Category Archives: art exhibitions

Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music (Zimmerli Art Museum)

www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu

Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music

Ludmila Fedorenko: Untitled, 1989
April 20, 2013 – September 13, 2013
Dodge Wing Lower Level
Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University
71 Hamilton Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1248

This exhibition highlights the unique photographic, video, and musical innovations that shaped the Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg) unofficial art culture during the period of glasnost and perestroika. It presents for the first time photographers, musicians, and video artists as active members of groups, rather than individual producers, to underscore their collective goals as part of a larger counter-cultural phenomenon in the city. The eclectic body of material produced over the span of a transformative decade shared a common goal: to stimulate the audience’s imagination in such a way as to disrupt everyday social interaction. Photography and video were considered unique media, able to cross the boundary between the present and the past, and thus became an important tool for fostering a reflective process. Their documentary character was exploited to reveal the city to its inhabitants, connecting individuals to the rapid transformations of Soviet society, while opening an anticipatory window into the future. Works by 20 artists are featured, the majority of which have never been exhibited before.

Organized by Corina L. Apostol, Dodge Fellow at the Zimmerli and Ph.D.candidate, Department of Art History

The exhibition is supported by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund.

Related Programs
Art After Hours: Russian Art, Rock, and Film / Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Political Narration in Contemporary Photography and Film / Thursday, May 2, 2013
Location: Plangere Writing Center in Murray Hall, Room 302, College Avenue Campus
Sponsored by the Developing Room with assistance from the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University

Image: Ludmila Fedorenko, Untitled, 1989. Silver gelatin print. Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union

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developingroom.com

Photography, Film & Political Narration


This event explores strategies of political narration in contemporary photography and film. Discussion will focus on the practices of Dmitry Vilensky and his collective Chto Delat?/What Is To Be Done? Operating at the intersection of political theory, art, and activism, the artists’ work deftly combines photography, film, and audio commentary. Its goal is to bring back into memory events of the past that hold emancipatory potential for the present. Vilensky will facilitate a discussion of his practices, which are featured in the exhibition Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video and Music, on view at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum from April 20 to September 13, 2013.

Organized by Corina Apostol, this event is co-sponsored by the Zimmerli Art Museum and the Developing Room.

For more information:
http://www.chtodelat.org
http://www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu

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Filed under art exhibitions, film and video, Russian society

Chto Delat, To Negate Negation (Wrocław)

www.bwa.wroc.pl


 Nikolay Oleynikov, mural at the show Chto Delat, The Urgent Need to Struggle, ICA, London, 2010. Photo  courtesy of Chto Delat

CHTO DELAT
To Negate Negation
April 29–June 16, 2013

April 29, 2013 (Monday):
5 p.m. – Discussion (in English) with Chto Delat (Dmitry Vilensky, Olga Egorova, Nikolay Oleynikov), Jan Sowa, and Jakub Szreder

7 pm. – exhibition opening 
Awangarda Gallery (Wita Stwosza Street, 32, Wrocław)

Curators: Alicja Klimczak-Dobrzaniecka and Patrycja Sikora

Download press materials here


Chto Delat, The Russian Woods. Installation at the show Lessons of Dis-Consent, Stadliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 2011. Photo courtesy of Chto Delat

TO NEGATE NEGATION

Philosopher Georg Lukács once said that orthodox Marxists should not believe in this or that thesis, nor in the exegesis of a sacred book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. By method, Lukács meant dialectics as a means of analyzing and representing the whole of society as a totality of struggling contradictions.

To speak about dialectics makes particular sense at BWA Wrocław. Its architecture confronts the ruin of an old palace with a new modernist intervention, facing us with obvious conflicts between the classics and modernism, between the old functions of exclusive noble privacy and the modern public institution. The current exhibition responds to this living contradiction by presenting a survey of many old and newer Chto Delat projects in a specially developed dialectical display whose main point is to “negate the negation.”

All graduates of socialist schools and universities will remember this negation of negation as the third principle of dialectics, culled from Friedrich Engels’ Dialectics of Nature. What could this principle mean in art today? Confronted with a simple dumbly positive postulate of an artwork, the viewer reacts with a very basic question: why should I care? It looks like the artists are trying to brainwash me but for what reason? I won’t believe it, I’m not that simple; the characters are so conditional, it must be a Brechtian device. Why are they constructed in such a way? And why do they still give me aesthetic pleasure? Perhaps there is something beyond this simplicity? It is with such questions that the negation of negation begins.

We invite the visitor to a tour through a show where art works only communicate by calling one another into question, making complex things simple and simple things complex, as the work of negativity turns into the play of its own negation. But make no mistake. Art is never just a self-referential game. It always suggests further implementations and resolutions outside the gallery space in real life. As Mao once wittily remarked, “Theory (read also art) is the negation of practice while the opposite of practice is of course non-practice. In turn, only when theory is further negated in practical activity is a higher development of man’s knowledge of the world achieved.”

Dmitry Vilensky and David Riff (Chto Delat)

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The Dialetical Play of Opposite: About Chto Delat in the Institutional Framework

Chto Delat have embarked on a quest for a currently attractive, emancipatory potential of leftist ideas. Chto Delat strongly criticize the reality of contemporary political and social life in Russia, art institutions, and Western capitalism. Chto Delat flourish in the international institutional art market, operating in the convenient framework of the capitalist system. Chto Delat embody the dream of engaged Russian art in the Putin era, dreamed of by curators from the West. At the same time they rarely show up in the official salons in Russia. Each of the above statements is true: this is a conclusion one can draw upon a close inspection of the exhibition in Wroclaw, reading the numerous descriptions, theoretical and polemical texts, or studying the performances and documentation of actions published on the collective’s website.

To Negate Negation is a unique exhibition, as it is the first presentation of contemporary Russian art in the Wrocław gallery Awangarda after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is also the first exhibition of the group Chto Delat in Poland, presenting the whole panorama of its activity. As part of the show, we will find all themes characteristic of the artistic practice of Chto Delat, including, in particular, references to the Hegelian and Marxist dialectical struggle of opposites, inevitably driving social change. The title To Negate Negation already contains direct references to the terminology originally borrowed from the idealist dialectic of classical German philosophy, and specifically to one of the three universal laws formulated by Hegel’s dialectic – negation of the negation. In turn, individual projects of the collective shown in the exhibition relate to the dialectical principle of testing the reality which involves the disclosure of its existing contradictions, the study of the clash of these contradictions and the resulting changes, that is, in short, to the principle underlying the methodology of Marxism.

At the core of the exhibition lie projects commenting on the current situation, social and political events in various countries (Russia, Serbia, the Netherlands), petrified by allegorical methods and visualized primarily in film productions, the so-called Songspiels. The actors embody various sections of the society, represent various (age, professional, political) groups and their aspirations, interests and visions, as well as the existing opposition between them, building tension and conflict. Both these projects and other documentary and para-documentary recordings reveal interest in “classic” leftist work – the epic theatre of Brecht and Godard’s New Wave cinema. Apart from film showings, the arsenal of devices employed by Chto Delat consists of a few simple methods. Institutional space, annexed by the group in various parts of the world, is usually organized in a similar manner – by means of simple elements of stage design, reminiscent of home-made banners or mock-ups, as well as prints, murals, flags, posters and publications. These elements are often accompanied by on-site actions, meetings and discussions. Each of these devices is invariably associated with the language of propaganda and agitation, a message addressed to the widest possible audience. In each case, an institution turns into such a propaganda mouthpiece, becoming at the same time the (knowing) object of the collective’s genuine contempt. Yet the collective declares the aim of protecting the institution against the “economization, and subordination to the populist logic of the culture industry,” only to say: “That is why we believe that right now it would be wrong to refuse to work in any way with cultural and academic institutions despite the fact that the majority of these institutions throughout the world are engaged in the flagrant propaganda of commodity fetishism and servile knowledge. The political propaganda of all other forms of human vocation either provokes the system’s harsh rejection or the system co-opts it into its spectacle. At the same time, however, the system is not homogeneous – it is greedy, stupid, and dependent. Today, this leaves us room to use these institutions to advance and promote our knowledge. We can bring this knowledge to a wide audience without succumbing to its distortion.” Institutions inviting Chto Delat decide to play this game. This is the case this time as well. In Wroclaw, the game with the institution takes on another dimension – the game with the potential inherent in the relationship with the audience and with the surrounding reality. Thanks to Chto Delat the monumental windows of the Awangarda Gallery, overlooking a busy street, become stands. The gallery turns into the audience, and the street turns into a performance. There is a clear reversal of the viewer-institution relationship, ascribed to the building by the very architectural device of unveiling and glazing the top coat of the facade of the historic palace ruined during WWII – and, in this way, opening up its institutional interior to constant public view. The metaphor of game and the play of opposing forces present inside and beyond the institutional framework does not merely serve the purpose of turning the set relationship between an art gallery and the external world inside out, but rather of evoking a critical reflection on the observed reality, seen as a potential that can be offered to the viewer.

Patrycja Sikora

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CHTO DELAT (WHAT IS TO BE DONE)?

What is Chto Delat?

The Russian group Chto Delat is a platform that unites representatives of various areas of artistic and intellectual life: artists, philosophers, writers, activists, and social scientists. The group is guided by the principles of collectivism and self-realization. As described by its members, the core of the group is formed by a team of coordinators who cooperate closely with grassroots workgroups that share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality. Their activity represents the entire platform and provides a common context for interpreting their projects. Permanent activists of the collective include: Olga Egorova aka Tsaplya (artist, Petersburg), Artemy Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolay Oleynikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina aka Gluklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), Dmitri Vilensky (artist, Petersburg), and Nina Gasteva (choreographer).

Where did they come from?

Chto Delat was established on May 24, 2003, in the action “The Refoundation of Petersburg,” during which a group of artists, architects, and critics symbolically founded a new city centre on the city’s outskirts. Inspired by the pompous celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, the event was seen by the police as a disruption of the ceremony. Shortly afterwards, still unnamed, the group began to publish the newspaper Chto Delat, targeting the international audience. The name of the newspaper, and later of the collective, was borrowed from Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828–1889), a philosopher, journalist, writer, and socialist, who in 1863 published the novel Chto Delat, one of the creative harbingers of the Russian Revolution. In 1902, Vladimir Lenin referred to the novel in his pamphlet bearing the same title, in which he presented a new look on the problems of self-organization of work groups. In this context, the artists and intellectuals working in the collective see themselves, by way of analogy, as a self-organizing group of “cultural workers.”

What do they do?

Chto Delat actions integrate different fields of intellectual activity: visual arts, literature, journalism, film, theatre, philosophy, and political thought. Created with a variety of tools, their work is a collective action, which means that it has a common context and stems from a deep theoretical reflection. The group realises its principles issuing a newspaper, creating movies, theatre, plays, installations, prints, murals, performing actions.

Program

Chto Delat are preoccupied with the issue of cultural autonomy, considered from the point of view of the artists who can’t perform in the post-Soviet Russia and create outside the mainstream, but also who are active in Europe. The group expresses its concern about art, today often perceived as a commodity or an element supposed to provide entertainment to the audience, a part of a system in which museums and galleries are instruments of power having monopolised presentation of art, while they should be institutions that help art search for truth about the world. The essence of art is to create the viewer’s awareness, to develop forms of critical perception of reality, and to be a tool for independent functioning in the world. This is a public activity, so that no authorities or institutions should have a monopoly over its “distribution.” In their projects Chto Delat discuss how culture functions in the machinery of western and post-Soviet capitalism, showing the culture’s dependence on the money, state, and ideology. Thus the emancipation of art guarantees human emancipation as such, and the role of artists and intellectuals is to expose the current situation and try to define the optimal conditions for the development of free creativity. For them a way to achieve these goals is to return to the original ideas of ​​the Left and fulfil them in a fresh combination of actions from the sphere of art, radical thought and politics.

Where do they work?

Defying the Russian cultural establishment and politics in general, the group operates outside the mainstream of the art world at home, on its outskirts. At the same time, Chto Delat is a very active group, constantly present and performing in the countries of Western Europe, the USA, or Australia. However, the “activity” and “existence” of the group can and should also be seen in a non-material way. Theoretical work, publishing an online newspaper, online meetings and lectures are just as important as the institutional dimension of their activity. The group’s projects have been shown in numerous group and individual exhibitions, including Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki (2004), Museum of the History of St. Petersburg (2004), Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2005), Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow (2006), the 3rd Prague Biennale (2007), 11th Istanbul Biennial (2009), the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (2010), the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2011), Smart Project Space, Amsterdam (2011), Gallery 21, St. Petersburg (2012). The collective’s works are exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, National Museum Reina Sofia in Madrid, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, the Library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Chto Delat has participated in many conferences, seminars, open discussions, meetings, lectures, e.g., Documenta 12 in Kassel (2007),  Working Title: Archives at the Lodz Museum of Art (2009), and Former West in Berlin (2010, 2012).

Alicja Klimczak-Dobrzaniecka

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The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal (Minneapolis)

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Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, “Act 00136,” 2009. Neon sign, 31-1/2 x 51-3/16 inches.
Courtesy waterside contemporary, London and Galeri NON, Istanbul.



Karen Mirza and Brad Butler
The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal
April 18–July 14, 2013

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
T +1 612 375 7600

www.walkerart.org

The Walker Art Center presents The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal from April 18 through July 14, 2013, the first U.S. presentation of an ongoing project by London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler that has traveled to Canada, Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In 2007, Mirza and Butler found themselves inside Islamabad’s National Gallery, watching as mass protests by the Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement—and subsequent violence from government authorities—unfolded outside. For them, this experience became a dramatic example of the challenges that artists and museums face in reconciling aesthetic practices with contemporary social realities and political conditions. In response, the duo developed The Museum of Non Participation, a roaming expansive collection of audio-visual works, workshops, presentations, and other activities.

This April, Mirza and Butler transform the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery into a multilayered installation and evolving social space that situates “non participation” at the crux of the shifting allegiances, contracts, and “new deals” between nation states and their citizens. A selection of film and video works drawn from the fictional museum’s collection highlights the precarious nature of these relationships as witnessed through significant global events. Hold Your Ground (2012) intersperses documentary footage of demonstrations during the Arab Spring and Occupy London, amongst others, with the choreographed actions of a performer who both attempts to teach and struggles to speak. Direct Speech Acts, Act 00157 (2011) offers overlapping testimonies or “speech acts” from an actor, artist, and writer to reflect on the relationships between political speech and action. In The Exception and the Rule (2009), portraits of daily lives and public spaces in contemporary India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom reveal the continued entanglements of Empire.

Mirza and Butler debut two new works, the wall-based installation The New Deal and the opening-night performance, The Exception and the Rule. The former draws on the Walker’s history and collection to construct tensions between policies of the New Deal era and the United States’ role in envisioning the governing structures of Iraq during the ongoing occupation. The latter engages members of the Twin Cities community to interpret Bertolt Brecht’s 1929 tale of corruption, exploitation and injustice—drawing compelling parallels to today’s culture.

A series of short commissioned texts by Minneapolis-based and international contributors, published on the Walker’s website through the exhibition’s run, offer different constructions, interpretations, and definitions of non participation.

The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal is curated by Yesomi Umolu, with Susannah Bielak of the Walker Art Center.

About the artists

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998 with earlier works emerging from their interest in seminal avant-garde film. In 2004, they formed no.w.here, an artist-run organization that combines film production and critical dialogue on contemporary image making. The Museum of Non Participation was an Artangel project in 2009 and featured in The Museum Show at the Arnolfini, Bristol in 2011. Mirza and Butler’s work was recently shown at the Serpentine Gallery (London), Witte de With (Rotterdam), Kunstverein Medienturm (Graz), as well as in Transport for London’s Art on the Underground program. They were nominees for the 2012 Jarman Award. Mirza and Butler’s political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production.
www.museumofnonparticipation.org

Acknowledgements

The exhibition is made possible by generous support from Robert and Rebecca Pohlad.

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Disobedience Archive (The Republic), Castello di Rivoli


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Disobedience Archive (The Republic), 2005–ongoing. Installation view, Céline Condorelli, “The Parliament,” 2012. Photo courtesy Bildmuseet, Umeå, and Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin.

Disobedience Archive (The Republic)
April 23–June 30, 2013

Press preview: Tuesday April 16, 2013, 11am
Frigoriferi Milanesi – Open Care
Via Piranesi 10
Milan

Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art
Opening: April 22, 2013 at 7pm
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia
10098 Rivoli (Turin), Italy

www.castellodirivoli.org
www.castellodirivoli.tv

Curator: Marco Scotini

After Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), Nottingham Contemporary, Raven Row (London), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston) and Bildmuseet (Umeå), Disobedience Archive is presented at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea within a format especially planned for the Museum.

The curatorial project dates from 2005, when Marco Scotini planned a travelling exhibition of videos, graphic materials and ephemera whilst in Berlin. The exhibition-archive explores the links between contemporary art practices, cinema, tactile media and political activism. Planned as a heterogeneous, evolving archive of video images, the project aims to be a ‘user’s guide’ to four decades of social disobedience seen through history and geography: from the revolt in Italy in 1977 to the global protests before and after Seattle and on to the current insurrections in the Middle East and Arab world. From the historic videotapes of Alberto Grifi to the films of Harun Farocki, from the performances of the American Critical Art Ensemble to those of the Russian collective Chto Delat, and from the investigations of Hito Steyerl to those of Eyal Sivan, the Disobedience archive has over the years gathered hundreds of documentary elements.

The exhibition, which will be hosted in the rooms of the third floor in the Castello di Rivoli, aims to offer a wide-ranging synthesis of the earlier editions. With the new title of Disobedience Archive (The Republic), the exhibition will include the production of a large Parliament-shaped structure and the publication of “La Costituzione” (The Constitution) as a concluding phase to the entire project. The archive takes place in The Parliament by Céline Condorelli (b. 1974), with a contribution by Martino Gamper (b. 1971), while the wall paintings accompanying it are by Mexican artist Erick Beltran (b. 1972). Aside from The Parliament, two rooms serve as thematic antechambers: the first, dedicated to the 1970s in Italy, amongst others, presents works by Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Gianfranco Baruchello, Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Enzo Mari, Nanni Balestrini and Living Theatre beside documents by Carla Accardi, Carla Lonzi and Felix Guattari; the second, which considers the first decade of the 21st century, houses works by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Superflex, Chto Delat, Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Oliver Ressler, Arseniy Zhilyaev, Critical Art Ensemble, Rene Gabri and Ayreen Anastas, among others. Technical instruments, props and published materials produced by the antagonist culture of those years are also displayed in these two rooms.

Disobedience Archive (The Republic) is a work in progress reflecting on the various events as they unfolded, in which form and content vary with each venue. In this sense, the exhibition constitutes a sort of atlas of the different contemporary antagonist tactics: from direct action to counter-information, from constituent practices to forms of bio-resistance, which emerged after the end of modernism, inaugurating new methods of being, saying and doing. The archive is divided into nine sections: “1977 The Italian Exit,” “Protesting Capitalist Globalization,” “Reclaim the Streets,” “Bioresistence and Society of Control,” “Argentina Fabrica Social,” “Disobedience East,” “Disobedience University,” “The Arab Dissent” and “Gender Politics,” which joins the other sections for the Castello di Rivoli exhibition.

The archive includes materials by 16 beaver, Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA), Mitra Azar, Gianfranco Baruchello, Petra Bauer, Pauline Boudry, Brigitta Kuster and Renate Korenz, Bernadette Corporation, Black Audio Film Collective, Ursula Biemann, Collettivo femminista di cinema, Copenhagen Free University, Critical Art Ensemble, Dodo Brothers, Marcelo Expósito, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Rene Gabri and Ayreen Anastas, Grupo de Arte Callejero, Etcétera, Alberto Grifi, Ashley Hunt, Kanal B, Khaled Jarrar, John Jordan and Isabelle Fremeaux, Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, Angela Melitopoulos, Mosireen, Carlos Motta, Non Governamental Control Commission, Wael Noureddine, Margit Czencki/Park Fiction, R.E.P. Group, Oliver Ressler and Zanny Begg, Joanne Richardson, Roy Samaha, Eyal Sivan, Hito Steyerl, The Department of Space and Land Reclamation, Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis, Ultra-red, Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Trampolin House (Morten Goll and Tone O. Nielsen), Dmitry Vilensky and Chto Delat, James Wentzy.

The exhibition has been realised thanks to the collaboration of Open Care Servizi per l’Arte, Milan and NABA Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milan together with the Biennio di Arti Visive e Studi Curatoriali.

Media Partner: La Stampa, Turin

Press Office – Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea
Silvano Bertalot – Manuela Vasco
T +39 011 9565209 – 211
C +39 33 87865367
press@castellodirivoli.orgs.bertalot@castellodirivoli.org

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Yevgeniy Fiks: Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America (New York)

Yevgeniy Fiks’ exhibition, Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America, had been open all of one day before damage from Hurricane Sandy closed the gallery for 10 weeks. All the artwork from the exhibition was safe, though, and we are very pleased to celebrate the reopening of Yevgeniy’s exhibition with a party to celebrate the publication of his new book, Moscow.*

Yevgeniy Fiks
Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America
February 15 – March 16, 2013
Opening Reception and Book Party: Friday, February 15, 2013, 6-8 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America, our third solo exhibition by New York-based artist Yevgeniy Fiks. Taking its title from a 1953 article by the Cold Warrior and pundit Arthur Guy Mathews, this exhibition explores the historical and ideological links between anti-Communism and homophobia in the United States, as well as the intersections between Communism and sexual identity as it played out during the 20th century. Works in the exhibition range from dry factuality to humor, and farce, and posit the 20th century queerness as the shared Other of the Communism-Capitalism dichotomy, while tracing the uneasy yet tangible historical links between the early 20th century Communist activism and the gay rights movement of the second half of the century.

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The exhibition delves into the interlocking histories of the “Red” and “Lavender” scares during the McCarthy-era, when anti-Communist and anti-gay sentiments were fused together in the Cold War witch-hunt rhetoric. Pundits and government officials went as far as envisioning a sinister conspiracy: the Soviet Union is promoting homosexuality as a tool to destroy America. Concurrently, the federal government purged homosexuals that it employed, calling them “security risks”—vulnerable of being blackmailed by Soviet agents into working for them.  Ironically, in response to and mirroring its ideological enemy, the American Communist Party also purged known gays from its ranks—marking them as “security risks”—for fear that gay Communists were vulnerable to blackmail and could become informants for the Feds. The official charter of the Communist Party USA even before its 1950s anti-gay purge strictly prohibited gays from membership, adhering to the policies of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where homosexuality was officially criminalized under Stalin and stigmatized as a “capitalist degeneracy.”

Works in the exhibition include Stalin’s Atom Bomb a.k.a. Homosexuality, a series of prints that highlights paranoid anti-communist and anti-gay quotations from American politicians and pundits of the era. Another series, Joe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC includes photographs of a six-foot cutout of the 1949 Soviet nuclear test explosion RDS-1—codenamed in the US as “Joe-1″—posing, in 2012, at locations that had been popular gay cruising sites in Washington D.C. circa 1930s-1950s. The Security Risk Map of Manhattan maps gay cruising and Communist meeting sites of the 1930-1950s, presenting an open ended question about the “conspiracy” and overlap between the two groups.

Two installations focus on a particular historical figure whose life epitomized this ironic and widely unknown intersection of policies. The piece History of the CPUSA (Harry Hay) consists of a 1952 edition of History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster, with inserts about the life and work of Harry Hay (1912–2002). Harry Hay was a communist activist who was forced out of the CPUSA during the McCarthy era, and who later became one of the founders of the gay rights movement in the United States. The work Marxism and the National Question (Harry Hay) is an installation that consists of Joseph Stalin’s 1942 English edition books, Marxism and the National Question, in which Stalin outlines his definition of national minorities. This book sparked Harry Hay’s groundbreaking concept that “gay” constitute a minority—similar to African-Americans or Jews—and as a separate people they are entitled to civil rights. In a whim of historical irony, Hay appropriated the writings by the oppressive Soviet Thermidorian dictator and turned them into a tool of liberation, laying a foundation for the gay movement in the United States.

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the post-Soviet dialogue in the West, among them: Ayn Rand in Illustration, a series of drawings pairing descriptive text from Atlas Shrugged with uncannily complimentary Soviet Socialist Realism classic artworks; “Lenin for Your Library?” in which he mailed V.I. Lenin’s text “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; “Communist Party USA,” a series of portraits of current members of the Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and “A Communist Guide to New York City,” a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been included in the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2008) and Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007).

Yevgeniy FiksJoe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC (Monument Grounds), 2012, photograph.

BOOK PARTY

Friday, February 15, 2013, 6-8 PM

About the book

Yevgeniy Fiks’ newest book — Moscow (Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2013) — documents gay cruising sites in Soviet Moscow, from the early 1920s to the USSR’s dissolution in the early 1990s. Photographed in 2008 in a simple but haunting documentary style, these sites of the bygone queer underground present a hidden and forgotten Moscow, with a particular focus on Revolutionary Communist sites appropriated by queer Muscovites. The book concludes with the first English-language publication of a 1934 letter to Joseph Stalin in which British communist Harry Whyte presents a Marxist defense of homosexuality in light of its recriminalization in the USSR.

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UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE | $35 | ISBN 978-1-933254-61-6
Cloth-bound & foil-stamped | 104 pages | Full Color | 8” x 10”
Release Date: February 15, 2013

For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at:
212.643.3152 or edward@winkleman.com.

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
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Without Reality There Is No Utopia (San Francisco)

Without Reality There Is No Utopia
February 15–June 2, 2013

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103

www.ybca.org

Behind the phrase that lends this exhibition its title there are two thinkers: Jean Baudrillard and Andreas Huyssen. The former defined simulation as the creation of something that “has no relationship to any reality whatsoever,” and therefore predicted the replacement of “the real” by “the virtual.” Huyssen picks up where Baudrillard left off, positing that, since reality has been lost and replaced by its simulacrum, utopia cannot exist. Hence the title, “if there is no reality, there can be no utopia.” In other words, in the age of simulacra and virtual reality, the disappearance of the real also entails the end of the utopian.

In the age of information, actual reality has been supplanted by virtual reality, computer simulation and false narratives. Since the concept of utopia is based on the improvement of reality, the disappearance of the real also signals the end of utopia. Without Reality There Is No Utopia illustrates this premise by examining false narratives that masquerade as truth; the collapse of Communism in the 1980s; the recent financial crisis, which heralds the demise of capitalism; the contradictions inherent in geopolitics; and the explosion of democratic uprisings that rebounded around the world. The exhibition, organized into two asymmetrical sections, includes work by twenty-two international artists in photography, video, drawing, painting, collage and more.

The first is The Description of the Lie, a skeptical introduction to the systems, which fabricate the simulacra of the real. In this section, the artists focus on how truth has been replaced by media-constructed false narratives. Judi Werthein‘s work portrays life in a settlement in a region of Chile peopled entirely by Germans exiled from their country after World War II; and Dora García fictionalizes the paranoid state of surveillance generated by the Stasi in the former East Germany. Other artists in this section are Rirkrit Tiravanija and Lene Berg.

The second section bears the title Collapses and is divided into four sub-sections: communism, capitalism, geopolitics and democracy. As Huyssen aptly put it, “Utopia never dies alone. It takes its counter-utopia down with it.” Therefore, when communism falls it takes capitalism down, and as capitalism collapses it drags democracy along with it, since the latter decided to cast its lot in with the former. At the same time, the expansive system that characterizes capitalism also implies its geopolitical implosion. It therefore seems that we should seriously consider the demise of utopia as the great problem of our time.

Artists in The Collapse of Communism examine the conditions leading up to, and the aftermath of, the fall of Communism. The Russian collective Chto Delat (What is To Be Done?) encourages the viewer to critically engage with the events that lead to the demise of the Soviet system; paintings by Manolo Quejido were inspired by a trip to Cuba, where he asks, “What can we do right now with our desire for revolution?” and Ciprian Mureşan considers the paradoxes of history and memory from a post-Communist perspective.

The Collapse of Capitalism focuses on the effects of the 2008 world financial crisis, with the premise that this was the inevitable result of a system based on consumerism, waste and the depletion of the planet’s resources. SUPERFLEX Collective‘s humorous parody The Financial Crisis ironically suggests that the crisis is an illness that can be cured through hypnosis; and El Roto‘s cartoons, which mix irony, dark humor and sarcasm, create a stark portrait of the current situation in Spain. Other artists in this section are Daniel García AndujarJan Peter Hammer and Katya Sander.

The artists in The Geopolitical section examine the influences of colonialism and the West on recent geopolitical uprisings. Through a collection of posters, Zeina Maasri documents the civil war in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990; and in his drawings Fernando Bryce depicts colonial practices and their “civilizing” discourses. Other artists in this section are Ignasi AballíZhou Xiaohu and Federico Guzmán.

The Democracy section traces the effects of technology on communications, privacy and public assembly and their impact on democracy. Ed Hall‘s banners depict the micro-history of recent social struggles in England; Artur Żmijewski‘s videos of intentional public gatherings in various cities—Belfast, Berlin, Strasbourg, the West Bank, and Warsaw—feature playful and celebratory events; Oliver Ressler interviews philosophers, politicians, activists and concerned citizens, asking What is Democracy?; and Carlos Motta‘s photographs feature political graffiti on the walls of various Latin American cities.

Without Reality There Is No Utopia is organized by the Centro Andaluz de Arte Conteporaneo in Seville, Spain, where it was originally presented in 2011. Curators are Alicia Murría, Mariano Navarro and Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes.

For more information on Without Reality There Is No Utopia, artist bios, and visitor information, click here.

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ECONOMY (Edinburgh/Glasgow)

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Image: Dani Marti, “Good Dog,” 2012.

ECONOMY

Stills, Edinburgh
Saturday 19 January–Sunday 21 April 2013
Opening: 18 January, 6pm

Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow
Saturday 26 January–Saturday 23 March 2013
Opening: 25 January, 7pm

www.economyexhibition.net

In the 21st century the economy has come to provide the ground zero of our sense of self. But what does this experience of a life dominated by economic relations feel or even look like?

Two parallel exhibitions make the core of a curatorial project which examines why, and how, art since the 1990s has revealed the economy to be the axis of contemporary existence.  Presented at Stills in Edinburgh and the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow, ECONOMY features works by over 40 international artists including new commissions by the Austrian collective WochenKlausur and Scottish photographer Owen Logan. A reflective follow-up to the curatorial project, the volume ECONOMY: Art and the Subject after Postmodernism is forthcoming from Liverpool University Press.

Exhibitions David Aronowitsch & Hanna Heilborn | Ursula Biemann | Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz | Tracey Emin | Andrea Fraser | Claire Fontaine | Melanie Gilligan | Johan Grimonprez | Andreas Gursky | Kai Kaljo | Owen Logan | Rick Lowe | Jenny Marketou | Dani Marti | Angela Melitopoulos | Marge Monko | Tanja Ostojić | Anu Pennanen | Stéphane Querrec | Raqs Media Collective | Martha Rosler | Hito Steyerl | Mitra Tabrizian | WochenKlausur | Paolo Woods

Film Lounge Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler | Jeremy Deller & Mike Figgis | Marcelo Expósito & Nuria Vila | Yevgeniy Fiks, Olga Kopenkina & Sasha Lerman | Christos Georgiou | Michael Glawogger | Francesco Jodice | Ernest Larsen & Sherry Millner | Jesper Nordahl | Maria Ruido | Yorgos Zois

The end of the Cold War, represented by the fall of the Berlin Wall, generated a number of ‘turns’ in the context of contemporary art: turns to collectivism, to activism, to archives, to social bonds, relations and communities, to labour, to biopolitics and the document, to struggle. This restless quest for the right ‘tag’ has been one way of saying that contemporary art is, finally, becoming new. Navigating art’s current shift to materialist aesthetics, the ECONOMY exhibitions and film programme showcase strategies deployed over the past two decades to chart capitalism’s most advanced frontier: ourselves. The artworks presented—and often re-interpreted—illuminate the diverse ways in which our lives and sense of self are shaped by and through capital’s internalised rule, from our childhood experiences to the way we labour, play and make love or war.

Guided by a set of seven keywords (work, sex, life, enclosures, crisis, spectres, exodus) widely used in recent analyses of capitalism and potential alternatives, ECONOMY draws together a small selection of the many artists whose work attends to capitalism’s far-reaching transformation in its global moment. Paolo Woods’ photographs of Africa’s takeover by Chinese businessmen are set against Martha Rosler’s documentation of airport design as soul narcotic; and Raqs Media Collective’s investigation of happiness is a critique of capitalist subjectivities as much as Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s queer articulation of labour and desire. Presented for the first time in Britain, Tanja Ostojić’s devastating portrayal of the post-socialist migrant’s sexualisation meets Melanie Gilligan’s capital as pure Spirit and the relentless intensity of Anu Pennanen’s depiction of a Parisian shopping mall. Tracey Emin’s self-portrait with money complements Mitra Tabrizian’s City bankers of year 2008 as guilty or not and Andrea Fraser’s anatomy of art-world production values. Jenny Marketou’s children-art collectors share the planet’s future with David Aronowitsch and Hanna Heilborn’s children-slaves—a planet which Ursula Biemann and Johan Grimonprez find in poor environmental shape. These are just some of the ways in which ECONOMY artists have registered multiplying social divisions as capital has been claiming the earth. In doing so, they give us also reasons to think about the paradigm of art after postmodernism—one where proliferating forms of economic otherness have replaced postmodernism’s iteration of cultural difference.

The independent ECONOMY website is an integral part of the project.  As well as offering further information about the accompanying programme of screenings, public forums, talks and performances, the Public Forum section facilitates collective investigations into how we interpret our relationship with capitalism and the possibility of alternatives. Users can upload photographs to the Image Archive, exchange views on themes raised in the debate section and consult the material in the Reading Room. To see, hear and speak out, visit www.economyexhibition.net.

ECONOMY is a collaboration between Stills, CCA and the University of Edinburgh.

Curated by Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd: curators@economyexhibition.net

Stills
Saturday 19 January–Sunday 21 April 2013
23 Cockburn Street
Edinburgh EH1 1BP
Hours: Monday–Sunday, 11–6pm. Free.
www.stills.org

CCA  Glasgow
Saturday 26 January–Sunday 23 March 2013
350 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow G2 3JD
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11–6pm. Free.
www.cca-glasgow.com

ECONOMY is generously supported by The Association of Art Historians | The Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust | Creative Scotland | Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e. V. | Austrian Cultural Forum London | Goethe Institut Glasgow | Finnish Institute in London | Arts Council of Finland | Inigo | City of Edinburgh Council | Glasgow Life | The Nancie Massey Chartable Trust | Scottish Contemporary Art Network.

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