Interpol as I Remember it now
Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Locale: the WC bar in Stockholm, fall 1994.
" I have this thing coming up, Jan Äman told me as we were trying to keep ourselves drunk enough to uphold a conversation.
" A colleague in Moscow and I are cooking up something called "Interpol" and there should be two exhibitions; one in Stockholm and one in Moscow. I thought that maybe you would like to participate. How does that sound? Hot for anything that could set me alive, I said yes and asked him to give me some more flesh to the bones.
" Well, six Swedish and six Russian artists will be invited and they should in their turn invite one artist each to collaborate with. At some point we'll fly over to Moscow for discussions. Maybe you already know who you'd like to work with?
" Andrew McKenzie in Reykjavik, I said, and maybe also Ulf Bilting at KTH in Stockholm.
Locale: Moscow, January 1995
Huge female passport police officer refuses to stamp my KREV passport. The first view of Moscow leaves me with a cold. Grey weather and broad streets deeply frozen by the same kind of winter that had crushed Napoleon, Hitler and their compadres. The hotel was rundown but clean and cool. Bathtub. Thomas Lundh brings us to the art centre where the other curator, Viktor Misiano, dwells. The buffet consists of a few slices of meat and a couple of bottles of vodka. This is serious. Introductory talks and befriending with other artists. There are Lotta Antonsson, Mats Bigert, Lars Bergström, Ernst Billgren, Alexander Brener, Jury Leidermann, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Eda »ufer, Miran Mohar, Borut Vogelnik, Birgitta Muhr, Maurizio Cattelan and even the off-sider Palle Thorsson. Talking to the IRWIN gang about the NSK State. Russians seem to be a bit more talkative than the Swedes. That's natural since we're on a new territory. I like these people around here. It feels very good. Evening comes and we go eating and drinking at some fancy Y astonishingly expensive place. Waking up, taking a bath and realising that my door has been open all night. Lotta steps in, shoots a couple of bathtub nude shots of me. Off to the Centre for more talks. Misiano is authoritative but precise. A sharp and nice guy. Statements from the Russians swing while the cigarette smoke tightens and some sparkling wine and vodka are being poured. Swedes seem pretty low key although some of us start cooking up. What am I doing here? Meeting the artists and the curators, of course. Getting a feel for the whole thing. Realising that this is an intercommunicational project that involves everyone. I do have an idea about what I want to do and I settle with that.
Locale: Reykjavik, February 1995
McKenzie gets the idea and fills in with some details. We'll invite all artists and curators to stay overnight, a couple of nights, in the exhibition. Then we invite the audience to sleep with the above mentioned and then we set up microphones and loudspeakers between the beds while we also record the bed crawling activities. Looks like it's going to be a fun situation. After a couple of bottles of vodka I get myself over to the States.
Locale: Färgfabriken, January 1996
I step into the exhibition space. The place is pretty rough and that's fine. A rough place means some rough actions. Wenda Gu is setting up his hair thing. The stuff is quite beautiful although the "saving the world" purpose seems a bit over the edge. IRWIN is struggling with a monstrous vehicle designed by some Swede tech construction students. I decide to hold our work until things take shape for the others. Material is there. Mattresses, pillows, sheets and electronics kindly provided by Färgfabriken. I let it rest until tomorrow …
Next day: McKenzie arrives from Copenhagen and Bilting from Uppsala turns up. This is the day before the opening. We move about to set up our stuff. It goes pretty smoothly and each of us minds his own business. Metal construction for the mixer and recording unit arrives. Other artists get their gear in order. IRWIN keep struggling with the monster machine and Fishkin tries to compromise with the telephone set up. Night comes and the crew continues to get things ready. We struggle with the metal. McKenzie gets a bit overintoxicated by vodka and dinner starts as an art piece by Gutov. Crayfish and stuff. McKenzie can't eat any of these, vegetarian as he is, and continues embalming himself with vodka. Brener wines about the capitalist art world bullshit and I tend to agree with him. This is fun. Drinks are on the house and suddenly everyone drops off to continue the set up. Everything is half done by now and people are getting a bit stressed. Luckily, our beds are there to sleep in so when people pass out they do it on the spot … Hirschfeld is the only one who has signed up to sleep with an artist Y me … .
Opening day: Waking up. Stomach is pretty harsh. McKenzie is sick and leaves for my flat. Most of the works are placed, I think. IRWIN still battles with the rolling thing and Gutov's dinner table stays put. Screens by Muhr/Wagner K and Wolgers are up and the massive Chinese wall of world saving hair hangs in two rows straight across the place. Lamps appear over the beds. Looks good. Kuliks dog house is in the corner. Billgren's stuff at the end of the room. It strikes me: Quite a lot of the participants work on their own? Where are their collaborators? Leiderman with Duchamp/Linde/Fedorov, yeah, that's working. Compromise is a need here, there's no place and no time for egocentric cry babies. IRWIN's thing rolls over the floor and the faces of the curators are shown on the monster machine's monitors. All right! Bigert's and Bergström's psychoanalytic car is outside and looking great. Day goes by and evening comes. There will be a hell of a lot of people coming. Staff is frenetically assembling the catalogue. I wonder what we have submitted to it. Right Y photographs and a diagram. Great catalogue! Ulf Linde is brilliant. Reminds me of the 60-ies when the museum experimented more with the publications. Bilting and I fix the last of the lights for our objects of fatigue.
Opening: IRWIN's vehicle doesn't really look like a Ferrari but it moves around the space. Kulik is there, chained to the Dog House area. Videos are on. Bigert & Bergström and Albers start their taxi mission curing mentally ill people. I'm trying to figure out what Ulrika Karlsson and Ioanna Theocharopoulou are doing and find their flyers all around the place. Leiderman's beautiful physical compressions of texts are on display and Fishkin's phones kind of work. The sepia hairy Wenda Gu still centred, acts like a central point to it all. Brener is setting up a drumkit, so obviously he's going to bang away. The "Purple Prose" gang is here to get the Interpol prize instigated by Cattelan as an art project Y hmm, well, alright.
Anything goes. No sight of McKenzie. The public is increasing and soon it's quite a mess: politicians, Becker executives, art lovers, rock musicians, geeks, nerds and critics Y all kinds of variations, really. Hard liquor, beer and wine makes me dizzy. What's that? Oh, it's Osmolovsky "vote for Yes or No" urne. Fun! The inner room: Theselius collection of Soviet toys and objects gives a feeling of: what if someone exhibited dalahorses and volvocars in Moscow Y horrible thought! The stuff is cool anyway Y fetischist as I am. Bang, bang. Brener swings the drumclubs irregular and hard. Well, a bit of training and he could join Peter Brötzman Octet. Speeches by Stockholm politicians are, as always, boring but since the might have paid for it … . Ooops Y some stirred up people around. What is going on? Kulik has bitten someone. Attacking people. Now it's getting sweaty. Folks are really afraid of the dog. He's for real. I walk over to him and carefully I give him some chocolate. That should keep me from getting eaten up, hopefully. I walk back to the entrance and suddenly there's Brener, tearing down and destroying Wenda Gu's UN life saving device. Fucking hell. Now it's getting hot. Me and Bilting walk fast over to our control tower where our electronics are, ready to defend it by all means. I know that Brener knows what he's doing and if he comes over to our place I'll fucking bash his brains in with a metal stick. No problems. Brener rushes out from the space and disappears. Now there's vacuum. Slowly people begin to talk. I look at Gu's destroyed work, now looking like someone's just shaved a mammoth. It looks better now. I go to Wenda to check his pulse, he's upset but at the same time thrilled. I tell him that I think the piece looks just as fine now and that he shouldn't worry. Someone tells me that some cops dragged Kulik away to the police station. It goes on and on. The scandal is a fact. I wonder if Aman knew about this? What about Misiano? The opening fades as everyone leaves for an aftermath at Sturehof's O-bar. I'm concerned about the fact that our piece still has to continue. Will people stay overnight? Will they come back in the night to sleep … or whatever. At Sturehof people discuss the event while getting more intoxicated by booze. Around 01.00 I gather a few people and head back to the space. Actually, there are quite a lot of people waiting for their beds. Borut, Miran, Ernst, Annika, Johan, Clara, Jan, Catti and some more. Me and Ulf activate the tape-recorders and down I go. Exhausted, drunk and quite peaceful.
The day after some stories are being told about the evening before. Obviously, I missed some things like kicks in the head and curatorial misinformation. Tonight there will be another sleep-in so I have to be concentrating on that. Day goes by. People are upset about the Brener thing. Kulik is out of jail. Press and television make the whole thing national and I sense that this show will reach a large crowd. A few people stay overnight again and we record.
On the second or the third day after the show Jan tells me that an open letter has been written and signed by most of the non-Russian participants, including the Purple Proses but excluding the IRWIN gang (Well, how could the Russians sign when they have already left the country). The text informs the art world about the atrocities and the danger of the Russian art terrorists. I tell Jan to keep my name away and then I call him up and say that neither me nor Ulf and Andrew will sign the paper. This is due to the fact that we did not think that anything wrong has happened and that both the audience and the artists should be aware of the fact that anything can happen within the framework of an exhibition as well as in the rest of the world. Aman is pissed off by Misiano's supposed absence of information, but at the same time quite amused by the fact that the show stirred up the whole country, and for sure, some parts of the outer world, too. The remnants of the show continues to draw a crowd of curious "scene-of-the -crime" viewers. The story continues daily and in art-press.
Locale: Stockholm in January 2000
As I sit here I understand that the Interpol show was very successful, as Hans-Ulrich Obrist put it: One of the most interesting shows in the 90-ies. It showed, amongst other things, that even the finest intentions concerning collaboration, co-ordination, artistic friendship and companionship has at least two sides: the One Man Show Egofanatism and The Hermetic Art World Book Of The Law, the first one caring only for the individual as a sole organism leaving all the others behind, and the latter securing the art community's collective laisser-faire mentality as the show must go on. I would give Brener a medal for his wish to change the system … but what for? I would give Wolgers a medal for realizing that he wasn't interested at all in collaboration and stating it quite clearly in his work … but what for?
Everyone seems to be on pretty good terms with each other, developing their artist careers. I gave Kulik some more chocolate in Rotterdam and in New York; Brener and Gu have been spotted drinking in a bar in New York; Misiano still seems to be a bit gloomy, and I wonder why? I'm a curator at a couple of shows at Färgfabriken with Jan Aman.
Last year I talked to some people about staging the second part of the show in Ljubljana in 2000, since we haven't heard any call from Moscow yet. I do have an urge to clean up my past and launder my bed sheets. Anyway, I'd like to go to Moscow, even if the Interpol will be the very last work Andrew McKenzie and I did together … . That relationship opened with a bang and ended with an open letter.
Another letter that came across my mind was this, sent by Gregory Corso and William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg on September 28, 1958: "Dear Allen, Bill and I are set on doing a magazine, INTERPOL, "the poet is becoming a policeman" Y and our content will be of the most sordid, vile, vulgar, oozing, seeping slime imaginable. We only want the most disgusting far-outness. [..] So we are determined to do this because like Bill says, we're policemen and we can't help doing such things, it ain't our faults."
Stockholm, January 2000