Ticket that Exploded
If I am not mistaken, the authors of the Interpol project initially placed great hopes on their brainchild. I mean curator Viktor Misiano from Moscow and his colleague, Jan Aman from Stockholm. I think that they considered this project as an opportunity to present the East-West art context by exhibiting up-to-date Russian and Swedish art (artists from other countries were invited later), which was bound to be a success thanks to sufficient financial backing.
I think that they were concerned about successful presentation rather than about a serious survey or a consistent formulation of the issue. In my opinion, both curators lacked will to conduct a deep survey or a conscientious description of the situation. Of course this is my personal point of view.
I remember our first meeting with Jan Aman in Moscow. Viktor Misiano introduced a young and elegant curator Y just returned from Latin Ameria Y to a group of artists from Moscow, including Yuri Leiderman, Vadim Fishkin, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Dmitriy Gutov and myself.
Jan Aman read us a small lecture on his trip and showed slides. All the participants in the meeting were full of enthusiasm. I think that Misiano was very much inspired by the possibility of cooperating with Aman. Later he told us that Jan was a promising, intelligent and up-to-date curator who had a wonderful exhibition venue in Stockholm and an excellent budget for a Russian-Swedish project.
A bit later we learnt that the project was still being discussed between the curators and that major alterations had been made. They decided to invite artists representing different countries and different contexts: the IRWIN group from Slovenia, Maurizio Cattelan from Italy, the Chinese artist from New York Wenda Gu, and others. The project was to provide for a complicated and multidimensional collaboration between the participants. For instance, I was supposed to collaborate with Osmolovskiy and Cattelan and produce a joint art product.
In a couple of months a delegation from Stockholm visited Moscow artists. It included IRWIN people from Ljubljana and Cattelan from Milan. There was a discussion on the future exhibition in the Moscow Contemporary Art Centre. A day later Russian artists were invited to a party at the Swedish embassy. This is where the East-West ticket exploded for the first time.
My version of what happened is as follows. Jan Aman told Viktor Misiano about changes in the concept of the exhibition. First of all, the venue had changed for a less prestigious one. Secondly, the budget had shrunk. Misiano reacted most negatively. I remember the faces of the two curators as they were approaching us Y an expression of extreme mutual alienation. The physiognomic observations were later confirmed. Misiano told us that he had been disappointed by the project, that the conditions had spoiled considerably and that everything was bad altogether.
What was it all about? Some representation circumstances again Y not any fundamental preconditions or shifts in the concept. It was about something rather vulgar and banal Y the budget of the exhibition, not such a nice area where it was supposed to take place and a personal conflict between the curators.
I had an impression that at that point Misiano completely lost interest in the Interpol. No further discussions had taken place. A group of Moscow artists visited Stockholm but the meeting turned to be very formal and tame. Collaboration between the participants in the project? Everyone seemed to have forgotten about it. I think that contacts between the curators, as well as between the artists had reduced to a minimum.
Time came for the exhibition to open. I came to Stockholm from Berlin and found the Russian delegation deeply frustrated. Everything was very bad, to begin with the accommodation. Artists from Moscow complained that they were put in a considerably worse hotel than their western colleagues. (Indeed, apart from us there were only the Slovene artists whereas Cattelan and other western guests lived in some other place. Incidentally, so did Viktor Misiano.)
But one could still forget about accommodation problems. Much sadder was the fact that most Russian artists were not supplied with materials for their projects. The Swedish side did not want to do that. It was funny, foolish and low-grade, but it was so. Neither Leiderman nor Fishkin could fulfil their projects on the initially envisaged scale. Only the personal decency and patience of the IRWIN group allowed them to finish their work by the very opening of the exhibition. Jan Aman openly ignored Russian artists and their requests. Viktor Misiano acted no less shamefully. He did not turn up at the exhibition at all. It was a laughable and a dirty situation.
The night before artist Gutov invited everyone to a dinner which was a part of his project. The plan of the dinner was to discuss the preliminary results of the Interpol. Everyone kept silet. I stood up and said that the project had been transformed beyond recognition and that, essentially, it had failed. The only response that came was a weak statement by Borut Volgelnik. The dinner was eaten and bottles were emptied.
The next day we all came to the opening ceremony. The exhibition devoted to a complicated and multilevel collaboration between the participants looked rather strange. Wenda Gu's installation made of human hair towered in the centre of the hall. It was his personal installation without a trace of collaboration with other artists! Everyone was hiding in his corner. East and West were cynically or rather stupidly hiding, shying away and avoiding each other. The IRWINs drove their car showing an interview between the two quarrelling curators. It was pathetic!
I started my drum performance and then destroyed Wenda Gu's installation. Why his? In my view, it was a symbol of this collapsed and failed project under the idiotic name Y Interpol.
The next day there was a news conference at which I was called a fascist. No, my dear chaps, I don't agree. At this exhibition I was the only democrat who had openly declared his position and demonstrated his disagreement with the organizers. Radical democracy in action! Bang on simulation and neoliberal vulgarity!
The East-West cultural situation, the Interpol project attempted to touch upon it, is a large, complicated and, indeed, explosive subject. It requires not just a superficial visual presentation, but a precise and detailed analysis. Without such analysis, the collapse might take place elsewhere beyond the exhibition. Let's rejoice at the fact that the explosion in Stockholm showed this in the form of a farce rather than a tragedy.
Vienna, 27 December 1998