One of Four Introductions
In order …
0. I had been to St. Petersburg 20 times before I somehow ended up in Moscow. Lars Kleberg, the Swedish Cultural attache, wanted me to meet Viktor Misiano. I was running an art-magazine at the time, called "Hype", and had an idea of launching a joint-venture-project with a Russian magazine. "Viktor is your man", Lars said, and there he was in Lars's home. He was sitting in the middle of a group Y his editorial partners, as I was told. While the others looked very Russian, Viktor did not. We started talking and I liked it. We seemed to share an idea of breaking out of a stiff art-world and doing something bigger and livelier. We had a few drinks, talked like hell Y and decided to meet the next day in his office. The office turned out to be as Soviet as the magazine, but there was something else that caught my interest. Viktor was very much a product of the Soviet Union, melted into the system, but what the hell: I was a product of something as well.
1. I travelled to Moscow a few more times, met a bunch of artists, and mostly talked a lot. I realised that Viktor introduced me to people in a selected way. I did not meet any other curators or critics. I was never introduced to anyone of them. But I didn't mind this at all. Since the very first time I was in Russia I realised that things there had to take time. I did not come to work as a journalist and to collect people, I was there to … be there. The thing I liked was that Moscow was out-of-bounds. People were better than in the West, but there was a sensation of being on the outer side, and I had always liked being on the outer side. It was a new frontier, and when I say that, I don't mean it was exotic. I could simply sense opportunities. It carried me away from all strategic moves and "right people" that can be so apparent in the West. Viktor and I decided that we had an opportunity of doing something really interesting, and after another bottle of vodka we shouted to each other: "We should not make a magazine, we should make the book of the '90s!"
2. When Viktor launched his Centre, I liked that, too. I had already been working with process-oriented things in collaboration with some artists, preferring common projects to putting them on display Y and that was a characteristic feature of the Contemporary Art Centre in Moscow, too. The production was based on workshops rather than exhibitions. I decided that if we were to do a project, this attitude had to be represented in everything we had decided to do. I met a very small group of people. They talked and talked and it was really a group, sitting in a small room. One could call it nostalgia of the old conceptual days, but it felt more like an urge to talk and reflect. It was not a homogenous group. Osmolovsky and Brener were nice and energetic, a bit like raving teenagers. They staged the same big show all the time. Gutov and Leiderman were calm, more based on tradition Y with a fantastic language, and not as predictable. Fishkin wasn't much involved in conversation. Others came and went, talking about Michelangelo. I decided to do nothing but sit there and listen.
3. Viktor and I started with the book and contacted our friends among artists. We kept things at the intimate level. Viktor came over to Stockholm and the book started taking shape. At first, our intention was to invite a bunch of people from outside of our own context, people that we were inspired by Y theorists, artists and others. But then … maybe it wasn't such a good idea in the first place. We realised that it was better to start with what we had at hand and to find a model that would lead to things we didn't know about. Why should we be the ones who invited? Why not play with the snowball-effect? The ones whom we had invited should be a part of the game as well. They should invite others in their turn. Now we were cooking! It was all about structure, about creating a structure that would in itself create the result. Good or bad, take it or leave it, abandon the rule of the old game and create a process that would set it's own rules. The process = the result. Once again we exclaimed Y Viktor and I Y this time: "This is too good for just a book, it should be an exhibition, it is an exhibition!" We decided on a name, the "Interpol". Two poles, but where was the police?
4. We started to go around meeting people from different art institutions, in Moscow and in Stockholm. We met the old structure and presented an idea to exhibit our new structure there. They liked it, but of course it was stupid of us. All of a sudden I got an opportunity to start something new in Stockholm, Färgfabriken. Now we didn't need the others. We had Färgfabriken and we had Viktor's Centre in Moscow. The book had grown into an exhibition but we wanted to do the book anyway. It had to be something of it's own. Something astonishing. The designer, whom I had invited, came up with a fantastic idea, a total kit that would cover the whole idea and the whole process.
5. The artists were brought together, first in Stockholm, then in Moscow. It was strange. The Swedes got silent, and that made the Russians more aggressive, at least, I think that was the case. I never liked to guide any discussions, it reminds me too much of school, but Viktor seemed to like it. It was a game, where artists such as Ernst Billgren were being provocative in a way that at least Osmolovsky did not understand it. The codes just didn't match, sometimes it was scary, sometimes funny. But it was for real. Stockholm was cold and vast, Färgfabriken had not yet been renovated. In Moscow there were small rooms, cigarettes and vodka. Brener and Osmolovsky kept on talking about a destroying machine they wanted to work out. At first it was fun, but then it grew more and more strange to everybody, so repetitious. Cattelan got cold and kept silent during discussions. Wenda had his own project from the very begining. He wanted to collect hair from a lot of people, but not the other's ideas. Zvezdochetov was the friendly guide in Moscow. He would soon be kicked out of the project by Viktor. Micki was the coolest, just enjoying himself, except for the second day in Moscow, due to the night before. Miran told wonderful stories, social and smart. For Birgitta it was tough being a woman in this crowd. Lotta blended in better, but decided later to drop out.
6. Money is always a burden. But we did not need it, the way we planned to execute the project. Sweden was the rich country, Russia Y the poor. So production costs, travelling costs, catalogue Y it was all on the Swedish side. We went looking for money, Thomas and I, and we did convince the Swedish authorities. We actually changed the policy from conducting bilateral projects to having many nationalities involved, as a little side-effect of Interpol. It is never enough Y but we said: "go!" This was the first mistake. And a major one. Now we shifted everything from creating structures to creating symbols. We went back to the old scheme. Sweden became the Western, rich, established art world realm … no matter how new, fresh and poor we Y at Forgfabriken Y felt we were. The Interpol should have had less money Y or only enough to ensure that we get equal sums from each country. And everybody inside the project should have been responsible for financing, not just the curator(s). The Interpol was an attempt to create a structure of its own, but the financial situation divided the structure in two parts. Equal sharing would have been much more productive and it would have changed the whole mental picture. Then we made a second mistake, and just as big. This was when we said that Färgfabriken would take the responsibility for receiving information from the artists, and then produce the art-works they proposed. Faxes with most fantastic proposals came Y and we were left to fulfil them! How stupid! The Swedish artists handled things themselves, and some, like Bigert & Bergström, even found their own sponsors. Maurizio wanted to give out a "prize". And, as if out of nowhere, we managed to convince an organisation to give him the sum he wanted, $10.000 for this purpose. It was more complicated with the Russians and the IRWIN group. Some of the projects they had proposed were really technically complicated, and required money and skills that we just didn't have. Today I would simply say no, but we kept on trying, and just about everything was done … even Fishkin's telephones. The only thing that was left out was Jury's chemical lab, but the rest of his installation was there. Even the IRWIN vehicle was produced, looking like something out of Mad Max. Thomas did, as always, a great job, banging his head against all kinds of walls to fulfil things that had seemed impossible. He even managed to convince the Swedish military to lend us a real rocket for Wenda Gu's installation (later destroyed by Brener's attack).
7. Perhaps the most memorable moment for me was when we brought Jury to Stockholm. We explored cemeteries, and we went together to meet Ulf Linde. Their meeting is one of the most beautiful encounters I have had the pleasure to witness, a true encounter in every sense of the word.
8. Färgfabriken was being renovated to open with the "Interpol" as its first project, an industrial ruin was made into an exhibition and production venue. Rough but nice. We really felt we were building something new, a structure that was different from what had existed before. I felt it as a good parallel to the whole idea of the Interpol … Oh, how vain!
9. The last Russian artist to jump into the project was Oleg. I met him in Moscow a few months before the opening in Stockholm. Viktor wanted him to replace Zvezdochetov. We went to his house for dinner. His home showed that he was richer than any of the other artists I had met in Russia. But he had a lot of energy, a real character. I missed Zvezdochetov, but that had nothing to do with Oleg, so why not? We talked, watched videos and discussed different forms of Oleg to participation. There was the Reality Bites in it, but we talked about twisting it in a new way. Once again we said: "Let's not repeat the old stuff …"
10. By now, Viktor had started to work with the first Manifesta project. He brought a lot of ideas that were similar to those we had worked out for the Interpol, which was OK. The intimacy of the "Interpol" was something very different. But suddenly he became much more of a prima donna. In November 1995 he suddenly claimed that Moscow was no longer interesting for him, especially for his exhibitions. He stepped back. And that was too bad for Moscow. And for himself. He should have got back in the saddle. This was the third thing that changed the mental image of the project.
11. Maurizio brought in Olivier and Elein from "Purple" and Paris. Very nice. Very French. Maurizio wanted to bring in an element from the outside. A smart and provocative move. More provocative than I had realised. It is really not until now when I am sitting here and writing this that I have understood it. He is always smarter, seeing more layers than others. Maurizio was the artist who was the most active during the process, sending faxes, taking the whole project very seriously. Elein and Olivier reacted at the opening, strongly, and they were right in doing so. But the group had now changed. The history of the project was suddenly deleted. The inner realm suddenly had a contact with the outer one. I don't know what would have happened without them, but now they were here and they became important. I love their independent attitude and how they create their own soil in Paris and in the world. But here they became the only representatives of the international agenda. Olivier wanted us to write an "open letter". And since I was pissed off with Viktor's attitude, or lack of attitude, I thought Y why not? If he had started to play a strange game we could do the same and go all the way as well. If for nothing else Y than just for the sake of seeing what the reaction would be. The reaction came, and it was frightful but also fun to see the very expected from the very expected. John Peter became … the very John Peter.
12. A lot of things have happened since then. Texts have been written, discussions have been held. We had a large gathering at Färgfabriken, "Shaking Hands & Making Conflicts", where Jury was very precise. Oleg and I kissed. No more kicking in the head. Not now. A text by Viktor appeared, in which I didn't recognize much of what I thought has happened. Did he lie? Or were our perspectives really that different? I don't know. But I'd love to talk to him about it when we start working on the second half of the project. Micki talks about having it in Slovenia. Why not?
13. When I first received an e-mail about this book, I guess more than a year ago, I was asked to write "the final text about Interpol". It all sounded very final, but I started making notes. To get some perspective and to get away from the controversies I started playing with an idea of writing a text in the form of a letter to my daughter Y at that time she was five years old Y to read it ten or fifteen years later. I thought that maybe this way the events around The Interpol could be described from a distance. What would her generation understand about the circumstances my generation has lived through, growing up in a divided continent that has suddenly opened up? What would they understand about the so-called art world? Would such a thing even exist? How could I write about this the way she could grasp it, whatever she would be interested in, whatever her preferences would be? How could I try do describe the whole thing to her, to be as honest as I would like to be to my own daughter? The "Interpol" was from the very start an attempt to bring two recently "opened" systems together, just to see what was going to happen. A lot of things did happen. And there are a lot of things that one could write about. The basis of the project was to do things for real, to actually meet and see how things would develop. I wanted to describe all that to my daughter, or for myself Y through writing to her. However, now the idea behind the introductions to this book has changed.
Stockholm, February 2000