening reception will take place on Wednesday, March 26, 2003.

This exhibition presents the diverse contemporary art scene in Russia–more precisely, in Moscow–in it's first Post-Soviet decade. Referring to the "unofficial" body of texts on cultural issues and thus, inevitably, to the "unofficial" art from the Soviet Union in general, Ilya Kabakov pointed out that its "original impetus came from an understanding that the Soviet world, no matter how complete and finished it might appear to be to its inhabitants, was still not the entire world, but rather only a part of the surrounding human universe. In the same way, Soviet art appeared not as a river, but as a swamp drying up and located far away from contemporaneous artistic life elsewhere." (Primary Documents. A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s. New York: MOMA, 2002)

The collapse of the Soviet regime brought this understanding to wider circles (and not only artistic ones). Perestroika opened the sluices for the free flow of information to and from West and East. The borders opened. The illusion of Russia as self-contained and self-sufficient broke down. The artists faced a radically new geopolitical reality, forced to work in an open world. The reduction of strained relations within art, between the "official" and the "unofficial" art, which had existed in the Soviet Union for almost half a century, seemed to come to an end. This lessening of inner tensions and sudden openness to the outer world could be called a time of "cultural détente."

But other problems were soon to come. Now, looking from our 21st century on the last decade of the 20th, we see that the dichotomy of West and East still exists. Artists do feel and express this opposition. The world is not yet united. Russian contemporary art is trying to find its own way, wandering through the contexts of its national traditions and international challenges. The representation of Eastern European art (including Russian art) is still very limited and often depends on the choice of Western curators. The Russian art historian Ekaterina Degot made a very interesting remark: "The Russian artist perpetually finds himself or herself between the Scylla and Charybdis of two representational mechanisms which are switched on automatically and ruthlessly. In Russia, where twentieth-century art with its ideology of individualism and unrestrained freedom is still a foreign phenomenon of invested dreams, being a "contemporary artist" means to represent Western culture. [...] In the West, on the other hand, a Russian artist must inevitably represent Russia. Western curators are almost never interested in him or her personally, but in having "an artist from Russia", best of all a typical one, i.e., a representative one, particularly one representing the political reality, chaos and disruption." (Zones of Disturbance. Graz: Steirischer Herbst, 1997)

The exhibition "Détente: Russian Contemporary Art in Video Format", featuring the works of Oleg Kulik, Leonid Tishkov, AES (Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky) and Olga Stolpovskaya, is an attempt to present to the American audience a "gaze from there", a point of view on contemporary art in Russia of the 1990s, shaped and articulated in Russia within its own, often contradictory, context. Although circumstances did not permit the showing of the actual works by the selected artists, the presented video survey (compilation of tapes produced by Art Media Center "TV Gallery", Moscow) offers a comprehensive overlook on the subject. We hope this presentation will also be a kind of "détente" in the presentation of Russian art in the West, and will help to change its stereotypical perception.

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Nina Zaretskaya lives and works in Moscow and New York. She is a documentary producer and founding director of Art Media Center "TV Gallery" (1991), a Moscow institution responsible for the appearance and development of video art and the art of new technologies in Russia. Nina Zaretskaya has curated and organized numerous exhibitions including "Total Recall" (dedicated to Phillip K. Dick), "This Other World of Ours" (video installations by Young British Artists), and "Medium is the Message" (presentation of work by Nam June Paik), introducing contemporary foreign art to Russian audiences. Her recent show "Femininity's Redress," held at Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts, New York, initiates a multi-phase project presenting progressive Russian women artists to the Western public.

Oleg Kulik lives and works in Moscow. His exhibitions and performative events are characterized by 'strong' expression and social provocations, where he himself assumes the role of an 'artist-animal', or, more specifically, 'artist-dog'; at times, he becomes a bird, a fish, or a bull. Among the most radical of contemporary Russian artists, he holds a Scholarship of Berlin Senate (1996) and has displayed work at Manifesta I in Rotterdam, Holland (1996), the Venice Biennial (1997, 2001), at the Biennials of Istanbul, Turkey (1997), Cetinje, Montenegro (1997), Sao Paulo, Brazil (1998) and Valencia, Spain (2001), at the Modern Museum, Stockholm ("After the Wall," 1999), the Tate Modern (2000), the Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg (2002) and at the Freud Museum London ("The Russian Patient," 2002). His solo exhibitions and events include the main venues of contemporary art in Moscow (M. Guelman Gallery, XL Gallery, TV Gallery and Regina Gallery), Deitch Projects, New York ("I Bite America & America Bites Me," 1997), Galerie Rabouan-Moussion, Paris (1998), Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw (2000), and S.M.A.K., Gent ("Deep into Russia," 2001). "When we involve the point of view of different biological species in aesthetic practice, it will produce a new Renaissance and an aesthetic boom that is hardly imaginable today." (O Kulik, Ikon 2001).

Leonid Tishkov, a Moscow artist, works in different genres and media including painting, caricature, book arts, poetry, video and performance, developing traditions of absurdism and surrealism in Russian culture. [His work] is reminiscent of Kruchenykh's fantastic philology and his concept of "zaumj" as the manifestation of a spontaneous non-codified language. In that sense, Tishkov can be compared with religious sectarians who in moments of ecstasy speak "in tongues'." (Grubisic. "L.Tishkov. Creatures", 1993). Solo exhibitions include "Dabloids and Other Creatures" (Museum of Nonconformist Art, St. Petersburg, 2000), "The Crystal Stomach of the Angel " (Gallery Dzyga, Lviv, Ukraine, 1999), "Creatures: Objects and Video installations" (Contemporary Art Center, Nizhny Novgorod and Yaroslavl Art Museum, Russia, 1999), "Dabloid Theater" (Fargfabriken, Center for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, 1998), "Protodabloids" (Art Media Center "TV gallery," Moscow, 1997), "Creatures" (Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, USA, 1993). His recent videos were shown at the Hamburg FilmFest in 2001 ("The Air Creatures") and at the Bristol Short Film Festival in 2000 ("The Funeral"). Group shows include the Russian National (formerly Lenin) Library, Moscow (1993), the British Library, London (1994), Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington (1997), the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (1999), Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover (1999), the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (2000), Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, USA (2001), Queen's University, Belfast (2003).

AES (Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky; created 1987) is a triumvirate of aggressive and provocative artists intent on creating works, which might be considered as "political uncorrect," engaging themes such as violence, body, and Westernization. "Political correctness is too often a form of censorship," - they once stated in an unpublished article by the American artist Archie Galents in connection with their most famous work "Islamic Project. AES The Witnesses of the Future. The project was widely covered by media and shown, often as "AES Travel Agency to the Future", at numerous venues such as Neue Galerie Studio, Graz, Austria (1997), Festival Atlantico-99, Lisbon, Portugal (1999), SIETAR Europe Congress 2000, Brussels, Belgium, Jean-Marc Patras, N.O.M.A.D.E., Paris, France (2000), and Galerie Sollertis, Toulouse, France (2001). "The AES artists assume that they work in a world of totally deconstructed oppositions and destroyed boundaries where the polarization of East and West" which remained the most important ideological foundation of so called modern art (the art of the post-World War II period) "has been lost." (E. Dyegot. "The End of the Evidence," 1997). Solo exhibitions include "The Art of the Possible" (M.Guelman Gallery, Moscow, 1993), "Family Portrait in the Interior" (XL Gallery, Moscow, 1995), "The Yellow is Cooking, the White is Eating," Art Media Center "TV Gallery," Moscow (1998), "AES Nomade makes stop in New York", Art in General, New York (1999), "Le Roi des Aulnesa", Galerie Knoll, Vienna, Austria (2002).

Olga Stolpovskaya, a Moscow-based artist, works in multimedia, film and theater. From 1999-2002 she was a producer on STS (The Russian TV Stations Network). Her video "Bruner'$ Trial," premiered at TV Gallery, Moscow in 1998, and was then purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The script of "Bruner'$ Trial" is based on the true-life scandalous incident, which received international coverage. Russian artist Alexander Brener vandalized a masterpiece by Kazimir Malevich in Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. For painting a green $ sign on the canvas the extremist was sentenced to half-a-year imprisonment. "The Authors of the film made an ironic statement of the story, almost in 'Mr. Bin' style. Under the influence of their protagonist's action The European Union makes a decision to abolish the money. People are rejoicing and tear notes into pieces. If the film was out two years ago Brener had been acquitted of the crime for sure." (PREMIER Magazine, August, 1998). Olga Stolpovskaya's film "The Subscribers" received the Moscow Media Forum 2001 Award. Works have been shown at various Russian and international venues and festivals including The Anthology Film Archives, New York, Oberhausen International Film Festival, Germany; Video Lisboa, International Video Festival, Lisbon; International Independent Film Festival, Brussels; Kunsthalle Faust und Medienhaus, Hannover; European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck; Cortomola Short Film Festival, Bologna; Paralleles Kino, Drei Russische Filmnachte, Graz; St.Anna Student & Debut Film Festival, Moscow; Money Exhibition, Stockholm; WRO International Media Art Festival, Wroclaw; Moscow Film Festival, Moscow.

Associated Events

Slought is pleased to announce "Collaboration Between Two Worlds: Selling Russia to the West," a slide lecture and performance by Komar & Melamid on Wednesday, April 16, 2003. Following the performance, a conversation between Arden Reed and Kevin Platte on Russian history, myths and political art will take place.

"Making Video, Being Political: Russian Art in an International Context," a conversation with critic Eleanor Heartney and curator Nina Zaretskaya on contemporary practices in Russian Art, will take place on April 23, 2003.