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5B CH A P T E R: 2

TH E A RTIST AS AN AC TO R

While Sysoev was standing up for personal freedom through exposing homo sovieticus, the Sots Art artists handled the same task by playing the game of mimicking homo sovieticus. Thus, the second Komar and Melamid’s performance after the “bulldozer exhibition” was a very weird performance entitled “Hamburgers made out of Pravda newspaper” (1), which was put on for their closest friends in 1976. They prepared a kind of “mincemeat” of the leading articles contained in the main national newspaper entitled “Pravda” (the Truth), then fried and ate small paper balls performing some sort of a conformist ritual of “mental food” intake. At the beginning of the 1980s, the conceptualist and poet Dmitry Prigov (2) wrote about the special society of ideological nutrition based on the Soviet propaganda and despising material food, when in response to the Red Army’s intervention into Afghanistan, the USA imposed sanctions on the USSR: Now Reagan doesn’t want to sell us wheat So what - he’ll miss the boat and sink, It’s only over there they think

That living means you have to eat.

But we don’t need his bread, we’re smart, We’ll live on our ideas alone

In the typical Soviet manner, the poet uses the pronoun “we” - he speaks as if on behalf of the Soviet people countering the Western world. At this time, his face is covered

with “combat” make-up and it is distorted with a grimace that is almost as strange as the faces of Komar and Melamid. His apprentices - the artists of Gnezdo Group - also amused themselves with making model Soviet patriots of themselves.  In 1976, after Leonid Brezhnev had announced that eliminating the food deficit in the USSR would be possible only if all the strata of society were actively involved into the process  the group put on the performance entitled “Helping the Country in Bread Growing” (3) in which the artists ploughed the soil, enriched it with their sperm, sowed and mowed. Continuing to stage the standard Soviet behaviour, in 1978 the group put on the performance entitled “Demonstration. Art Into Masses” (4) that imitated a “mass activity” as back then manifestations of the working people were called. The artists campaigned for modern art. There was a great stain on the red banner, which was a collective symbol of the avant-garde and abstract artists whom the authorities disdainfully named the “stain makers” in the printed press. Performance is a genre of a direct and personal meeting between the artist and the spectator, leaving out the medium of a picture or object. However, in the case with Sots Art performances, it is clear that the artists acted not in their own names but in the name of a certain “typical character” whose mask they were wearing and whose speeches and thinking they mastered. This character is an ordinary citizen fooled with propaganda. He is trustful and naive, a guy who served in

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