Tag Archives: Stalinism

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
t: 212.643.3152
www.winkleman.com

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, feminism, gay rights, political repression, Russian society

The Jet Set Junta

Buzz, buzz, go the brass electrodes as the flesh begins to peel…

OpenSpace.Ru
May 5, 2011
The Putin Style
Gleb Napreenko

Once, as I was walking along the Arbat after a discussion of Lacan’s ideas on the inevitable splitting of the human subject, I looked up and saw an enormous banner. In counterpoint to my own thoughts, the characters represented on the banner were marked by a perfect wholeness — and an equally perfect deadness.

A young man and young woman, both of them blond and beautiful, stand against a backdrop of neoclassical architecture. The girl is a figure skater, the boy, a snowboarder, and behind each of them is a snow-white sculpture of the appropriate sex, engaged in the corresponding sport. These statues as it were complete the mission of transforming man into cold, sterile perfection. Snow-capped mountain peaks are visible on the horizon.

There are many of these banners in Moscow now. They are part of the advertising campaign for Gorki Gorod, a resort town under construction in Krasnaya Polyana for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The project is a public-private partnership: Sberbank has a 25% stake in the project, and its partners include the cities of Krasnodar and Sochi.  The advertisement was executed by Doping-Pong, a Petersburg “art group” (this is how they identify themselves). Doping-Pong is primarily a group of designers who work on commission, but they see themselves as major artists and adherents of Petersburg neoacademism. As Dmitry Mishenin, the group’s leader, told me, “Doping-Pong are in fact neoclassicists, the genuine heirs of beauty in Russian art.” Neoacademism’s fatal seriousness almost reaches the level of the grotesque in this conceit. However, as Mishenin himself admits, Timur Novikov, the leader of neoacademism, “cursed [him, Mishenin] before his death [in 2002].”

As everyone knows, the entourage of the president and prime minister are from Petersburg. Judging by new construction in Strelna [a suburb of Petersburg whose pompously restored Constantine Palace was the site of the 2006 G8 Summit] and other projects, we can surmise that this adherence to the “traditions of beauty” (to pluck an expression from the arsenal of the neoacademists) is to the liking of these folks who hail from the capital of Russian classicism. Like the design of its advertisements, the architectural commission for Gorki Gorod has been entrusted to two Petersburgers who are likewise neoclassicists — Mikhail Filippov and Maxim Atayants. Gorki Gorod is, at present, the largest of Filippov’s projects that will, apparently, be implemented.

However, beauty comes in different shapes, and even neoclassical beauty can have various ideological shades. Exactly what kind of beauty do the designers of the advertisement imagine themselves to be heirs of? Doping-Pong’s current creations are reminiscent of Nazi posters for the 1936 Olympics, official painting in the Third Reich, the sculptures of Arno Breker, and scenes from Leni Riefensthal’s films: the upward-turned gaze detached from the lower world, the Aryan statuesque beauty, the warrior-like bearing. Perhaps it is no accident that the project’s architects have themselves equated Krasnaya Polyana with an Alpine village.

However, in terms of architecture, Gorki Gorod is more likely to trigger memories of Stalinist ensembles in the minds of Russians, and in the video clip for the project we seen an enormous reproduction of an Alexander Deyneka painting placed on one of the walls of the town. But these are Stalinist ensembles that simultaneously imitate an old European mountain town: here, [faux-]historical stratifications are even reproduced in the juxtapositions of the buildings. All of this generates the scenery for a kind of averaged totalitarian style. The ubiquitous classical orders, the symmetrical plazas, and the axial street plan (one of whose compositional centers is an Orthodox church) reinforce the notion of a normalized beautiful life. The architecture only hints at all this, whereas the advertisement is maximally frank: it shows that preference has been given to the style of German (and, partly, Italian) fascism as something more European, more modernistically pure and attractive in comparison with the Asiatic, clumsily outdated, native Stalinist style.

All this might seem like conjecture were it not for the revelations made by the designers and architects. Here is a quotation from an interview with Atayants: “If everything works out, then in ten or fifteen years, when the trees grow a little, you’ll find old-timers who will say that this town has always been here. They’ll say that Krasnaya Polyana sprang up right here, and that Stalin visited the place. Such people will turn up, and that will be highest compliment for me and for all of us.” In a questionnaire published on the Italian web site Pigmag.com, when asked the question, “Who is Stalin?” Mishenin replied, with obvious sympathy, “The Fuehrer and Russian Il Duce.” Among other things, Doping-Pong’s web site is adorned with images of swastikas, and one of the group’s latest project is a series of erotic photographs in which the heroine, Fa (a young woman wearing a swastika-emblazoned t-shirt) wrestles with Antifa (another young woman) in a boxing ring (they’re naked, of course). In the end, Fa wins the bout and wraps herself in the Nazi flag. Another person who collaborates with the web site is commercial illustrator Katya Zashtopik — a pretty young thing who, from the looks of it, has publicly confessed her love for Hitler and Nazism, and whom the national-socialist community awarded a swastika-emblazoned ring for “propaganda of Nazi ideas.”

The designers of Doping-Pong assert on their web site that they “have been working for a long time, [work] very expensively, and are always right because they are the best.” This means that they are confident that the Nazi style sells well. Moreover, the patina of the totalitarian style makes a product more sellable. On the banner in question, there are two statues depicted in the background, but they are different: whereas the young woman on skates is a direct quotation from the world of Stalinist aesthetics, the snowboarder is a reference from a completely different context — contemporary mass media and advertising photos (such statues don’t exist in reality). But thanks to the marble (albeit illustrated marble), this advertising for winter sports is ennobled and raised to the level of high culture. And prices rise along with it.

This appeal to purchase real estate is primarily addressed to the younger generation, the children of the current elite. The choice of European fascism over Russian Stalinism thus has a purely commercial significance: the former is more attractive to the target audience. The associations with the Alps are likewise obligatory: they make the old Sochi-area resort capable of competing with Switzerland.

But there is also a more complex line of thinking behind all this: Stalinist (“Caucasian”) totalitarianism must become genuinely colonialist, colonialist in the western (and not Soviet) sense. In the quasi-historic development that Filippov has designed for the site and in Atayants’s dream of “old-timers” who perceive its architecture as native, dreams of reformatting history and re-educating the population with architecture shine through. Although Atayants does mention Stalin, the approach here is not at all Stalinist (that is, “national in form, socialist in content” — OpenSpace), and the advertisement is, once again, much more frank about this: the fact that this is being built in the Caucasus — not in some abstract mountains, and not in the Alps — is ignored. In the illustrations and video clips for the project we see the white-skinned proprietors of this world, the colonizers; we do not see any Circassian girls with vases on their heads dancing on command, as in Stalinist friezes. In its standardized classicism, the architecture also reminds us of a city of colonizers. It is worth noting that, in another interview, Atayants says, “Petersburg is a purely colonial European city on Russian soil.” He goes on to complain that its population has the same attitude to architecture as the inhabitants of Algeria and Libya have displayed since the countries were liberated from colonialism: they do not understand the virtues of the French- or Mussolini-era buildings and ruin them with their own utilitarian modifications. Atayants also quotes [Moscow architecture critic] Grigory Revzin, who said that “the Russian powers that be are always engaged in colonizing their own territory.” Atayants apparently believes that they should continue this colonization.

I was being ironic, of course, when I titled this article “The Putin Style”: the powers that be do not have the moxie to produce a major style that would be analogous to what Boris Groys has dubbed “the Stalin style.” The Stalinist period was utterly theatricalized: it was presented as a spectacle in which the entire nation were participants. Nowadays, such a synthesis is also taking shape, but on a minor stage. This stage is not secured by political power and certainly not by the myth of complicity in a great cause, but rather by money and the pleasure it brings. Gorki Gorod is a project for the elites, and as if in affirmation of its elitism, the project has been situated amidst mountain tops. The name itself, Gorki, also refers to the president’s official suburban residence and the [eponymous] village on the Rublevskoye Highway [outside of Moscow].

The choice of an elite stage, as opposed to Stalin’s nationwide stage, is manifested in its banishment of the theme of labor, which was central for the Stalinist age. In the world of Gorki Gorod, there is no such thing as exertion. Labor goes on somewhere in the lower world: here there is only the delectation of idleness. Hence, as Atayants puts it, there is something “facile and even amusing” in the development’s architecture. And as the ad campaign demonstrates, the town’s new inhabitants and new athletes do not strain themselves: for them, sports are a pleasant pastime. None of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century treated this subject so hedonistically. The Putin regime has here hit upon its own proper note.

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The new, improved “popular front,” Putin-style:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed creating a “broad popular front” ahead of Russia’s parliamentary election, in an apparent attempt to counter growing public discontent with his political party and solidify support.


Putin’s United Russia has a majority in Russia’s parliament and is the dominant party in regional legislatures and governor’s offices across the country. Polls, however, show its support declining as Russians increasingly associate the party with a corrupt bureaucracy.

Russia holds a parliamentary election in December that will set the scene for a presidential vote three months later in 2012. Putin, who stepped down as president in 2008 after serving two terms, has not said whether he will run, but his actions increasingly signal that he intends to reclaim the presidency.

Speaking Friday before hundreds of party members in the southern city of Volgograd, Putin said the new front should include not only United Russia but also other political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, youth groups and veterans’ associations.

“It is important that everyone should have the possibility and the right not only to formulate their ideas and proposals for how best to develop Russia, but should be able to suggest their candidates, who would be able remain as independents but would be able to enter parliament on the United Russia ticket,” he said in the televised address. Party members responded with raucous applause.

The ultimate goal, as his spokesman later made clear, is to solidify support for Putin across all segments of the Russian population.

The popular front will be formed “not on the basis of the party but more likely around Putin, the author of this idea,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters traveling with the prime minister.

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