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A RT AC TIVISM — A RTISTS AM O N G TH E D EM O NSTR ATO RS

Art activism is the latest innovation on the Russian art scene of the 2000-2010s. If compared to the desperate performances by Brener and Kulik, the art activists” works are quite modest, but actually, this current trend is even more of a radical deviation from the classical art conception because art activism de-secularises art as an autonomous activity with its specific values and separate history. Artistic work for art activists involves a component (though not the most important one) of civil and human rights activity. All that is not useful for the society, all that is born in an unauthorized fantasy, all that is fun and games, sensuality and eroticism is to be cut off. One of the most well known Moscow art activists, Vikentiy Nilin, in response to being praised for the expressiveness of his works, replied, “And it (expressiveness) is quite unnecessary in this case”. It is not the first time Russian culture has expressed such rigor. In the late 19th century, the Itinerants (the Russian school of realist painters) noted that in a society of social oppression, they had no right to depict the landscape with the extravagance of impressionism. Then in the 1920s, similar principles were professed by the “industrialists”. The life of an art activist circulates not only from exhibition to art-residence and back to the exhibition, but from the protests in support of political prisoners – to the meeting for the protection of gay rights, to feminist manifestations, to the action for the protection of cultural monuments. An art activist more often attends courtrooms and prison visiting rooms than he

does art vernissages and disputations. This can be seen in “Resistance Chronicles” by Viktoria Lomasko (1). The artist does sketches from everyday meetings and talks of “common people” that she overhears and draws whilst sitting down unnoticed on a park bench or in a café. Starting from 2009, the absurdity of everyday life was replaced in Lomasko’s drawings with the manifestation of society’s madness. The artist spent more than three months in the courtroom hearing the case of religious fanatics against the curators of the “Forbidden Art” exhibition, which showed works of art subject to new censorship bans. Lomasko’s reportage from this process – “Taganka’s Justice” (2) – is a key time document, marking the shift of state policy from restraining ultra-right and Orthodox obscurantism to its active support. The reportage consists of a set of postcards to be sent as a piece of information from the trial. The pocket form is noticeable. It marks the manifestation of art activism’s own aesthetics and the beginning of the break with institutional forms of art spreading. The process with “Forbidden Art” was followed by numerous artists” protest actions. They gave birth to a new version of “secret” performances, much in keeping with the designed “human situations” that were the subject of research in the early 1960s made by Guy Debord and other members of the “Situationist International”. An example here is the action by Andrey Kuzkin with “Interview” (3), whose sketch Lomasko used in “Taganka’s Justice”. At the court entrance door an artist, who came to support the imprisoned curators,

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