Metaperformance «Resistance to tatecide».
Like the vast majority of contemporary artists, I faced the phenomenon in contemporary art which I call art genocide. What kind of phenomenon is this, how dangerous it is for our society and how to overcome it, I described in my Manifesto of peaceful resistance to art genocide.
But any theory must be confirmed by practice. Therefore, I decided to use my own example to show all of you what in fact the situation with art has developed in museums and galleries of contemporary art. The object of my artistic research was the world-famous Tate Modern gallery.
Of course, I may be asked the question: why did you go to the UK, and didn`t implement your project in Russia which is your homeland. I answer: we are all well aware of the corruption in Putin’s Russia. But about the Tate Modern gallery there were still doubts. It seemed to me that the situation with contemporary art is better there.
I quote verbatim what they write about themselves on their website: «Our role at Tate is to share art in all its complexity and diversity. We know, too, that not everyone has equal access to art and its benefits. We are committed to changing this through our work, and to challenging ourselves to dismantle the structures within our own organization which perpetuate that inequality». That is, they admit that not everyone has access to art and its benefits, and selflessly fight to eradicate this inequality.
I have prepared a proposal with description of my project for the curators of the Tate Modern gallery. This project should be implemented within abstract idealism which is new art theory. On December 13, 2016, I sent a letter to the curatorial department of the Tate Modern in London.
Exactly one minute later, I received an automatic response from Tate Modern. Here is an excerpt from it, «Our exhibition programme is confirmed around three years in advance, and most exhibitions are the result of proposals from internal curators or collaborations with other institutions. Therefore we can only rarely accommodate unsolicited projects.»
In the same letter, a period of 2-3 months was indicated, during which the artist’s proposal should be considered by the curatorial department.
Several months have passed. I haven`t received any response from Tate Modern, which is to be expected. All the words of gallerists, curators and museum officials about their love for art, support for artists, openness and democracy in the art world in the vast majority are one big brazen and hypocritical lie. All people know about it, tolerate this situation and keep silent, but not me. I am ready to fight the art genocide to the end. And these are not empty words.
Therefore, in the summer of 2017, I collected my paintings, things and went to London.
July 7, 2017. Square in front of the Tate Modern in London. The beginning of my performance in support of abstract idealism. The performance is absolutely peaceful, it doesn`t aim to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause any damage.
During my performance, the square in front of Tate Modern was supposed to briefly turn into one of the largest abstract paintings in the world, written with ordinary colored crayons.
A few minutes after the start of the performance, it was interrupted by employees of Tate Modern. The staff of Tate Modern destroyed my performance and my painting at the very beginning of creation. Why did they do so? A painting created with crayons on asphalt is inherently fragile and short-lived. It can`t cause any damage to Tate Modern property. But the fact is that the attitude towards art among the employees of Tate Modern is police.
If allowed by the leadership, then this art has the right to live. If not allowed, then this art must be thrown away, destroyed. Unsolicited and unapproved art is automatically denied the right to life.
However, with the aim to demonstrate benevolence towards artists, the gallery manager, who appeared with the security guards, «sincerely» assured me that my project would be scrutinized by the Tate curators. But this, of course, didn`t happen. Just another hypocritical lie.
So, on July 8, 2017, I began the metaperformance of peaceful resistance to tatecide which lasted several long months.
During my metaperformance, I created a 30-meter abstract painting which became part of it.
On July 19, 2017, I received an official response from Tate Modern about my project. It was a refusal to include my project in Tate Modern exhibition program. Do you want to know how they justified their refusal? They didn`t write that my project was uninteresting, irrelevant, had no artistic value, needs to be improved. No, they just wrote that they didn`t have any opportunity to provide either the Turbine Hall or the area in front of Tate Modern gallery.
The translation of their answer into normal human language means that it is denied, because it is not allowed, because it is impossible to penetrate official contemporary art without a special invitation and prior approval of your candidacy. In official contemporary art, everything is strictly regulated, a cold bureaucracy and the absolute power of officials and art dealers reign.
Despite the refusal of Tate Modern, I continued my metaperformance in front of this gallery. You may ask me why I acted like this, because it seemed to make no sense, because I wouldn`t be able to get approval for my project anyway. I continued my performance to show to as many people as possible how rotten, how false and unviable this system of official contemporary art is. It was really very difficult — day after day, week after week, month after month in any weather, to continue to stand in my attire of paintings and a flag at the ready in front of Tate Modern, silently denouncing them for the destruction of contemporary art.
The destruction of my painting is the obvious, undeniable act of the staff of Tate Modern. And how many works of contemporary artists are destroyed throughout the world by the refusals of gallery owners and curators in just the last few decades?
By their silence and indifference, people condone the decay and degradation of contemporary art. Artists, refusing to fight, also contribute to the development and strengthening of art genocide. Art critics and gallery owners play by generally accepted rules, supporting existing structure of relations in contemporary art. And the result is a rotten stagnant swamp of contemporary art.
But I call you to overcome this situation. My metaperformance against tatecide is the beginning of this struggle, which must continue.
After receiving an official rejection from Tate Modern, I decided to do a little inspection. I walked once more through the Tate Modern gallery.
Result: the Turbine Hall, which allegedly can`t be provided for my project, turned out to be completely empty. And it was empty for quite a long time. Part of the exhibition space is empty in anticipation of new exhibitions.
But besides the exhibition spaces, Tate Modern turned out to have many rooms that have nothing to do with exhibitions.
The tenth level is a viewing terrace. Do the curators of Tate Modern have a lack of ideas for exhibitions? Have they decided to exhibit London as an installation?
The ninth level is entirely occupied by the restaurant. Do artists-chefs cook conceptual masterpieces from products for the visitors of the gallery there? Nothing like this! Just an ordinary catering with the most banal menu!
Eighth level is the members` room. Such a closed club for privileged lovers of contemporary art. They are invited to private shows, wine and beer tastings at Tate Modern, sometimes even with the participation of the director of Tate Modern, so that they could feel jet set, real connoisseurs of contemporary art for their money.
There are also patrons of the museum, people who provide financial support to the museum. And the patrons also differ from each other in their status, or rather, in the amount of financial support. There are young patrons, silver patrons, gold patrons and even platinum patrons.
At the top of this pyramid, much like a network marketing company, the curators and their superiors are. They have the «secret knowledge» what is art and what is not.
Artists in this pyramid occupy the lowest positions. Some of them, who have confirmed their loyalty to the curators’ regime, are allowed to exhibit several of their works and periodically to be in the Tate Exchange to communicate with museum visitors. These artists are very few, but it is easier for curators to control them.
What exactly happens on the events level is not clear, but in the Tate Modern events program much attention is paid to food and drink and parties, so make your own conclusions. And if you look in the events section at the Tate Modern`s site, you will see how many rooms where a lot of works of contemporary artists could be exhibited they rent out for private and corporate parties. Tate Modern curators always haven`t enough space for contemporary artists, but there are always a lot of rooms for private and corporate parties, including famous Turbine Hall, in this gallery.
Tate Modern`s curators think that fourth, third, second levels and the part of space on zero level is more than enough for contemporary art. But the fact that even these areas are not always used for exhibitions, because some of these halls can stay empty and closed for a month or more in anticipation of the next exhibition, while setting artworks takes only about two-three days.
August 2017. My performance near Tate Modern continues day after day.
Despite the fact that the administration of Tate Modern stubbornly didn`t want to give up their positions and in every possible way avoided entering into an official dialogue with me, my figure, dressed in paintings of abstract idealism, standing with a flag at the ready right in front of the gallery and raising questions from visitors and passers-by, to put it mildly was inconvenient for them.
They tried in every possible way to squeeze me out of this piece of land, no more than a meter in diameter (provided by London Authority for free artists). What did they do for this? — They sent their spies masquerading as ordinary passers-by. And at the same time, they knew who I was, where I came from, why I was here, who my assistant was, documenting the metaperformance process by taking photos and videos. As you understand, ordinary passers-by couldn`t have such information. These provocateurs tried to exhort me, to intimidate me. And one man for several weeks daily came, stood in front of me a few meters, stared at me for a while, and then moved away towards Tate Modern.
After him, there were other people who made no secret of their affiliation with the Tate Modern, overseeing the attempts of their provocateurs to intimidate me. People changed, but they acted the same, they spoke monotonous memorized phrases, according to the script approved by Tate Modern.
August 19, 2017. The staff of Tate Modern tried to enlist the help of the Southwark council to thwart my performance against the tatecide. The Tate Modern security officer complained to representatives of Southwark council about me. He angrily stated that I needed to be removed from here. He said that my performance was not a performance, it was not art, but a protest, and a protest against the Tate Modern should be prohibited.
That is, not only curators, but even Tate Modern security staff have right to decide what is art and what is not (artists and viewers, in turn, are deprived of this right). But this latest attempt by Tate Modern to get rid of me also failed.
September 2017. I continue my metaperformance against tatecide. Every day, hundreds of people move along the waterfront past Tate Modern. Someone, indifferently glancing at the inscription «Tate Modern destroys works of art», passes by. Someone is trying to figure out what’s going on, to find out more about my performance. Someone sincerely supports me and empathizes with what is happening.
I continue my metaperformance in any weather. I write accusatory letters to Tate Modern partners, to art magazines. Most, apparently, don`t know how to react, so they prefer to keep silent.
October 2017. I continue my metaperformance. I write letters to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Arts Council of England, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty the Queen. I haven`t received answers to most of my letters. The responses from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports and the Arts Council of England tell about their clear reluctance to change situation in contemporary art for better and their support all the actions of the Tate Modern leadership.
November 2017. I continue my metaperformance. The staff of Tate Modern doesn`t change tactics.
On November 23, 2017, with Molotov cocktails, I created my “Monument to Despair” on the wall of Tate Modern. It was also destroyed by order of the administration of Tate Modern.
On the same day, I was arrested and sent to Thames Side Jail. Then there were 21 days of hunger strike. Court. Expulsion from the UK. Tate Modern, in keeping with their official policy not to spoil their image, made every effort to hush up the matter and avoid publicity.
What’s next? Of course, I’m not going to stop my fight against art genocide. Art genocide can be defeated, and in an absolutely peaceful way, without harming anyone or anything, except for the absolute power of curators in contemporary art. But just as democracy replaced absolute monarchy in government in many countries of the world, democracy must also come in art which means the rule of the majority — audience and artists. How to achieve this, I described in my manifesto of resistance to art genocide.
We can achieve the liberation of art only by acting together.
I urge all viewers to freely choose the contemporary art that is close and understandable to them, which brings new important meanings to their lives.
I call on all artists to create freely and have every right to communicate with their viewers through exhibitions in museums and galleries.
I urge philanthropists not to act on the prompting of curators and support only the artists approved by them. Support those artists whom you personally consider worthy of your help, whose art works really impress and touch you.
I call on curators, gallery owners, art critics, in whom the system hasn`t yet completely destroyed their real perception of art, to support a democratic approach in contemporary art.
I urge journalists and bloggers who are not indifferent to what is happening in contemporary art to talk about the manifestations of the art genocide that we are witnessing.
I call on everyone to crash this deceitful system, break the vicious circle, free contemporary art and make it accessible to everyone.