Myth of the Interpol
The "Interpol" is a myth. Everyone has heard this story. Many people know what has happened. This story has become overgrown with rumours, theories and interpretations. It was discussed orally and in writing. Lectures were read about it. It is especially remarkable that it was even hushed up in some cases. They say that the "Interpol case" has been included in the course of the School of Curators in Appel Foundation in Amsterdam. Apparently, it really was one of the most important projects of the 1990s.
The purpose of this book is in fact to confirm this. The book should ultimately secure the project's mythological status by putting together the sources of this legendary story. Thus it should become the corpus of the story's canonical texts.
The Western participants in the "Interpol" Y the authors of the "Open Letter …" Y made the first step towards turning it into a myth. By transforming an exhibition event into an international scandal they created the whole affair Y they turned it into the so-called "Interpol case". But it finally became a myth when it entered the context of the relations between the East and the West, and touched upon the issue of identification of the new Europe, thus becoming an artistic aspect of a broader political problem.
But it is the Eastern participants in the project who played a major role in turning the Interpol into a myth. The IRWIN group was the first to feel the depth and the multidimensional symptomatology of this private event. The group made it a subject of its analysis and reflections, the results of which have been distributed through their broad network of contacts. Oleg Kulik and Aleksander Brener also worked on that. For them, the "Interpol" became a starting point Y a spring-board for their future careers. I played my own role in the creation of this myth by describing it in numerous lectures and by writing a rather thorough text on the issue. It was later published in several languages and included by the AICA into its selection of critical texts in 1998. Finally, this book is now being published on our own Y East European Y initiative. Essentially, we had no other choice Y having been declared the "enemies of democracy" and under the conditions of international persecution we could only justify ourselves by turning this story into a myth. It seems that we have won in this situation.
Nevertheless, the "Interpol" mythology leaves the sensation of certain false consciousness. This is, for instance, due to the fact that the result of the "Interpol" contradicts to the original idea. In the beginning of this project I was under the impression of successful precedents Y dialogue laboratory projects, during which artists maintained tense and lofty intellectual discussions. I longed of hopes and expectations for a more intense and bright exchange of opinions. I was longing for reactive cooperation and expecting that the collective effort of the participants would help to create a non-conventional show at the end of this process-oriented experiment.
This has failed to be fulfilled, but due to this very fact, the "Interpol" has turned into scandal Y it has become a myth. In other words, if I am inclined to assume that the Swedish organizers of the exhibition used the scandal to draw the public attention away from their organizational failure (the unfinished repair of the exhibition room; their failure to fulfill any Eastern project whatsoever and others), then why should not I be objective and ask the following question. Is it true that while turning this story into a myth I was trying to distract attention from my personal defeat? Incidentally, my own text devoted to the "Interpol"'s experience is called "Apology of Defeat". Wasn't it a Freud's lapse?
Naturally, the reflection, which followed the Stockholm scandal concerned the fact that violence and transgression did not contradict to the "Interpol" 's plan since transgression and violence are also a form of communication. This idea was developed both in my text and in the article by Renata Salecl. However, it is also evident that these forms of communication would have only been justified in the framework of the "Interpol" if the project had not ended up in a scandal, that is, if the usage of these forms had not caused any protest by some of the participants in the "Interpol".
It is certainly possible to resort to another argument. A scandal as the result of a collapse of communication is also a pattern of communication practice, and is therefore appropriate in the context of a project dedicated to communication. The logic of this argument is, perhaps, impeccable, but only inside the "Interpol". Outside it is pretty vulnerable. It is clear that further activities of those who have caused this conflict were directed not at returning into the realm of dialogue but at their own promotion. This collaboration strategy has been replaced with that of personal success. Finally, the most vulnerable issue is that the myth of the "Interpol" originated from the scandal and not from the preceding efforts aimed at maintaining dialogue. Those who became the cultural heroes of this myth were the heroes of the scandal and not of the dialogue, which had taken place before. This makes the following question reasonable. If the initial idea had succeeded as a process-oriented communicational project climaxing in the form of a collective installation, would this result have become a myth? Or in other words, if this project had been a "success" rather than a "defeat", would it have deserve an "apology"?
Besides that, it was not just a defeat of a particular project. The "Interpol" has appeared to be vulnerable as a strategy. The very idea of applying dialogue procedures and the practice of collective work proved bankrupt. More precisely it is the attempt to export the specifically East European collectivist experience that has proved bankrupt with all its longing for partnership, process orientation and the domination of the inner world over the representation. All these methods of work were formed in our countries during the underground period back in the Communist epoch and survived through the transitional decade. Having been formed as an alternative to official institutions, they turned out to be an effective replacement for these institutions, which collapsed during the post-Soviet period.
These forms can circulate inside the Eastern countries (as the IRWIN group's project "NSK Embassy" in Moscow), but the "Interpol" showed their regional boundaries. In Stockholm they were simply not understood and turned out to be inappropriate. Therefore, they failed to become universal despite the hopes of East European intellectuals.
We should not conceal an even more disappointing circumstance. This strategy proved inefficient not only on the international scene, but also in the East European context. It seems that since the middle of the 1990s for the countries that underwent neoliberal revolutions, the exalted individualism of Kulik and Brener has become more appropriate than old-fashioned collective efforts. This is why I did not start any communicational projects after the collapse of the Interpol. This is also the reason why IRWIN's "Transnacionala" collectivist dialogue project resulted in controversy (as the catalogue suggests) a year after the "Interpol". Isn't this another mass of contradictions we have disguised when creating the myth of the "Interpol"?
There is also a personal dimension in this situation. Having become a personage of the scandal, I was dragged into a story, I wasn't preparing for myself and to which I had no inclination. Instead of a process-oriented intellectual laboratory I found myself in the realm of the media with its high velocities and rapid actions. It wasn't my story any longer Y other developed it instead of me. However, the logic of the story suggested that I had staged the situation and, moreover, that I had won it. Thus the myth of the "Interpol" marked my own identity in the manner entirely contradicting my initial intention and my personal self-evaluation.
The most ridiculous thing is that if the authors of the "Open Letter …" had not blamed me and had not included me in the list of the "enemies of democracy", I could assume that this story did not concern me. From the very moment it became clear that the project I had designed failed, I distanced myself from it. I did not sign a curator's contract with the Russian Ministry of Culture. I did not take part in planning the exposition. I arrived in Stockholm two days before the opening. My trip Y as far as I know Y was financed not from the budget of the project but from that of the conference that was a part of the cultural programme. I would have felt more comfortable if I had known the Kulik's and Brener's plan in advance. I would have felt most triumphant if I had known that I had encouraged them to do that. In this situation I would have more reasons for an "apology of defeat".
Finally, there is another Y perhaps, the most crucial detail Y which makes the "Interpol" internally contradictory and even doubtful. Thanks to the efforts by the insulted Eastern participants and by theoreticians Zabel and Salecl, the polemic passion of the "Flash Art" and the thoroughness of the "SIKSI", this myth, which has turned into a multidimensional intellectual construction, is now completely contradictory to the original situation. This event is strikingly inadequate to the symptomatology we were trying to extract from it. The most shameful thing in the "Interpol" is that its myth was inspired by foolishness. The very intellectual primitivism of the "Open letter …" is a self-exposure. It exposes its authors to such an extent that the scandal appears not to be worth any mythology.
The story presented as a dramatic opposition of two worlds and two ways of thinking, was, in fact, a chain of mindless and chaotic meetings, dull and fruitless conversations. What was designed to inspire tense collective work and create an intellectual laboratory did not work not because it encountered obstacles in the form of opposing sets of values and points of view, but because it sank into a trivial bohemian party with galons of alcohol consumed. It was insulting for those who, having passed through dialogue projects in Moscow, were accustomed to the severe intellectual discipline and almost academic responsibility for their statements. This story, which now seems to be full of Biblical passions, was formed by banal human weaknesses Y envy of the success of the others, low-profile competition, intellectual idleness and the rejection of the intellectual superiority of the others. In other words, the "Interpol" is not worth a discussion Y in fact, there is nothing to talk about! All this story is complete nonsense.
Therefore my attempt to deconstruct the myth presented above, also seems superfluous. It is full of contradictions Y as much as the myth itself. To say that the "Interpol" could discredit the dialogue experience of the East European culture spells indirect exaggeration of its role, which it does not deserve. To say that the "Interpol" has revealed the failure of communicational projects in the West is against the facts Y such projects became a sort of a mainstream for curators in the 1990s. Everything is much simpler. At a certain point in time, certain people became involved in the project. They were not prone to any dialogue Y they simply had nothing to say.
It is, however, possible to find one justification. Everything described as internal contradictions of the "Interpol" is characteristic of any myth. Any myth covers up contradictions. It is an ideological form, by definition, which ensures integrity for those matters that otherwise fall apart. Since the beginning of this world myths were used to provide a legendary status for the matters that in reality are banal and not worth any attention. After establishing itself, every myth acquires its autonomy and its fate independent of the original reality. Finally, the experience of our time shows that an attempt to repudiate a myth essentially becomes a new mythology.
So it is important to know what this myth is about and what its prospects are. It is also important that if this myth is alive than it was inspired by life itself and not by avenging outsiders. In fact, people knew this already in the times of the ancient Greeks.
Moscow, March 2000