To receive the award, the three young men that comprise [the PG Group] came on stage wearing ski masks, announcing themselves to be the Moscow representatives of Somali pirates.“The future belongs to people in masks,” one member of the group said, to a stunned audience. “Your fat-cat lifestyle will soon end and then you’ll all be hung up high.” “We’re not joking,” he added. Silence descended on the room, followed by meek applause.
—John Varoli, “Jeers, Cheers Greet Kandinsky Winner, Painter Beliayev-Guintovt”
On December 10, independent critics, artists, and activists joined members of the Vpered (Forward!) Socialist Movement and the Chto Delat Work Group in a picket at the Winzavod Contemporary Art Center. The reason for the protest was the fascization of contemporary art and the art business, as exemplified by the nomination for and awarding of the Kandinsky Prize to Alexei Belyaev-Guintovt, the so-called stylist of the Eurasian Youth League.
As members of the beau monde and the art establishment exited their cars and entered the auditorium where the awards ceremony took place, they observed with a mixture of unease, squeamishness, and curiosity a group of twenty some leftist internationalists who were holding up a banner, handing out leaflets along with the new issue of Chto Delat newspaper (When Artists Struggle Together), and shouting such slogans as “Art Is Beyond Politics, Fascism Is Beyond Criticism!” “Kandinsky Is Ashamed!” and “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom: Money, Swastikas, Crosses!” The “hosts” and guests of the awards ceremony nervously poked their heads out from the auditorium, people took snapshots, and a news crew from Channel One taped an improvised report of the action that is, however, unlikely ever to make it on the air.
Event organizers displayed tactical good sense: they decided that breaking up the picket would harm their business reputations, and this allowed the picketers to hand out as many newspapers and leaflets as possible.
Two VIP guests of the ceremony—thugs from the Eurasian Youth League—were drawn to the picketers’ banner, which featured the Eurasian Movement’s arrow-crosses, stylized swastikas, and the slogan “Kandinsky Is Ashamed.” After unsuccessfully attempting to seize the banner, the “Eurasians” entered into a political discussion with the picketers. They demanded to know how Belyaev-Guintovt and his fellow Duginites were fascists.
A reading of direct quotations from Eurasian Youth League manifestos and the published works of Alexander Dugin* made no impression on them, of course, and so the “Eurasians” renewed their battle to seize the banner. A long and fairly ridiculous scrum ensued. From time to time, the Eurasian warriors would scream things like, “He hit me!” and “He’s twisting my arm!” to the security guards. In the end, the rumpled Eurasians seized the banner and retreated into the auditorium, where they joined other honored guests in celebrating what turned out to be a brilliant victory for the Eurasian “stylist.” Meanwhile, the leftist activists continued their picket. They then quit the grounds of Winzavod. They left right on time: at the art center’s gates they ran into squads of policemen racing to the scene. Continue reading