Somebody That I Used To Know: Gotye’s Pop Anomaly
In the final week of April 2012, the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 was a hotspot for pop. The Wanted and One Direction’s s respective singles “Glad You Came” and “What Makes You Beautiful” were in the midst of a battle of the boybands. Nicki Minaj saw success in the pure pop of “Starships” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s earworm “Call Me Maybe” was soon to be entirely inescapable. The other slots were occupied by Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Fun. and Flo Rida, and then there was Belgian-born alternative artist Gotye sitting at No. 1 with the slow-burning breakup record “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
Holding the top spot for eight consecutive weeks, “Somebody That I Used To Know” was an anomaly among its contemporaries. It veered away from the pop formula, defined at the time by plucky, bass-heavy production and snappy choruses constructed by three or more songwriters. Gotye, raised as Wouter De Backer in Australia, is the song’s sole credited writer and producer.
Listen to the best of Gotye here.
The track’s xylophone-infused beat is built around a two-note riff from Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfá’s 1967 track “Seville,” as the riff is looped throughout and layered with squeaky, erratic notes. There is constantly more going on in the background than can be picked up upon first listen, especially when trying to keep up with the twists and turns of the song’s narrative.
Recounting a mutual breakup, Gotye’s performance on “Somebody That I Used To Know” is patient and resolved. His voice drops back in with a striking emotionality during the chorus, which only appears once more, in another breakaway from the pop formula. “But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing,” he laments in a tone much higher than anything heard in the preceding minute and a half.
Beyond its curiously captivating sound, the call and response of “Somebody That I Used To Know” was its grand selling point. In the third verse, New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra provides more details of the encounter: “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over / But had me believing it was always something that I’d done.” Her nearly whispered tone matches the vocal line of Gotye’s earlier in the song until it crescendos into a full-on belt at the chorus.
They were a quintessential pairing, as confirmed by their performance in the Natasha Pincus-directed music video which currently boasts 1.62 billion views. In the conceptual-art-inspired visual, Gotye and Kimbra appear blending into a geometric wall pattern. After the former presents his case, the latter escapes the confines of the wall, sliding over to provide her rebuttal. She wills him to hear her, but when it’s made clear that he isn’t listening, she gives up and slips away as the paint disappears from her body at the song’s conclusion.
In 2012, Gotye told Rolling Stone that “‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ has changed what I thought was possible.” While he already had an established fanbase in Australia where the song was originally released in July 2011, its success turned him into an international sensation almost overnight. The track, now certified eight-times platinum, topped charts in 26 countries and spent 59 weeks on the Hot 100. At the 2013 Grammy Awards ceremony, Gotye won all three of his nominations, including Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Alternative Music Album for Making Mirrors, and the coveted Record of the Year award, which was presented to him by Prince.
Nearing a decade since its release, “Somebody That I Used To Know” has proven to be evergreen. It landed at No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 decade-end Charts and is currently receiving yet another revival on TikTok. With over 65,000 videos totaling more than 10 million views, users have painted themselves against walls in recreations of the music video and tried their hand at hitting Kimbra’s high note while younger fans are coming to understand the true meaning behind its lyrics.
There’s yet to be a No.1 song quite as mystifying in its idiosyncrasy as “Somebody That I Used To Know.” It remains a shining reminder of what Top 40 pop can sound like when its boundaries are warped and bent into something entirely new.
Listen to Making Mirrors here.
How Adulation Boosted Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” — afterglow
Wouter De Backer, better known by his stage name Gotye, never expected to become a global sensation, if even for a brief moment in time. The Australian singer-songwriter had been making relatively unknown alternative music since 2001, so when he sauntered onto the Grammy stage in 2013 to accept the Record of the Year award for his hit single “Somebody That I Used to Know,” he oozed humility.
“I just have to say there are so many incredible songs in this category,” Gotye said. “Not only in the Grammys more generally, but also so many artists and pieces of music that aren’t recognized by the Grammys this year.”
Gotye won two more Grammys that night for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Alternative Music Album for Making Mirrors, his chart-topper’s home. Each time the shaggy-haired singer took the stage, he was just as modest and excited to be among the biggest names in the industry, such as the late Prince who presented him with the Record of the Year award. Truth be told, Gotye, dressed in a simple black suit with the slimmest of ties, did stand out. At that point, pop music was as loud and gimmicky as ever. Neither he nor “Somebody That I Used to Know,” featuring New Zealand singer Kimbra, fit that mold.
The track has no pulsating beat or lyrics detailing a crazy evening out on the town à la “Last Friday Night.” Rather, it begins quietly, as Gotye faintly sings the opening verses over his sample of “Seville,” an instrumental song by Brazilian jazz guitarist Luiz Bonfá. The Latin guitar plucks are paired with xylophones, flutes, and other percussive beats, setting the mood for Gotye’s confession: “Now and then I think of when we were together.”
Crooning in a voice reminiscent of Sting, Gotye continues to slowly peel back the layers of his failed relationship as the delicate guitar strums persist and whir. He finally succumbs to the reality that his ex-lover is just “somebody that I used to know” in the climactic hook that kicks off the chorus. He sings, “You didn’t have to cut me off,” with a desperate conviction, almost shouting his grievances at the former flame who he knows will never hear him.
With layered vocals and instrumentation, “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a multifaceted song beyond its musical production. Opposing the first two verses, Kimbra tells the other side of the story in a powerful vocal performance before she and Gotye harmonize about the doomed union to close out the song. This tale of ill-fated love climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 28, 2012 and stayed there for nine consecutive weeks. The stop motion video for “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which features a nude Gotye and Kimbra gradually becoming coated with paint against a colorful backdrop, was just as popular. As of today, it has amassed over 1.5 billion views on YouTube.
Gotye has turned down millions in YouTube royalties over the years
It’s been six years now since the world was introduced to Gotye’s ‘Somebody I Used To Know’. The track, which featured New Zealand singer Kimbra, was an international success, winning Gotye ARIA, APRA, and Grammy awards, but to date, it hasn’t earned Gotye a cent in YouTube royalties.
In a recent interview with news.com.au, the Melbourne musician revealed that he has never monetised his YouTube channel, and has therefore missed out on potentially millions of dollars in ad revenue.
“I’m not interested in selling my music,” Gotye, whose real name is Wally De Backer, said. “That’s the reason I don’t put ads on my YouTube channel, which seems strange to people in today’s climate, but that is a decision you can make. I’m like that with all my music. I generally never want to sync my music for products.”
“Ads are calling for our attention anywhere we turn in the world. If you can do something you care about and that other people care about and keep it out that world that feels like it’s all about ‘hey buy this stuff’ then that’s a good thing.”
“I don’t mind syncing my music with creative projects like TV or film,” Gotye said. “I’ve got my own set of rules I made, if a student film wants to use my film I say yes across the board, there’s no money involved. If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project.”
Worth noting also, is the fact that 50% of the royalties from ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ go to the estate of Luiz Bonfa, whose 1967 track ‘Seville’ is heavily sampled on the track. “There’s never been lawsuits,” Gotye clarified. “There was a moment where I could have considered going to court, but I didn’t want to spend that time of my life doing that. The incredible work that my managers did protected me from very far reaching requests for percentages of my songwriting. In the end I decided it made more sense to focus on creative things and not get hung up on money and lawyers and courts. You don’t want to be in places that drain your energy.”
There are varying reports on how much money YouTube videos make per view due to a number of unique factors for each video, but it was said that Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ had made the Korean singer $10 million when it had reached two billion views. At the time of writing, Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ sits at approximately 930 million views.
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No matter which way you slice it, that’s an awful lot of lost revenue for Gotye, but we have to say that we definitely admire his integrity.
Gotye: ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ artist talks about new album
Gotye isn’t terribly worried about being upstaged by a viral YouTube cover of his international hit, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Even though the video, in which five people pluck out his song on one shared guitar, was at one time more famous than his own.
“On some level it makes me feel like maybe the song doesn’t really belong to me anymore,” says the singer born Wouter De Backer. “I’ve just written this song that has an energy all of its own and it’s almost unconnected from me as an artist, producer or singer even, which is kind of cool. I think it’s a really interesting energy to be related to.”
Whether or not the song still “belongs” to Gotye (it’s pronounced gaut-tee-yay, by the way), he has earned heaps of praise for his latest album, “Making Mirrors,” which features a diverse range of sounds — everything from that acousticky folk of “Somebody” to feel-good pop to Motown to hints of dubstep.
It’s all over the place, but the Belgian-Australian singer assures that there is a method to his schizophrenic madness.
“I really like diverse records and I’m a big fan of bands like Ween who bring a lot of different strands together and just explode outwards in lots of different directions in one album, but I think there’s a thread there that holds it together,” De Backer says.
He goes on to muse that his hypereclectic style might be a reflection of the iPod era, which has led to a culture of impatience.
“On the one hand, I think people might be much more eclectic in their listening because of that access, but then on the other hand, maybe it also gives people very strong control over not exploring different types of music that they’re not that familiar with or not yet moved by,” he offers. “I don’t know if coming from Australia is part of it, but I think I sometimes just have a whimsical, idiosyncratic range of tastes in music and I try to find a way to make sense of them all and find a way to make them all live together. I may or may not have succeeded with that on some instances on the record.”
So who is that “somebody” that you used to know?
I’ve talked to a few different ex-girlfriends in the last year since the song came out, but it’s not written about one particular relationship.
That’s what everyone says.
But it’s true! I look at different lines in the lyrics and I can see specific moments or people in certain lines and then there are other lines in the lyrics that I kind of go, ‘well, that’s just fiction.’
Singer Kimbra is much more than ‘Somebody That You Used to Know’
Less can be more. Kimbra recorded her debut album “Vows” in 2010. Few outside of her native New Zealand and Australia heard the 13-song collection, which clocks in at just 55 minutes.
However, the Kiwi’s sublime cameo, a minute’s worth of singing during Gotye’s massive hit, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” turned the photogenic vocalist into a known commodity since the smash was the top-selling digital song of 2012. A staggering 6.8 million units were sold and it was the top streamed album of the year with 45 million streams. The unorthodox tune put Kimbra on the map.
“That’s always amusing to me since I never expected ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ to become a hit,” Kimbra said while calling from Washington D.C.
“We both knew the song was very powerful but it’s so unusual, since the chorus doesn’t come in until two minutes into the song, but for some reason, people love it.”
After winning a Grammy courtesy of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Kimbra, 27, followed up the duet with 2014’s stylish “The Golden Echo.” The playful songs travel in a number of directions. Kimbra looks back and pays homage to ’80s and ’90s pop.
“That’s just where I was at that time,” Kimbra said. “Get ready for something else from me. “
“Primal Heart,” Kimbra’s third album, which will drop in April, is considerably different than anything in her canon. The new material, which will be showcased when Kimbra performs tonight at Union Transfer, features her most direct tunes. It’s a bass-heavy project inspired by hip-hop and R&B.
“This reflects my growth,” Kimbra said.
“This album is a product of all of the touring I’ve done behind ‘The Golden Echo.’ I’ve seen the world and it has had an impact. And then there is the part about me living in New York City for the last two years. I have a new sense of courage from living there. All of the positive and negative aspects have hit me. For the first time, I’m writing from experience.”
The laid back soprano has a wide vocal range. It was evident to her peers, at an early age, that Kimbra’s set of pipes are extraordinary.
“I fell in love with singing when I was really young,” she said.
“I wasn’t aware of a possibility of a career as a vocalist until I was in high school. I ended up being ranked number two in the country while I was in high school. That was huge, since it gave me this massive boost of encouragement. I thought I could do it.”
Kimbra signed with Warner Bros. Records at 19 and took off, courtesy of Gotye.
“There is something magical about ‘Somebody That I Used to Know,'” Kimbra said. “There has to be, since it’s one of the most popular songs of this decade. It was great at the time, but I’ve moved on.”
“Top of the World,” the initial single from “Primal Heart” is scoring airplay on satellite radio.
“The airplay has helped a lot,” Kimbra said.
“I see more and more people coming to shows. I love playing these larger halls. I’ve taken gradual steps. It’s all been good. I’m now known for more than ‘Somebody That I Used to Know.’ Life is amazing. I have a new album and a new tour and anything is possible.”
Kimbra appears Wednesday, Jan. 31 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia. Tickets are $25. Show time is 8 p.m.
Gotye- Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)- official film clip on Vimeo
Film clip for the Gotye song Somebody That I Used To Know
Featuring Kimbra from the album Making Mirrors
Buy Somebody That I Used To Know here: smarturl.it/gotyesomebody
Buy Making Mirrors here smarturl.it/gotye
Directed, produced and edited by Natasha Pincus
Body art by Emma Hack
Cinematographer and colourist: Warwick Field
Scenic artist: Howard Clark
Key grip: Rob Hansford
Assistants: Rose Cidoni, Claire Leighton, Rob Murray
Original artwork by Frank De Backer
Produced by Wally De Backer
Mixed by Francois Tetaz, assisted by Wally at Moose Mastering, Richmond, VIC
Bass recorded by Wally in Lucas Taranto’s loungeroom, Melbourne, VIC
All other sounds put together by Wally in The Barn, Merricks, VIC
Bass guitar: Lucas Taranto
Lead and backing vocals: Kimbra
Guitar, flutes, percussion and synth samples, lead and backing vocals: Wally
Contains a sample of the recording “Seville” as performed by Luiz Bonfa.
Courtesy of Geffen Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end
Always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough
You didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records
And then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
And I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know. ..
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough
You didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records
And then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
I used to know
That I used to know
Somebody That I Used To Know is from the Gotye album Making Mirrors
Single and film clip released by Eleven: A Music Company
Release/catalogue number: ELEVENDIG100
Release date: Jul 11, 2011
Three Days Grace Rock Up Cover of Gotye’s Monster 2011 Hit
Three Days Grace have once again plucked a popular alt-rock favorite and given it a heavier makeover, this time taking on Gotye’s monster 2011 single, “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
For Three Days Grace version, the play a bit with the unique instrumentation of the original, starting off some strumming guitar and an increasing bass presence in the verses, then jolting off the page with heavy guitars in the chorus. Add in some electronic key work that really seals the deal at the end of the song, and Three Days Grace definitely put their own stamp on the track.
Singer Matt Walst says, “The first time I heard ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ I got goosebumps! This has only happened to me a few times in my life. I remember listening to it over and over and just being happy. Music releases a mood enhancing chemical in the brain that can set good moods and peak enjoyment. Music is truly the best drug!”
The track comes along with a visually striking video directed by Mike Filsinger that features the members animated in black and white, performing on a movie theater screen. You can watch the video below.
This is not the first time Three Days Grace have gone the covers route between records, taking on Phantogram’s alterna-hit “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” ahead of releasing their Outsider record.
“Somebody That I Used to Know” propelled Gotye’s career into the spotlight, with his Making Mirrors album earning the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. The song itself, with an assist from Kimbra, was a chart-topper on the Alternative Songs and Billboard Hot 100 Songs charts and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the entire year of 2012. The track was also certified eight times platinum in the U.S.
If you like what you hear of Three Days Grace’s Gotye cover, you can pick up “Somebody That I Used to Know” here.
Three Days Grace, “Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye Cover)
Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
See Three Days Grace in the 40 Best Rock Songs of 2018
Grabar Igor Emmanuilovich – biography of the artist, personal life, paintings
Igor Grabar painted landscapes and still lifes filled with light, was an architect and art critic. It was he who redeveloped the Tretyakov Gallery and compiled its first scientific catalog. Grabar also organized exhibitions of Soviet artists abroad and worked to preserve ancient icons and frescoes.
“Sweet, wonderful smell of fresh paint”
Igor Grabar. Self-portrait (fragment).1942. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Igor Grabar. Self-portrait with a palette (fragment). 1934. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Igor Grabar. Self-portrait with a hat (detail). 1921. Private collection
Igor Grabar was born in 1871 in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary), in Budapest. His father Emmanuel Grabar was a lawyer and member of the Hungarian parliament. Because of his Russophile views, he was forced to leave for Russia in 1876.In the city of Yegoryevsk, Ryazan province, Emmanuel Grabar entered the local gymnasium as a teacher. Later, his wife and children moved in with him.
Igor Grabar fell in love with art as a child: “I don’t remember myself not painting, I cannot imagine myself without a pencil, an eraser, without watercolors and brushes”. The boy drew from his imagination and copied portraits of military men from magazines. In the gymnasium of Yegoryevsk, where he studied, drawing was taught by a local artist, and he interested Grabar in painting.
I wanted to get to his death somehow to see with my own eyes how they paint pictures and what kind of oil paints I knew about only by hearsay. I thought that I could not stand the happiness filling my chest, especially when I smelled the sweet, wonderful scent of fresh paint.
In 1882, 11-year-old Igor Grabar went to study at the Moscow Imperial Lyceum in memory of Tsarevich Nicholas. Life at the Lyceum turned out to be difficult. He was a “living scholar” there, and he was surrounded by boys from wealthy families who did not miss the opportunity to play a trick on Grabar’s poverty.He plunged headlong into painting and drawing: “I had four opportunities to work from nature within the walls of the lyceum: to write from windows, to paint portraits of others, to put on still lifes and to compose scenes from the life and life of the lyceum, copying details from nature.” He painted teachers and workers of the lyceum, acquaintances and classmates. He spent his days off at the Tretyakov Gallery and at Moscow exhibitions.
Grabar finished his studies at the Lyceum with honors, from Moscow he went to the capital. In 1889 he entered two faculties of St. Petersburg University at once – law and history and philology.He managed to write biographies of artists and humorous stories for the popular magazine “Niva”, draw illustrations and act as an art critic with reviews of exhibitions.
Igor Grabar. In the garden. A bed of delphiniums (fragment). 1947. Kursk State Picture Gallery named after A.A. Deineki, Kursk
Igor Grabar. Abramtsevo. The wattle (fragment). 1944. Samara Regional Art Museum, Samara
Igor Grabar. Spring landscape. April (fragment). 1939.Private collection
The craving for art brought Grabar to the studio of the famous teacher, Professor Pavel Chistyakov, with whom Vasily Polenov and Valentin Serov studied in different years. Grabar wrote about his studies in the studio: “Arriving at the studio, the newcomer, in an enthusiastic mood, sat in front of the model and began to draw her, and sometimes write directly. Chistyakov appeared, and when his turn came to him, the teacher began to disassemble every millimeter of the study he had begun, and accompanied his devastating criticism with such jokes, words, grins and grimaces that the poor man was thrown into cold sweat and he was ready to fall from shame and embarrassment to the underworld …In conclusion, Chistyakov recommended to give up for now and think about painting and confine himself to drawing alone … “
Still, Igor Grabar chose the career of an artist: after graduating from university, in 1894 he entered the Academy of Arts, where he studied in the studio of Ilya Repin. A year later, Grabar set off on his first trip to Europe, which dragged on for several years. He visited Paris and Italy, studied at the studio of the artist-teacher Anton Ashbe in Munich, which is popular with European masters.Soon he taught there himself, heading one of the departments of the school, and continued to study painting, sculpture and architecture.
In the spring of 1900, Igor Grabar visited the World Exhibition in Paris. He recalled: “Unforgettable impressions made by me from the retrospective section of the exhibition, in which for the first time such giants of French art as Millet, Courbet, Manet were so fully represented. But this exhibition prompted me a thought that has haunted me since then – the idea that an artist should sit at home and depict his own, close and dear life.Millet, Courbet and Manet wrote what they saw around them, because they understood their own better than someone else’s, and because they loved him more than someone else’s. ” In 1901, Grabar returned to his homeland.
“Fantastic beauty”: winter landscapes and still lifes
Igor Grabar. February azure (detail). 1904. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Igor Grabar. Hoarfrost (fragment). 1905. Yaroslavl Art Museum, Yaroslavl
Igor Grabar. March snow (fragment).1904. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
In the capital, he became one of the main critics in the art magazine “World of Art”. In 1903, the painter moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow. At one of the Moscow exhibitions, he met the artist Nikolai Meshcherin, and he invited Grabar to his hospitable estate Dugino. Since then, he spent a long time at the estate and here he met his future wife Valentina, the niece of Nikolai Meshcherin. Picturesque places were located around the estate, the Russian nature greatly inspired the artist.He worked a lot: he got up at five or six o’clock in the morning and went to sketches, wrote, forgetting about rest and food.
In the early 1900s, Grabar became interested in impressionism. He loved winter and winter landscapes, on this theme he created the works “February azure” (1904), “March snow” (1904), “Hoarfrost” (1905). Changes in nature and in lighting occurred quickly, and the artist painted with passion, “throwing paints on the canvas, as if in a frenzy, without too much thought and weighing. ”
Igor Grabar. Unkempt table (fragment).1907. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Igor Grabar. Delphinium (detail). 1908. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Igor Grabar. Chrysanthemums (fragment). 1905. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
The idea for “February Azure” was suggested to the artist by nature itself during a walk in the forest. He gazed at the birch and dropped the stick, bent over it and accidentally looked up. In the book “My Life” Grabar wrote about this case as follows:
I was standing near a marvelous specimen of birch, rare in its rhythmic structure of branches.When I looked at the top of the birch from below, from the surface of the snow, I was stupefied by the spectacle of fantastic beauty that opened before me: some chimes and echoes of all the colors of the rainbow, united by the blue enamel of the sky … I immediately ran for a small canvas and in one session I sketched with nature sketch of a future painting.
To achieve the impression of a low horizon, he made a trench in deep snow and placed himself there with an easel and a large canvas. Grabar used different shades of blue to convey the color of the “blue enamel of the sky”.In two and a half weeks, he completed the canvas completely on nature. The artist himself called “February Azure” his most significant work.
Igor Grabar often said that with the end of winter the landscape genre was losing its attractiveness for him. Then he began to paint still lifes. Flowers grew in the garden and greenhouse all year round in Dugin, and among the still lifes of the 1910s, flowers began to prevail in Grabar’s work – he created the paintings Chrysanthemums (1905), Untidy Table (1907), and Delphinium (1908).
Architect, art critic and head of the Tretyakov Gallery
Igor Grabar. Winter evening (detail). 1903. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Igor Grabar. Frost. Sunrise (detail). 1941. Irkutsk Regional Art Museum named after V.P. Sukacheva, Irkutsk
Igor Grabar. September snow (detail). 1903. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
The master’s talent manifested itself not only in painting and graphics, but also in architecture.Ekaterina Zakharyina, the widow of the famous doctor Grigory Zakharyin, invited Igor Grabar to build a hospital-memorial on their estate in memory of his deceased son. He took up the project with enthusiasm. Design engineers and builders, according to Grabar’s design, built a large modern hospital with several buildings, houses for doctors and an operating room. After the completion of the project, he wanted to take up architecture again, but had to choose between architecture and science: at that time he was doing extensive work on the multivolume History of Russian Art.Grabar became the editor and author of several key sections in the multivolume book for the publishing house of Joseph Knebel. He collected archival materials throughout the country and practically did not paint. “This“ History of Art ”is, in essence, almost the history of Russian culture. I would like to publish 12 volumes … We need an entertaining story, close to the description of life and everyday life in different eras, illustrated with works of art ”, – he wrote.
The first issue of “History” was published in 1908, but before 1915, eight volumes were published.The books were successfully published, but work on the multivolume was stopped: during the First World War, Knebel’s publishing house was destroyed, many glass negatives were irretrievably lost. Grabar wrote: “This is why I had to stop publishing the History, because all the negatives – up to 20,000 pieces – shot under my direction, and to a large extent also by me personally, were destroyed. Among them were not hundreds, but thousands of the most precious unique documents, which are now no longer recoverable, for I have traveled all over Russia, the whole North, all significant estates in the central provinces. “ After this event, the artist could not work for several months. The monumental work “History of Russian Art” became an important stage in Russian art history.
Igor Grabar. On the lake (fragment). 1926. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Igor Grabar. Rowans (fragment). 1924. Rostov Kremlin State Museum-Reserve, Rostov, Yaroslavl Region
Igor Grabar. Fall. Rowan and birch trees (detail). 1924. Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum, Nizhny Novgorod
In 1913 Igor Grabar became the head of the Tretyakov Gallery.In his letters, he said that he agreed to this position in order to study the art of artists not through glass, “but close, to the touch, with a thorough study of the technique, signature, all features.” He carried out a large-scale redevelopment of the museum’s exposition, which caused discussions in newspapers and even at meetings of the State Duma. Before the arrival of Grabar, the walls in the gallery halls were loaded from floor to ceiling with paintings, without any logic – “tiny sketches next to huge canvases. “ Grabar used monographic and historical principles, which were innovative for that time, as the basis for the new exposition. Museum staff redeveloped part of the halls, removed shields and partitions. The private collection has become a European-style museum. The transformations were supported by artists: the artist Ilya Repin said that “a huge and complex work has been done to the glory of the Pavel Tretyakov Gallery.”
Grabar also compiled the gallery’s first scientific catalog: under his leadership, more than four thousand exhibits were checked and described anew.He also acquired paintings by the classics of Russian art Orest Kiprensky and Pavel Fedotov for the Tretyakov Gallery, as well as canvases by the “newest” artists – Ilya Mashkov and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. Igor Grabar was director of the gallery until 1925.
Igor Grabar. Pears on a green drapery (detail). 1922. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Igor Grabar. Lilacs and forget-me-nots (detail). 1905. Yaroslavl Art Museum, Yaroslavl
Igor Grabar.Apples and asters (detail). 1926. Taganrog Art Museum, Taganrog, Rostov Region
After the October Revolution, the artist stayed in Russia and was engaged in administrative museum work. In 1918, on his initiative, the Central Restoration Workshops were opened in Moscow.
In the first third of the 20th century, historians and restorers worked hard to uncover samples of Old Russian and Byzantine art – paintings and icons that survived in ancient monasteries and churches.Thanks to Grabar, many works of icon painting were preserved and restored. At the beginning of the century, restoration was called repair, and the masters had an appropriate approach: no scientific research was carried out before restoration. Grabar wanted to make the restoration a science: he attracted scientists – chemists, physicists and microbiologists to work. He organized and participated in expeditions to Novgorod and Pskov, to the cities of the Volga region, to the Crimea and the Caucasus. Expeditions were conducted to find, restore and strengthen the monuments of art and antiquity.In a letter to his wife Valentina, he said: “And now I have organized work to clear all the cycles of frescoes and icons of Rublev, and at the same time to clear the walls of Vladimir churches and mainly the famous miraculous icons of Our Lady of Bogolyubskaya, Maximovskaya and Vladimirskaya … And I must say, the results surpassed the wildest hopes: we already know things that we have not dreamed of recently … The whole history of ancient Russian painting has to be redone. ”
Despite the fact that in the 1920s Igor Grabar was engaged in public work, he did not leave painting.The artist painted still lifes to “maintain the fluency of the hand”: “still life exercises” – as he called his canvases. In compositions he combined different fruits and fabrics, achieved a contrast of textures and rich coloring of warm and cold colors, as in the paintings “Apples and Asters” (1922), “Pears on a Green Drapery” (1922).
Igor Grabar. Portrait of Sergei Prokofiev (detail). 1934. Astrakhan State Picture Gallery named after P.M. Dogadin, Astrakhan
Igor Grabar. Portrait of Korney Chukovsky (detail).1935. Kiev National Museum of Russian Art, Kiev, Ukraine
Igor Grabar. Portrait of Sergei Chaplygin (detail). 1935. State Historical, Art and Literary Museum-Reserve “Abramtsevo”, Moscow Region
In the 1930s, Igor Grabar created portraits of famous people: composer Sergei Prokofiev, poet Korney Chukovsky, academicians Sergei Chaplygin and Vladimir Vernadsky, art historians Abram Efros Anatoly Bakushinsky. The artist traveled a lot around the world, he was invited by museums as an expert art critic.He was the initiator of the creation of the City of Artists: on Verkhnyaya Maslovka Street in Moscow there were houses with workshops and apartments of painters, including Grabar’s workshop.
In later years, the artist was the director of the museum-estate “Abramtsevo”, headed the Institute named after V. I. Surikov. At the end of his life, Igor Grabar settled in the suburban village of Abramtsevo, a favorite place of many Russian artists. He continued to paint and work on the “History of Russian Art”. In a letter to a colleague, Grabar wrote: “You should have seen what Russian space opens up from the third floor of my dacha – it’s just breathtaking.All summer he was engaged in painting … “ He created summer and winter landscapes, turned to his favorite winter theme in the works” Hoarfrost “(1952),” Winter Landscape “(1954).
In 1960, Igor Grabar died at the age of 89. He is buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy cemetery.
140 years since the birth of artist Boris Kustodiev
140 years ago, Boris Kustodiev was born – one of the brightest, brightest and most festive artists of his time. Kustodiev was more than once accused of vulgarity and philistinism.Nevertheless, the master remained true to his ideals throughout his life.
The writer of everyday life of merchants, a provincial explorer and a wonderful colorist Boris Kustodiev left to the descendants of puffy ladies, festive elegant Russia and the original reality of the old times. He was a talented student of Ilya Repin, about whom the famous painter wrote: “I have high hopes for Kustodiev. He is a gifted artist, loving art, thoughtful, serious; attentively studying nature … “.
After graduating from the Academy of Arts, Kustodiev traveled extensively throughout Europe, worked, participated in international exhibitions – in Munich (1901) and Venice (1907) he received gold medals.His paintings were purchased by various museums, including the Museum of Emperor Alexander III and the Tretyakov Gallery.
Boris Kustodiev. Self-portrait. 1912
At 35, a successful artist faced the first signs of a spinal cord tumor. “At that time he was still a mobile, slender person, shy, but always truthfully expressing his opinion, a witty interlocutor, fired up by talking about art, but never speaking in public,” the artist Georgy Vereisky wrote in his memoirs. – Boris Mikhailovich’s tumor began to grow more and more in the spinal cord, and in the same year, 1913, he underwent an operation in Berlin. ”
Two years later, Kustodiev moved around and worked on crutches. The second operation was performed in Petrograd in the clinic of Professor Zeidler. But the treatment did not bring tangible results – for the last 15 years of his life, Kustodiev was confined to a wheelchair.
Boris Kustodiev.Portrait of F.I.Shalyapin. 1922
Kustodiev became famous, first of all, as a talented portrait painter. In his works, he paid attention not only, in fact, to the image of a person, but also to the details of the setting or landscape. “I write with pleasure both genres and landscapes, but most of all I am attracted to portrait painting,” he wrote in his autobiography (Ogonyok, 1908, No. 1).
Portrait of Chaliapin was not easy for the artist
– he painted a two-meter canvas in parts, reclining, using a specially designed device capable of tilting the canvas to the desired position.In 1922, Chaliapin, who valued his portrait, bought the work and took it to emigration to France.
“I knew a lot of interesting, talented and good people in my life, but if I have ever seen a really high spirit in a person, it’s in Kustodiev,” Chaliapin said.
Boris Kustodiev. Fair. 1906
Trinity, Palm Sunday, Epiphany, Maslenitsa – folk holidays, festivities and fairs Kustodiev wrote brightly, colorful and grotesque, trying to get away from Repin’s realism.“I consider the diversity, the brightness is very typical of Russian life,” said Kustodiev. In 1916, one of his most famous and recognizable paintings – “Maslenitsa” – was bought by the Academy of Arts. The incident caused a scandal among the conservatives, who accused the artist of philistinism and opposed the acquisition of “popular print”.
“In my works I want to approach the Dutch masters, to their attitude to their native life. They have a lot of anecdotes, but this anecdote is extremely “convincing” because their art is warmed by a simple and ardent love for the visible.Dutch artists loved life simple, everyday, for them there was neither “high” nor “vulgar”, “low”, they all painted with the same enthusiasm and love, “said Kustodiev.
Boris Kustodiev. A merchant’s wife drinking tea. 1923
Merchants Kustodiev were especially successful – he became the first to show a “successful woman” of his era.Stout, stately, in a colorful headscarf or shawl, invariably drinking tea at a rich samovar – without her the chronicle of merchant life “according to Kustodiev” would not be so colorful. As well as without the accompanying details of Russian tea drinking – earthenware teapots, serving, a traditional saucer.
“They say that the Russian way of life is dead … This is nonsense! You can’t kill everyday life, because everyday life is a person … ”, – wrote Kustodiev.
Meanwhile, the critics did not understand the artist, and the newspapers were accused of bad taste. “I don’t know if I managed to do and express in my things what I wanted – love of life, joy and vigor, love of my“ Russian ”- this was always the only“ plot ”of my paintings,” he said with his side, the artist.
Boris Kustodiev. Morning. 1904
The artist’s wife Yulia Proshinskaya was different from the heroines her husband liked to portray. Fragile, sophisticated, graceful – Kustodiev touchingly and passionately loved Julia, painted her portraits and thanked fate for meeting in the Kostroma province during his student days. Proshinskaya became his beloved woman and friend, muse and nurse.
It was Yulia who made a courageous decision during the operation and asked the surgeon: “Leave your hands, hands! An artist – no hands! He will not be able to live … “.
“How much love, devotion, what a sense of duty was needed in order to devote fifteen and a half years to the help and mental support of a seriously ill husband! And never a word of displeasure, not a hint of fatigue. A loyal friend, a tender mother and mistress, she was a woman of extraordinary spiritual purity and amazing trustfulness. All the hardships of life, all the chores around the house and family lay on her alone.Yes, father, he was not mistaken in choosing a life partner, she was worthy of him. I want everyone to know this, because without her daily help and care, he could not live, could not work! ”, – later recalled the artist’s daughter Irina.
Boris Kustodiev. Bolshevik. 1920
Kustodiev watched the revolution from the window. He met the change with enthusiasm and considered everything that happened on the streets “great joy.”
“As if everything was in a dream, and just like in a dream, or, better, in an old“ extravaganza ”, everything fell through somewhere old, yesterday’s, which they were afraid to look at, turned out not only not scary, but simply evaporated“ like smoke”!!! Somehow now all this will enter the coast and somehow will be there, in the war.
I would like to believe that everything will be fine there too. After all, this case showed that there is a lot of strength in our people and that it is capable of much, it is only necessary to bring it to the limit.
… It is still in full swing, the streets are still full of people, although the order is exemplary.I have never complained so much about my life, which does not allow me to go out on the street – after all, you have to wait for “such” street for centuries! ”Kustodiev wrote in March 1917 to Vasily Lugsky.
And the artist’s daughter later described the events of those days as follows: “There was silence in the studio, and life was in full swing outside the window. Someone was shouting. The crowd was seething. But the sounds did not penetrate the studio. My father wrote for about three hours. Until the sun went away When I saw his eyes, they were wet. Thinking that he was in pain, I brought the medicine.“Ira, you don’t understand what kind of happiness it is that in St. Petersburg I see the red flags of freedom!”
Three years later, disappointment came:
“Everywhere they are fighting, someone is defeating someone, imposing indemnities on one another or imprisoning someone. … Our neighbor, a landowner, has just been imprisoned and demanded 10,000 rubles. redemption! … This is what our long-awaited freedoms have degenerated into. I remember our evenings with you at the beginning of the war, when everything was so warmly accepted and everyone was full of hopes for the future, how it all turned out not to be what they expected and wanted ”(from a letter from Kustodiev to Vasily Lugsky).
Boris Kustodiev. Russian Venus. 1926
Ruben’s heroines Kustodiev were repeatedly accused of vulgarity and philistinism. However, the artist remained faithful to the ideals of the Renaissance throughout his life. And the expression “Kustodian beauties”, despite the criticism, has long since “gone to the people” and has become a symbol of femininity.The puffy and golden-haired “Russian Venus” seriously ill Kustodiev wrote for a year – by that time the doctors had forbidden him to work a lot.
In February 1927, the artist applied to the People’s Committee – permission from this department was needed to travel to Germany for treatment. A positive decision was received in March, and the passport – in May – 10 days after the death of Kustodiev. He left at 49.
90,000 The Secret of Van Gogh’s Madness: What Does His Last Painting Say?
- Alastair Souk
- BBC Culture
Photo by Van Gogh
On a summer day in 1890, Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a field near Paris. BBC Culture columnist examines the painting he was working on that morning to understand what it says about the state of the artist’s psyche.
On July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh walked out into a wheat field behind the castle in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, a few kilometers from Paris, and shot himself in the chest.
By that time, the artist had been suffering from mental illness for a year and a half – ever since, on a December evening in 1888, during his life in the city of Arles in French Provence, the unfortunate man cut off his left ear with a razor.
After that, he had episodic seizures that undermined his strength and after which he was in a state of dimmed consciousness for several days, or even weeks, or lost touch with reality.
However, in the intervals between breakdowns, his mind was calm and clear, and the artist could paint pictures.
Moreover, his stay in Auvers, where he arrived in May 1890 after leaving the psychiatric hospital, became the most fruitful stage of his creative life: in 70 days he created 75 paintings and more than a hundred drawings and sketches.
However, despite this, he felt more and more alone and did not find a place for himself, convincing himself that his life was in vain.
Finally he got hold of a small revolver belonging to the owner of the house, which he rented in Auvers.
It was this weapon that he took with him to the field on that fateful Sunday in late July.
However, he only got into his hands a pocket revolver, not very powerful, so when the artist pulled the trigger, the bullet, instead of piercing the heart, bounced off the rib.
Photo author, EPA
A weapon is exhibited in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, from which the artist is believed to have shot himself
Van Gogh lost consciousness and fell to the ground. When evening came, he came to his senses and began to look for a revolver to complete the matter, but did not find it and trudged back to the hotel, where a doctor was called for him.
The incident was reported to Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, who arrived the next day. For some time, Theo thought that Vincent would survive – but nothing could be done.That same night, at the age of 37, the artist died.
“I didn’t leave his head until it was all over,” Theo wrote to his wife Johanna. “Dying, he said:“ That’s how I wanted to leave! ”, After which he lived for a few more minutes, and then everything was over. and he found peace that he could not find on earth. ”
The exhibition “On the Edge of Madness” at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam gives a detailed and holistic view of the last one and a half years of the artist’s life.
The exact diagnosis of Van Gogh is not given to visitors (over the past decades, a variety of hypotheses have been put forward – from epilepsy and schizophrenia to alcoholism, psychopathy and borderline personality disorder), but among the exhibits there is a rusted revolver found in the fields behind the castle in Auvers somewhere in 1960 year.
Analysis of the revolver showed that it was shot and that it lay in the ground for 50 to 80 years – in other words, it is likely that this is the very revolver with which Van Gogh committed suicide.
Korn and all troubles
In addition, at the exhibition you can look at the recently discovered letter, which was much talked about in the media.
It was written by Felix Ray, the attending physician of Van Gogh in Arles, with a drawing showing which part of the ear was cut off by the artist.
For many years, biographers have argued about whether Van Gogh lost his entire ear or just his lobe. The letter, found by independent researcher Bernadette Murphy, who wrote the book “The True Story of Van Gogh’s Ear” about her discovery, irrefutably proves that the unfortunate madman cut off his ear entirely.
Author of the photo, AP
Caption to the photo,
Letter from the French provincial doctor Felix Ray, showing which part of the ear was cut off by Van Gogh in December 1888
Of course, the letter became the highlight of the program at the exhibition. However, on a recent visit to the museum, my attention was drawn to another exhibit – an unfinished painting about a meter wide called “The Roots of Trees” (1890).
Van Gogh worked on it on the morning of July 27, a few hours before the suicide attempt. This was his last painting.
At first glance, this rich picture seems almost abstract: how can you “read” this mass of blue, green and yellow strokes, between which the canvas shines through?
Author of the photo, Van Gogh
“The roots of trees” by Van Gogh is a complex “continuous” canvas without any particular accent sandy soil on a steep limestone slope.In the upper left corner of the picture is a small patch of sky.
Except for this tiny piece, the entire canvas is occupied by a tight weave of gnarled roots, trunks, branches and lush vegetation. As Martin Bailey, art historian and author of the South Studio: Van Gogh in Provence, which is now in preparation for publication, notes, “The tree tops are cut in a very unusual way – much like the Japanese prints that Van Gogh so admired. ”
In fact, “The Roots of Trees” is in many ways an extraordinary painting: it is an innovative continuous composition without any particular accent.
Perhaps she became the forerunner of further forms of development of contemporary art, such as abstraction.
And at the same time, it is impossible not to perceive this canvas in retrospect, knowing that soon after working on it, Van Gogh tried to commit suicide.
What does this picture tell us about the state of his psyche?
From the picture, all any doubt, exudes excitement, it is all as if saturated with emotional instability.
“This is one of those paintings, looking at which you can feel the mental anguish of Van Gogh,” says Bailey.
Moreover, the theme of this work seems to be of importance as well. A few years earlier, Van Gogh had created a sketch depicting the roots of trees, which, as he wrote in his letter to Theo, was supposed to symbolize the struggle of life.
Shortly before his death, in another letter to his brother, he said that his life was “hacked to the very root.”
Could this painting have been conceived by Van Gogh as a farewell?
Photo author, Van Gogh
The painting Wheat Field with Crows, also painted in July 1890, uses the same restless technique, but the overall atmosphere is darker and more ominous
However, when I shared mine considerations with the museum employee Ninke Bakker, who is responsible for the pictorial part of the collection, she warned me against hasty conclusions.
“In the works of the last weeks of Van Gogh’s life – such as Wheat Field with Crows or Wheat Field under Thunder Clouds – there is noticeably strong emotional excitement,” she explains. “He was obviously trying to express his own emotional state.”
“However, the painting” The Roots of the Trees “turned out to be very bright and full of life. It is a very daring work. It is hard to believe that the person who wrote this in the morning tried to take his own life at the end of the same day.”
“It’s hard for me to argue that Van Gogh deliberately conceived this picture as a farewell – it would have been an overly rational act,” Bakker said.
Finally, Ninke Bakker decisively suppresses the assumption that Van Gogh’s illness made him a brilliant artist.
“All these twisted, knotty roots leave the impression of something disorderly, extremely emotional. But this picture is not a product of a sick psyche,” she believes.
“He knew what he was doing. Until the very end of his life, Van Gogh wrote in spite of his illness, not because of it. This should not be forgotten.”
90,000 people either an artist or not – Culture – Kommersant
Before the opening of her first exhibition in Russia, VERUSHKA (Vera Lendorf) answered ANNA TOLSTOVA’s questions.
– You started doing art, and then went into the world of fashion, why?
– It was a terrible time in Germany after Hitler. My father was executed for participating in a conspiracy against the Fuehrer, but the Nazis were still in power – they looked at us as a family of traitors to the homeland. At fifteen, I was deeply depressed, not even knowing that it was depression. It seemed to me that if this is life, then it is impossible to live in this world. So I went to art school with pleasure, I loved to draw, but that’s not even the point – it was liberation, liberation from secondary school.I hated school: they called me the daughter of a murderer. But it was an unreliable release, and my mother told me: “You cannot make a living by painting, if you do not become a famous painter, you will not have money, you must find another way to earn money.”
– Was that fashion?
– No, then I decided to do textile design. But I soon discovered that it was a terribly flat and boring activity: you constantly invent and repeat patterns. I imagined a textile factory and thought it was not for me.Then, in the art school, they began to treat me differently: before they used to tease me as an ugly and a bully, and then they said that I was beautiful, that I had beautiful long legs. Photographers began to invite me to take pictures, I even appeared on the cover of the German fashion magazine Constanze. And I already thought it was interesting. And then I went to Florence to continue painting. I wanted to escape from Germany. And there, right on the street, I was found by the photographer Ugo Mulas – he actually photographed people of art, and was engaged in fashion only occasionally.Hugo Mulas was charming, he said “come with me” and took me to Palazzo Strozzi, where they presented an Italian collection of clothes. So suddenly I found myself in the fashion world. It was a completely different reality: I was surrounded by beautiful girls in beautiful dresses, and I thought that I could probably live in this world.
– Were you immediately invited to the podium?
– In Palazzo Strozzi, I met a French model, she liked me, and she invited me to Paris.I went to Paris and got a contract with a modeling agency. At first, not everything went smoothly: I was a very tall and thin girl with a completely childish face, although I was already eighteen. Imagine: a long, long body, a small head and a baby face. But then I came across an American agent, she said: “Come to America – we love tall blondes.” I went to New York. And it turned out to be terrible: that woman agent simply did not recognize me, she said that my appearance was no good, and advised me to become a brunette.I went to the most expensive salon to have my hair dyed.
– So did your reincarnations begin?
– I did a lot of photo tests – nothing worked. Then I had to go back to Europe, to Italy, to gain experience. And there I decided that I would become a completely different character – I became Verushka, a girl from the Far East, I did not dare to say directly that I was from Russia, because I could not say a word in Russian, I didn’t even know how it would be “ Hello”.I changed everything: the way of moving, the way of speaking. I started to act as if I didn’t need a job, but agents and photographers were after me, and I was just traveling the world. And when I came to America for the second time, success awaited me, I quickly got into Vogue. And pretty quickly I realized that this is not what I want. I wanted to play something, transform, transform, change images, but I was perceived as a clothes hanger. When I tried to say that I needed another hat, they said to me: “Shut up, you are not here to talk.”Then I became very friends with the editor-in-chief of Vogue Diana Vreeland, and when I complained to her that I couldn’t do this anymore, she advised me to return to Italy and work freely on art projects. I did so. In Rome, I met the photographer Franco Rubartelli – we became one team: I did everything myself, we did not have stylists, hairdressers, make-up artists, we worked freely, without any order, but at the same time absolutely all our photos were printed. I finally found my way of expressing myself.Fashion turned out to be something like a stage for me: with the help of clothes, jewelry, accessories, I replayed many characters.
– Almost all the great fashion photographers of the second half of the 20th century have photographed you. Did you feel like you were doing co-creation?
– Far from everyone. Helmut Newton took only a few pictures – we did not have a long-term collaboration. Irwin Penn didn’t talk to me much: he wanted you to be just a model – turn left, turn right, don’t talk.He’s a great still life photographer, and the model was like a bottle to him. Although after filming our relationship turned into a very friendly one. The really creative work I did was with Richard Avedon. But in general, fashion photography is always a teamwork: make-up artists, stylists, designers – they are also artists in their own way. True, at first we, the models, did not have anything like that – we had to do makeup and hairstyles ourselves.
– How did you get back to “pure” art?
– Then I got tired of fashion, I returned to Germany, kept a diary, wrote, and painted.Even with Rubartelli, I took a now very famous photograph: a stone head among stones. My new companion, the artist Holger Trülzsch, was simply fascinated by that picture – together we started working on a series of pictures where my body became a canvas for painting, this project stretched out for many years.
– It seems that the world of fashion today is doing what art used to do: it creates imaginary worlds that have nothing to do with reality. But contemporary art has focused on the social and political issues of reality.In your art, you continue to live in an imaginary world. Probably it was difficult for you to break into the art scene?
– Oh yes, I was so successful in the fashion world that no one took me seriously as an artist. Many years have passed, so many doors were closing in front of me … Say, what is she doing here, this model? And I must say, it’s still difficult for me. So I am very grateful to the Moscow House of Photography, really. I’m not in a position to choose between this or this museum.It’s hard for me in Europe – in America it is simpler, people there are more friendly, and I had many exhibitions there. It is especially difficult in Germany – we do not like stars, stars, such as Hannah Schigulla, have to leave. Then, at the peak of fame, you can return, but at first it is very difficult. In Germany, they were ready to accept me as a model, but not as an artist. They said to me: “Ah, now you have decided to become an artist, everything is clear.” I was indignant: not now – I have always been an artist, a person is either an artist or not. Even if I do not paint with paints, I always follow the composition and colors – I always look at the world through the eyes of an artist.
– In addition to photographers, you have worked with many great artists of the 20th century. Who was it most interesting with?
– For me, the most important person was Salvador Dali, because he was able to show me that the body can be an instrument of expression in itself. In that performance, when I was covered with shaving cream, I felt like a living sculpture. Andy Warhol – he liked what I was doing, he went to all the openings of my exhibitions in New York, but it was not easy to communicate with him.He kept repeating: “Oh, it’s so beautiful, so beautiful!” Or, “How do you do this to stay so beautiful?” Dali was crazy, but he gave me ideas, Warhol didn’t work that way. And then, I did not yet understand that Warhol is such a great artist. Then I was more interested in Francis Bacon, I loved his painting.
– And Francesco Vezzoli?
– We met in New York – he said he wanted to do a performance with me at the Venice Biennale. I thought the Venice Biennale was a good thing, especially if you have difficulty getting into the art scene.But he literally locked me in a house on some island in Venice, did not introduce me to anyone, did not even invite me to a gala dinner after the opening, when I was sitting there and embroidering. And the next day my photo was in all the newspapers – a kind of diva. And he said, “Oh, you made me famous.” I was very disappointed: another self-centered and careerist from the art world.
– It seems that everything you came into contact with, starting with Antonioni’s Blow-Up, became cult. People, works.Do you have a flair for what is going to be iconic?
– Boyes said it was a person’s inner decision to become famous. You just need to very much desire and strive for what you want. And, of course, a lot depends on luck: you need to meet the right person in the right place at the right time. And then, many great artists remain unknown and simply disappear – maybe they will be remembered after death, maybe not.
– You say you love Francis Bacon. He can be called the artist who put an end to the history of portrait painting.Your exhibition is called Self-Portraits, but you are always hiding under different masks. Why has a portrait in its classical sense, a psychological portrait, disappeared today?
– When we worked with Holger Truelzsch, we said that our main goal is to expel individuality, to leave only the female body as a sign. In these works, I had a limited number of poses, I stood straight, even and constrained, imitating the Egyptian statues. And I closed my eyes all the time, because my eyes are too lively – they kept knocking out of our camouflage painting.Of course, it was difficult to disappear – people still knew who this model was. But at least that was our artistic manifesto: take away individuality. Jack Nicholson, with whom we were friends, said: “No, Verushka, that’s not it – we like it when you are beautiful.” And this is a very typical reaction. I think today there cannot be one single portrait of a person. People try to stick to a certain style: someone portrays a hippie, someone a punk, someone a socialite. But this is all surface. What’s inside is changing all the time.Of course, something in us remains unchanged. But I am always not what you see in front of you, I am somewhere else. Life is fluid, even the words you write, they also change over time. You know, I had a military and post-war childhood – there were no games and toys in it. So changing masks – for me it was something like a game, a return to childhood. This is very important – you should have real pleasure in what you are doing.
– You have been hiding all the time under masks and even under an assumed name.Why did you decide to tell your real family story just now?
– I was sometimes called Verushka in childhood. It also sounded exotic, especially during the Cold War. Earlier in Germany there were no times to talk about my father, Count Heinrich von Lendorf, and his double life: the Wolfsschantse bunker was near our Steinort castle, and my father participated in the Resistance, in the Stauffenberg conspiracy, in the assassination attempt on Hitler. This completely changed the life of our family.My mother went through a terrible trauma and began to talk about it only in recent years – I have recorded many of her memories on tape. But I am sure that we must talk about this, at least so that this nightmare does not happen again.
Lord of Garbage – Weekend – Kommersant
Ilya Kabakov is the main Russian artist of the last third of the XX – beginning of the XXI century, at least in the established artistic hierarchies of the world “system of art” his leading position is unshakable.Moreover, he is the only Russian artist of the era of globalism who was at the top of Olympus, in the pantheon, next to and on a par with Anselm Kiefer, Christian Boltanski, Bill Viola or Ai Weiwei. Moscow part of the triptych “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Not everyone will be taken into the future ”is shown in the Tretyakov Gallery, which, on the one hand, is strange – after all, universal art museums are more suitable for the Olympians of the globalist pantheon than collections of national art, and on the other hand, it is logical – after all, the meaning of such meetings, ideally, is consisted to bring the national school to the level of worldwide significance.And the title of the installation “Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future”, which gave the name to the entire exhibition, if you understand it vulgarly, seems to hint at the importance of cultural hierarchies, positions and ratings. This is partly true, but we are not talking about the earthly vanity of vanities, but about immortality, about the transition from finite physical existence to metaphysical being, which transcendence is carried out by the mechanisms of culture: immortality is granted by joining a cloud storage (archive, museum, treasury, gold fund – here the most shameless pathos is appropriate, it fully corresponds to the Kabakov rhetoric) of the spiritual heritage of mankind.The central piece of the exhibition, the installation “Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album)” at the Tate, demonstrates the work of the cultural machine of immortality, as well as the other springs and gears of this analytical, cold, ironic and at the same time surprisingly sentimental art.
Bunnies, 1994 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Death of Ali the Dog, 1969 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.Not everyone will be taken into the future ”- a full-fledged retrospective, where almost all stages and forms of the artist’s work, from the 1960s to the present, are presented, and where there are key works, for example, the installation“ A man who flew into space from his apartments “. However, the exhibition leaves a sad, aching feeling. Ilya Kabakov himself, who has been living in the United States for almost 30 years, did not come to London and St. Petersburg for the editing and opening day, and he will not come to Moscow either, since transatlantic flights are contraindicated for him for health reasons – the installations were built in his absence and as if that they lost something, although all the author’s instructions were undoubtedly followed to the last comma.This inexplicable and somewhat disturbing feeling of loss was not present at his previous exhibitions in Russia – not at the first Russian exhibition “An Accident in the Museum and Other Installations” held in 2004 at the Hermitage, or at the large Moscow Kabakov festival held in 2008 and which covered “Garage”, “Winzavod” and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. As if the installations themselves, maintaining some kind of mystical, metaphysical connection with their creator, began to age – the body shells thinned, the movement of juices slowed down.However, the incorporeal, disembodied, insensitiveness of art is one of the basic principles of Kabakov’s Gesamtkunstwerk, so perhaps his total installations simply begin to live an independent life, implementing their genetic program.
Kabakov and children’s book
Thirty years – from graduating from the graphic department of the Surikov Institute and before leaving the USSR – Ilya Kabakov, a student of the master of Soviet book graphics Boris Dekhterev, worked as an illustrator of children’s books and magazines, like many of his friends, artists from the circle of Moscow conceptualism – Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vasiliev , Viktor Pivovarov, Hulot Sooster, Eduard Gorokhovsky.Kabakov himself always spoke of book work as a banal hack, which allowed him to lead a double life, to be an official and an underground artist at the same time. He argued that, unlike his colleagues, he did not put his heart into this business – he specifically took on the design of boring products.
Ilya Kabakov: “I don’t see anything, I just hear. I can draw a hare only because I have something to tell about it. This is both the transition of the image into the text, and at the same time the reverse moment: any text is rendered for me.I don’t hear him, but I see ”
Right off the bat, we can hardly remember our favorite “Cinderellas” and “aibolits” from childhood, illustrated by Kabakov. But it is enough to pick up something like “A, B, C …” by Anatoly Markusha to be amazed at the passion with which the artist clings to each letter of an extremely mediocre text, releasing from the verbal garbage a mosaic of charming and fascinating emblems, where you can fail, fly away, as did “The Man Who Fled into the Picture”, one of the heroes of the installation “10 Characters”.Usually Kabakov explained this manic conscientiousness by his fears, conformism, and fear of the authorities. But it can also be explained by the attitude to the child – to some, just like himself, a boy from Dnepropetrovsk, who was born in the family of a locksmith and an accountant and from childhood accustomed to beating his father, communal abuse and boarding hazing, to a boy for whom the picture book remains the only place where you can hide from the surrounding horror.
The style of illustration is also manifested in early conceptualist paintings such as Tretyakov’s “Death of Ali the Dog”, where all the beloved positive heroes of the Soviet children’s book – a train, an airplane, an elephant – came together in an absurdist collage to crush a little creature doomed in this Kafkaesque world, and in albums , and in the schedule of installations.The work in the children’s book influenced the very form of the Kabakov album – the procedure of reading and looking, the ritual of turning over, the story unfolding like an accordion of leporello, where the word and the image make up an indivisible whole. But the main thing is a generic connection with the text that underlies any visual manifestation.
Kabakov and fly
Anna Evgenievna Koroleva: Whose is this fly? “, 1987 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“Life of flies”, 1992 Sergey Kiselev / Kommersant
The Life of Flies, 1992 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
The Life of Flies, 1992 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
The Life of Flies, 1992 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
The question “Whose fly is this?”, Asked in the work of the same name in the mid-1960s, eventually turned into a kind of art-meme associated with Ilya Kabakov, just like a urinal with Marcel Duchamp.There are two ways to interpret the fly’s theme song. Some call for the help of the artistic tradition of musca depicta: trompe-l’oeil with a fly, as if sitting on the surface of a painting, arises in the art of the Renaissance, its purpose is to testify to the artist’s virtuosity and at the same time to point out the deceptive nature of painting. Kabakov always preferred to hide under the guise of a mediocre artist, who had only filled his hand to the point of automatism. But if you remember how close to him the theme of total falsehood not only of official Soviet culture, but also of art as such, then a fly can be perceived as an inscription indicating the illusory nature of the visual.Others, following Boris Groys, go from texts to installations: they project the image of a fly civilization onto Soviet society, each member of which – indistinguishable from the rest, like a fly – is mired in the rubbish of communal bureaucratic fuss, and see in a fly a metaphor of a rubbish word, a word -parasite.
Ilya Kabakov: “The outward appearance of the absurd is no different from stupidity. It is enough to turn to Beckett or Kharms. But absurd texts show that they have no genuine content, and this gives them tremendous content. ”
In the texts for the imaginary installation “A Fly with Wings”, among the responses of the audience characters interpreting the drawing with a fly, a quote from “Fly-Tsokotukha” appears.Ilya Kabakov himself in the article “Are there traditions of book illustration of the Russian avant-garde?” categorically denies that any relationship of inheritance and succession can be established between the children’s book of the 1920s and the children’s book of the 1960s and 1970s. However, between the “adult” work of the Detgiz poets of the OBERIU circle and the textual work of Kabakov, there are those relations of inheritance “from uncle to nephew” described by Viktor Shklovsky. Perhaps it was the fly – a cross-cutting image in the poetics of Nikolai Oleinikov, Daniil Kharms and, to a lesser extent, Alexander Vvedensky – that brought on the wings the tradition of Russian literature of the absurd into a total installation.However, perhaps it is not necessary to inflate such a historical and literary elephant from the Kabakov fly.
Kabakov and communal kitchen
Communal Kitchen 1994 Akira Nakamura
Communal Kitchen, 1994 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“Communal Kitchen”, 1994 Ilya & Emilia Kabakov / Bildrecht, Vienna 2014
Communal Kitchen, 1994 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
The communal apartment in the poetics of Ilya Kabakov appears as a kind of model of the universe, and all genres and cycles of his works are somehow connected with it.Many directly, like paintings-stands in the aesthetics of the housing office with its visual agitation, receipts, advertisements, schedules and tables filling the world with streams of bureaucratic word-creation, like albums, each hero of which fills a separate unit of communal living space with his madness, and, of course, as installations, which are often deployed in communal spaces.
One of the first total installations to present a panoramic view of this communal universe was 1988’s “10 Characters”.Spatially, the installation was arranged like a large Moscow communal apartment – it was preceded by the text “What is a communal apartment?”, In which Kabakov reveals the great gift of a cultural anthropologist. Another software installation, Toilet, was made in 1992 at Documenta IX in Kassel: a cozy room in a typical Soviet public toilet, where there were no closed booths. These works brought Kabakov a reputation as a critic of the Soviet system with its perverse collectivism, and he himself, in his memoirs and interviews, constantly returns to the childhood trauma of communal existence, depriving a person of intimate space: in a corner filmed during evacuation, in a boarding school of the Moscow Art School, in a student dormitory.
Ilya Kabakov: “The communal body is like a swarm of bees, but the swarm has edges. Behind the edges of the noise of communal speech – silence … The noise is deafening, but it is not total “
However, in the image of a communal apartment, it is not the political, social-artistic, but rather the ontological intentions of Kabakov’s art that are realized. The communal flat, clogged with everyday rubbish, introduces the theme of rubbish – an imaginary fullness of existence, filled with material and verbal rubbish, which the artist, archaeologist and archivist methodically collects in order to, having reached the maximum possible saturation of the subject and textual environment, show its dialectical unity with sterile whiteness and emptiness absolute nothing.In the installation “Communal Kitchen”, the garbage voices of an endless scandal take on the material form of a book distributed in space: pieces of paper with replicas hang over the kitchen cesspool like clothes on a string.
Opposition to communal hell in Kabakov’s artistic system is the museum paradise, but the museum is arranged like a communal apartment, where there are strict rules, hierarchies are observed and all voices are included in the process of continuous communication. The reluctant Soviet artist Kabakov could only dream of a museum of genuine art as a measure of true values, placing it in a hypothetical West, in unknown lands outside the Soviet ecumene.Dreams about this museum soar in installations united by the theme of treatment with the help of art, and they represent a hospital, that is, again, a communal space.
Kabakov and characters
“10 Characters”, 1988 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“10 Characters”, 1988 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“10 Characters”, 1988 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“Objects from his life”, 2005 Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant
“Objects from his life”, 2005 Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant
A rare researcher of Ilya Kabakov’s work can do without references to Mikhail Bakhtin and polyphony.In the polyphony of the characters obsessed with strange ideas that inhabit the Kabakov albums and installations, the author’s features are constantly recognized. It is hard to say which of the “10 characters” was not based on their creator – a small man who never threw anything away, collected the opinions of others, flew into a painting, flew into space straight from his room, a composer, a collector, a mediocre artist. Actually, one in ten, “The man who described his life through characters”, frankly admits what he had done.However, the character principle applies not only to the heroes of Kabakov’s albums and installations – the figures of the artist and the audience, whose opinions are constantly included in the structure of the work, are fictional characters, so that the work turns out to be a completely self-sufficient, hermetic construction, as if it does not need external interpretations. The tightness of this art is partly due to fears of contact with the outside world, which Kabakov spoke about many times in his texts and in installations with people hiding in a closet, toilet and other “cases”.
Ilya Kabakov: “My characters, like the characters of Dostoevsky, are ideologists. Each of them is a conductor and victim of his own idea – collecting garbage or saving the world. And one more thing: each of these characters personifies one of my fix ideas, my fears, my desires “
Characters did not disappear anywhere in the early 2000s, when Kabakov began to work less on installations and more on painting. Collage paintings, representing a kind of landscape after the battle of Russian art of the 20th century for the latest truth – the battle between the utopias of the avant-garde, the didactics of socialist realism and the throwing of non-conformism – were written on behalf of the character artists with fictional biographies: Charles Rosenthal, Igor Spivak, or even quoted ” Ilya Kabakov “.Finally, an extremely important character emerged in 1997, which marked the beginning of his creative collaboration with his wife and the birth of a new artist, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. The author’s desire to hide – in a corner, in a closet, in a closet, behind the characters’ backs – has come true: the creative half of the duo is protected from painful communication with the outside world by a beautiful managerial half.
Kabakov and others
NOMA, or Moscow Conceptual Circle, 1993 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
NOMA, or Moscow Conceptual Circle, 1993 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
“NOMA, or Moscow Conceptual Circle”, 1993 Elke Walford
NOMA or Moscow Conceptual Circle, 1993 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
In 1968, Ilya Kabakov, who had been a member of the Union of Artists for several years, set up a workshop in the attic of house no. 6/1, the former home of the Rossiya insurance company, along Sretensky Boulevard.The workshop quickly turned into a secret art gallery, a philosophical club, and even an exotic secular salon for diplomats, Slavists and a few collectors, where, in addition to metaphysical and conceptual artists, one could find the entire intellectual elite of unofficial Moscow. Over time, a myth was born about the “Sretensky Boulevard group”, in which not only close friends of Kabakov, Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vasiliev were enrolled, but also all the regulars of the workshop who worked in the neighborhood, and the owner began to be represented as a kind of leader and teacher of Moscow conceptualists …
Indeed, Kabakov’s Notes on Unofficial Life in Moscow show that – in the absence of any artistic criticism – he was the best, most subtle and attentive observer and critic of the unofficial art of the 1960s and 1970s.
Ilya Kabakov: “We were all in a state of overexcitation, because maybe this was the last conversation. “No, we will not leave until we find out if God exists.” I think that the complex of a prison Russian clarifying the truth is present all the time here “
Boris Groys, however, notes the duality of Kabakov’s position in the unofficial Moscow circle: being recognized as the soul and brain of the company, he was at the same time perceived as a foreign artist, detached from it.And this separateness allowed Kabakov to take the contemporary Moscow art scene outside the brackets, including its real heroes in the system of his fictional characters. For example, in the album “In our ZhEKe”, where two bureaucratic languages - communal and conceptual – were parodically superimposed on one another. Or in the installation “NOMA, or the Moscow Conceptual Circle” made in the Hamburg Kunsthalle in 1993, where members of the lodge, including Kabakov himself, and their concepts were archived.
Kabakov and Literature
Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990 D James Dee
The sheer amount of text in the paintings-stands, albums and installations by Ilya Kabakov makes one speak of them as a kind of literature, and this literature naturally fits into the Russian literary tradition – from Gogol to Chekhov, from Zoshchenko to Sorokin.
But, oddly enough, the pinnacle of Kabakov’s literary work was the work of the documentary genre, which is hardly taking root in Russian prose. This is the total installation Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), a double spiral of an endless communal corridor lined with collages for reading – half-blind typescript with an autobiography of the artist’s mother and photographs of his uncle’s work pasted on a sickening patterned wallpaper. The story of an infinitely unhappy person, although it is played out in Soviet scenery, changing in details throughout the 20th century, but unchanging in its irrational inhumanity, turns into an existential tragedy of a universal scale – beyond national borders.
Ilya Kabakov: “I do not believe in the existence of truly visual art in Russia and am absolutely sure of its existence in the West. Western art was visualized initially “
However, the matter is not only in the field of literature, to which the Kabakov texts belong. Speaking of himself as a mediocre artist, Kabakov obviously means not only the lack of a drawing or coloristic gift, but the very absence of that specific artistic sensibility, that enthusiasm for the visible world that gives a picture or sculpture the physical fullness of being.Kabakov’s painting strives to become a disembodied installation, where things emotionally affect the viewer not by their tactile materiality, but by the relationships they enter into with each other, the sculpture strives to become a model – a spatial drawing of a pure idea. Although outwardly both the real scenography of total installations and the models that serve as either sketches for future installations or reminiscences of those that have been carried out remind of the theater, the bodies of the actors in these performances replace an incorporeal text.Asexuality, insensitivity, mental coldness, a tendency to impersonal language – describing his emotional deficiency, Kabakov, it seems, characterizes not only personal psychological characteristics. The very expression “Russian visual art”, “Russian art of plastic values” for him is a kind of oxymoron. And after three centuries of Russian revolt against icon textuality, he returns Russian art to the bosom of literature.
Kabakov and Utopia
“The man who flew into space from his room”, 1985 Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant
“The man who flew into space from his room”, 1985 Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant
“The man who flew into space from his room”, 1985 Ilya Kabakov Photo © Tate (Andrew Dunkley)
In many installations of the first half of the 1990s – in the Red Pavilion, which received the only honorable mention in the history of Russian art at the Venice Biennale, in the Red Carriage, in We Live Here – the viewer found himself in the middle of some grandiose and unfinished construction sites.Since these works were made shortly after the collapse of the USSR, they were mostly read politically – as reflections on the collapse of the Soviet utopia. However, the Soviet utopia for Ilya Kabakov is not at all the Soviet state and society, in whose altruism and idealism he never believed, but the Soviet avant-garde: these and other “utopian” installations are full of allusions to the great dreamers of the avant-garde. Utopia, according to Kabakov, is fundamentally impracticable due to its intangible, metaphysical nature – therefore, utopian projects, personal, as in the installation “A man who flew into space from his apartment,” and universal, as in the layout of the “Center of Cosmic Energy”, are often associated with the motive of the flight and are facing space.And in this soaring, in this separation from the earthly utopia, it is akin to the most artistic fantasy.
Ilya Kabakov: “Utopia is some kind of outburst of fantasy that initially carries a crazy artistic message”
Above the installations “A Man Who Fled into Space from His Apartment” Kabakov worked in his Moscow studio just at the time when his first solo exhibition was going on in Bern’s Kunsthalle, but the artist himself was not allowed to go to the West in 1985. Not so much the Soviet civilization, as the longed-for West – with the paradise booths of museums of genuine art – seemed to him a utopia, and his personal utopian project – to break out of the USSR into these Western museum empyreas – soon came true.There he began to build one after another total installations, projections of the artist’s utopian fantasy, dematerializing the material world and transforming real space into metaphysical.
Kabakov and total installation
“Vertical Opera”, 2000 Adagp, Paris
Vertical Opera Model, 1998 Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Bildrecht, Wien 2014
The term “total installation”, invented by Ilya Kabakov, described primarily his own practice, but at the same time denoted a powerful tendency in international art of the 1980s and 1990s – a general attraction to installation that manifested itself among representatives of various generations, from Louise Bourgeois to Thomas Hirschhorn.According to the artist, the total installation is a new stage in the development of European art, which has consistently passed the stage of icons, frescoes and paintings. The viewer, like one of the Kabakov characters, “The Man Who Fled into the Picture”, finds himself in a “completely redesigned space”, where literally everything works for impression and experience – the configuration of the room, its lighting, the color of the walls, the subject environment, texts, sounds, music … Indeed, it works: people completely deprived of the Soviet experience of walking through the torments of bureaucratic authorities experience the same feelings of inexplicable melancholy and despair when they find themselves in the Life of Flies installation with its hopeless government paint on the walls and deaf, indifferent light.
Ilya Kabakov: “I feel space, atmosphere, air very well, I have a good position of objects in this space. I have some kind of inner love, a craving for space: the more bottomless it is, the better “
Talking about a total installation, Kabakov often resorts to theatrical metaphors: the viewer, once inside, should feel as if he has stepped onto the stage of the theater during the intermission; if the installation occupies several rooms, then it has a special drama, and the transition from one room to another must be perceived as a new action; finally, the total installation is the same Gesamtkunstwerk towards which both Wagner and the avant-garde of the early 20th century were moving.Wagnerian motives are not uncommon in models for unrealized projects of the late 1990s – such is the total installation that turns the spiral of the New York Guggenheim Museum into a multi-act “Vertical Opera”. However, for all its genetic connection with the painting, for all the importance of theater and music in a total installation, the text plays almost the main role in it: it is almost always intended for reading. After all, reading is, after all, a way to find oneself in other spaces without making radical displacements.
Kabakov and metaposition
Monument to a Lost Civilization, 1999 Photo by Shobha
“Monument to a Lost Civilization”, 1999 Dmitry Lekai / Kommersant
“Monument to a Lost Civilization”, 1999 Dmitry Lekai / Kommersant
“Monument to a Lost Civilization”, 1999 Dmitry Lekai / Kommersant
The program property of a total installation is the ability to expand, absorbing more and more new elements, as a result of which “supertotal” installations are obtained, arranged as an endlessly multiplying picture in a picture.These are the “Palace of Projects”, built at the Zollverein mine in Essen in 1998, “The Life of Flies” or “Monument to a Lost Civilization.” All of them are indirectly devoted to Soviet Atlantis, and in them an archaeologist, seemingly buried with his head in the cultural layers of clothing and speech debris, suddenly discovers an amazing ability to deviate far from the subject of his research, as if examining it through a telescope. This ability to “lose one’s temper”, from one’s bodily shells, allows one to enclose in brackets both the entire Moscow conceptual circle and itself, which has split into a dozen characters, while remaining outside.And the research distance makes it possible to see that not only the Soviet, but also the entire human community leaves no room for optimism.
Ilya Kabakov: “I can only speak at the communal level. And my hopes that a higher voice will broadcast through me are minimal. Even if suddenly it happens, he will speak in the language of a communal apartment “
Nevertheless, Kabakov’s characters – “The Flying Komarov”, “The Man Who Fled into Space from His Apartment”, even the trash fly, which, according to Boris Groys, is endowed with the angelic ability to soar to heaven, tend to get off the ground.Get into the metaphysical space described in the early “white” paintings and the late “Gate” suite. And there to meet with an angel – many ironic and at the same time sentimental projects are dedicated to this coveted meeting. The creator of soaring characters is completely devoid of illusions about the nature of man, but manages to maintain romantic illusions about the nature of the artist – at times Kabakov speaks of a mystical feeling that he is guided by a certain voice, and about the free flight of fantasy, which does not need to cling to earthly realities as his main method …
Kabakov and Museum
Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, 2001 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, 2001 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, 2001 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, 2001 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, 2001 Courtesy of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
In form, total and especially “supertotal” installations often represent a museum – an ideal refuge, either temporary, where the artist is given 15 minutes of fame, or eternal, where he is promised immortality.Since the works of Ilya Kabakov were included in all the world’s major museums of contemporary art, the phrase “Not everyone will be taken into the future” is the title of an article written in 1983, when both the author and all Moscow artists of his circle did not even dare to dream of a museum exhibition , – began to be perceived as a formula for Kabakov’s self-satisfaction and vanity. However, both the article and the installation of the same name, made in 2001 at the Venice Biennale, were, on the contrary, filled with the pathos of institutional criticism and questioned the mechanisms of power that decides who is given a pass to immortality.The departing train with a running line “Not everyone will be taken to the future” and canvases scattered across the platform, clearly remaining in the past – maybe the work done at the very beginning of the new millennium spoke of the fate of the picture, which gave rise to a total installation and died in childbirth, or maybe be, testified to the uncertainty of the illustrious and successful artist.
Ilya Kabakov: “The sad moment began around 2003. Nobody said, for example: “Get out! Your time is over, get out of the car! “But nevertheless, I realized that this train, in which I rode so wonderfully, is no longer going further.There are some other express trains on other roads, but the train where I am sitting and other passengers are also sitting is standing and does not move on the side tracks. “
Meanwhile, the total installation, taking with it all the communal rubbish of Soviet civilization into the future, shows the vaunted mercy of the archive, granting eternal life not only to the author who is scattered into many characters, not only to his mother, immortalized in one of the best works of Kabakov, but also to all inhabitants a bankrupt utopia who never saw the sky in diamonds.The last of the “10 Characters” was “The Man Who Saves Nikolai Viktorovich”: until the museums are closed, the rescue operation continues.
Quotes by Ilya Kabakov are based on the following editions:
Ilya Kabakov, Boris Groys. Dialogues. Vologda: Library of Moscow Conceptualism by German Titov, 2010.
Ilya Kabakov, Mikhail Epstein. Catalog. Vologda: Library of Moscow Conceptualism by German Titov, 2010.
Victor Tupitsyn. The eyeball of discord.Conversations with Ilya Kabakov. M .: NLO, 2006.
“Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Not everyone will be taken into the future ”. Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val, September 6 – January 13
“Outside this pit, this hospital, there is human and artistic life”
What Ilya Kabakov knows about himself
The premiere of Anton Zhelnov’s documentary Poor People. Kabakovs “. Weekend publishes excerpts from the interview given by Ilya Kabakov to the author of the film
“Poor people.Kabakovs “. Director Anton Zhelnov, 2018
Photo: Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
The unofficial art world – after all, it arose almost in parallel with the so-called Khrushchev thaw.
This whole thaw was absolutely the same as any other Soviet activity. The Soviet government needed human emotions to appear in this terrible regime. And there were people who provided them: both in cinema and in literature, and a harsh style in painting – all these were the products of people who, as it were, demonstrated honesty.Human honesty hung everywhere. But within the limits of what is permitted, within the general state contour.
People who were strangers to me participated in this, but I knew many, especially artists, because they graduated from the same Surikov Institute. Brothers Smolins and brothers Tkachev, Ossovskiy, Obrosov – what is called honest Soviet art. And at the head of them, of course, was this Korzhev, who was the chairman of the Union of Artists, a people’s artist. They were all published, exhibited, held official posts, but at the same time were honest.And this honesty inside the bloody regime – it was absolutely repulsive. They merged for me with the entire Soviet pack, with the Soviet eagles.
And the unofficial art world arose instantly. It was not like a movement – it was a way to live as if without this state. For the rest, that is, in everyday life, we were normal inhabitants of this Soviet world. We all lived quite bourgeois – we were all married, we all had children. Well, except for bohemia, of course.
I’m just saying: we weren’t dissidents, we weren’t heroes, we weren’t hooligans.The trick was to emigrate from this life to a completely different space, that’s all.
Such was the installation in this unofficial world that painting, say, Krasnopevtsev or Weisberg, or Shvartsman, Yakovlev, Zverev and so on, is a world where you can go, and there will be neither Soviet reality, nor Soviet life, nor official rubbish … The world of high art.
But this good art did not appeal to me. First of all, I did not consider myself an artist who makes real art, I have spoken about this many times.I had no interest in painting or good pictures – nothing. I was a hunted, strangled Soviet creature. By itself. And I felt good – in the sense, and felt like smeared with Soviet dregs.
I was filled with these voices of a communal apartment – I heard them, was sounded, radiated. Completely, through and through. I was all blown away by Soviet life. And I did not know, did not imagine art that could oppose this Soviet stench that filled me.But there was a psychological trick: I was a Soviet creature, but at the same time, as it were, I was watching myself, that is, this Soviet creature.
It turned out that I looked at myself as a fly that flies, but this fly belonged to a different world, to the world that surrounded the Soviet foundation pit. I looked at this Soviet world and at myself, well, like a doctor in a hospital looks at a patient: the patient is infected, but the doctor knows this infection and knows that the hospital is not the whole world.
It was very important for me that the world of the Soviet disease, the Soviet state – although it is eternal (and I knew that this Soviet power for centuries), but it is local.And that beyond this pit, this hospital, there is human and artistic life.
There is no private life inside the communal apartment. This is a tough society that operates on a system of hostility and standard sounds, sets of such dead signals. That is, if I don’t like something, I say: why did you put the pan here? This is not a speech, this is a signal. Olga Georgievna, you are boiling. Or, let’s say: your cat gave a shit here again.
At the heart of all my paintings, while I was making Soviet plots, this is the theme of a Soviet project, an unsuccessful project.It’s like with an installation, you know – the installation was conceived, but it didn’t fucking work, everything fell.
This is one of the reasons why I have never drawn a prison: for me any compartment, any, so to speak, cell of Soviet life was a prison. I didn’t have to describe literal arrest, prison, camp, because for me everything that was free was also a prison. This is all the life of a camp-style – barracks, communal apartments, regulations, control, schedule, transportation. Of course, if I survived the camp itself or went to prison and experienced the whole thing on my own skin, then, of course, I would understand the difference between a communal apartment and beating by criminals or a logging company.But since I did not go to prison, the image of a prisoner for me is the image of a normal Soviet person.
And also, and this is another reason, I am a terrible coward and terribly afraid, I spent my whole life struggling in the Soviet Union. There was nothing confrontational in my behavior; I was, as they say, a conformist to the core. Therefore, drawing a prison was a rather strong political act for me: if someone entered – I was waiting all the time for someone to enter my workshop, turn off the canvas – and saw an arrest, a prison, a camp there, then I would immediately understand that the matter is crappy, I would have just come to an endI would be scared to even think of drawing a prison, because I was just a coward.
In general, all life in the unofficial world, these 30 years, from 57th to 87th, passed in an atmosphere of fear. Non-stop fear, sometimes directly burning, sometimes just pinching, but non-stop. Everyone experienced him in his own way: someone got drunk on him, someone fought with him, someone ignored him, and someone just like that passively shook constantly like me. But the whole world of the informal was completely frustrated with fear.
The accumulation of fears was different in different periods, the worst thing was after Khrushchev’s visit to the Manezh and after the “bulldozer exhibition”, this is just extreme fear. And then a chain of fears, when exhibitions of unofficial artists abroad began – foreigners took out donated drawings or purchased paintings and arranged an exhibition there. So, well-wishers exhibited this, thinking that they were doing a very good job, but not understanding a damn thing about the Soviet system, and these exhibitions really inflamed and angered the organs.
After all, they tolerated us only because the unofficial art world – these 50-60 artists and poets, I’m talking about Moscow now – was an absolutely closed ghetto. They had no collectors, no amateurs, no critics, they were themselves collectors and critics. Here I had a collection of works donated by friends, and other artists too.
Serious collectors who collected the avant-garde did not even approach this rubbish, let alone the official critics – they did not approach at all, we were untouchable creatures for them.Neither Sarabyanov, nor Molok, nor, I do not know, a bunch of all these official critics, art critics could not even come close. Because the infection was not supposed to spread beyond our locked bomb shelter.
But if I have a hard time remembering school and institute, everything was meaningless, slavish, a dog’s kennel, then unofficial life is, of course, an incredible gift of fate. And not only mine, but the history of Russian art.
Artistry is alien to me.For me such things do not exist at all – “I like it”, “artistically”, “beautifully”, “I love to do it” – never have been, and until today they do not. There is a product that I do well, it came out, and I control its quality, and I know why it was done this way and not otherwise. Everything. I can cite a thousand motives that guided me when I did it, except for this – artistry. They are all anti-artistic, I would say so.
I have an attitude to the image and subjects like Akaky Akakievich.They crush him, torture him – and he suddenly says: why are you offending me? I can hear this human squeak very well. In Soviet life, I heard not only this crusher, like Mandelstam’s — the bones in the wheel, but I heard the squeak of this human being, when he was crushed, he – piiii. I have no malice towards human beings, towards Soviet people. Neither the communal description, nor the description of human garbage – all this is the result of a stranglehold. They press him – he says: why, don’t.
This human squeak has never existed in the visual arts, no one has done it.Only literature understood the squalor of man in this world, only she felt an attraction to the unfortunate, Russian literature. Salt, the essence of man, is to be unhappy. Not pride, not dignity, but unhappiness.
Back in Rembrandt, it was an attraction to a beggar. But Rembrandt achieves tragedy, and I do not. I am a melancholic, not a tragedian.
I never wanted to build something fundamentally solid. I’m still not enough … I’m a dreamer, but how should I put it? Groundless, do you understand? I am, in general, the hypertrophy of an underdeveloped artist, such a bloated visual artist, that’s how you can say.Ephemeral product.
All architectural structures for me were made by others, not even people, but by other civilizations that firmly stand on the ground, have a foundation. And I am a hydroponic, rootless creature.
Garage Screen Cinema, September 6, 20.00
Even more Kabakov –
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Magazine “Kommersant Weekend” №29 from 31.08.2018, p. 8
90,000 Ulyanovsk artists “registered” Mayakovsky in the “Vladimir Garden” – Ulyanovsk today
The new street art work of Yuri Volfovich and Anton Kostin attracts the attention of the townspeople more and more.The Ulyanovsk artists named the project “The Collective Image of Mayakovsky” and implemented it on the territory of the “Vladimir Garden”. Such a gift to the city was also appreciated by its residents, in social networks they now and then publish their photos against the background of the mural.
As the artists note, the creative process took about two to three days. This street art in the city has already been nicknamed folk, because the caring Ulyanovsk residents also, as far as they could, helped to complete what they started. In order not to stop work at night, the townspeople even provided them with lighting devices.
– We knew that collage portrait was a winning concept. The very image of Mayakovsky is quite elusive and ambiguous, for some he is a politician, for others – a writer, and someone knows him as an artist and innovator. Therefore, he is a very interesting person, – said Yuri Volfovich. – This is a collective image of Mayakovsky in the literal sense of the word. It was composed of scraps of photographs, fragments of his little-known and popular poems: “Street”, “Downpipes” and “About the eternal.”I will not be modest, I knew that the residents of the city would like the work. Despite the fact that the art is, so to speak, hidden behind the foliage of trees, it is hard not to notice it.
They purchased all the necessary materials using their own funds. Now the artists are thinking about the possibility of continuing the project. Also, they kept in secret the alleged addresses of other sites in the city and the names of art workers to whom they would like to devote the next styling art.
– We decided to realize this mural together, because first of all we are interested in each other as artists and personalities.It is very comfortable to work with Yura. We have already crossed paths with him before, but it was this project that brought us together well, – said Anton Kostin. – I think it turned out to be a successful collaboration, although it is the first one. By the way, we did not have competition, it is rather a symbiosis, we complemented each other.
Now Ulyanovsk residents at the entrance to the “Vladimir Garden” are greeted not only by the fountain, but also by Mayakovsky, who looks from under his brows heartfelt. As the creative tandem assured, art will last for a long time, if, of course, its condition is watched over.
– We are not only open to new projects, but also position ourselves as the largest park art space in the city. Since July 12 this year, we have launched a competition for street art artists who can not only become participants and decorate the remaining spaces of the Vladimir Garden, but also win cash prizes. To participate, you need to choose a site, come up with a sketch and agree on it with the organizers, – commented Alena Novikova, Head of the Development Department of the Parks Directorate of Ulyanovsk.- All projects that are embodied in the “Vladimir Garden” (including art objects) are restored every year before the opening of the season. As for the street art, the restoration is being carried out in cooperation with the artists who brought it to life. But, as practice shows, all drawings made with good materials retain their original appearance for a long time. For example, the portrait of Kurchatov, which is located next to Mayakovsky, still does not need restoration, but it was painted in 2017. We hope that our park will continue to transform, we are always glad to cooperate with artists!
90,000 Conversation with the artist about the time to put on and take off masks – Russian newspaper
The COVID-19 pandemic locks people home, but it also erases boundaries.Such is the paradox.
In order to meet with the artist Mikhail Shemyakin, under other circumstances, it would have to be a long and tedious guard until the great hermit gets closer to the people from the French hinterland, where he has been living for many years. Now, technical progress allows you to knock on someone else’s home without leaving your own.
True, Mikhail warned that he did not like Skype, Zoom and other Internet bells and whistles, so we talked for two hours in the old fashioned way – on a wired phone.
About the handshake
– When was the last time you gave your hand for a strong shake, Michael?
– I constantly greet the workers who come to me.
– What about social distance?
– You know, we live in such a closed world that it never occurred to me to ask this question. The social circle is now small, there are several people in it. My student from America lives with us. We were in Venice together when the shurum burum and panic over the coronavirus began.An English writer is also visiting, working on a book. So there are two newcomers.
Of course, my wife Sarah, my sister, and the staff. Someone lives with us, others in a neighboring town, and here they come to work. That, in fact, is all. We are constantly in a kind of seclusion.
But I do not feel loneliness, my workshops are filled with my favorite interlocutors and teachers – these are old master artists or philosophers, writers, poets. I don’t understand those who talk about boredom. I always knew what to do.And the work was over the roof.
Although I give a report that many are now psychologically difficult. People have become very stupid, devastated themselves. This is a very unpleasant and difficult situation, especially for young people who are used to jostling in discos and nightclubs. Sometimes it seems to me that they are afraid to be alone with themselves. After all, it turns out that their inner world is empty, filled with nothing.
Self-portrait. 1986-1989 years.
– Did you have to rebuild due to the pandemic?
– If only in a good direction, as they say in Odessa.There are fewer visitors, and now I am working with tripled strength. Including over his autobiography and the book “Six Years of Teaching”. I will soon be defending my diplomas on the topic of the transformation of the Russian icon. By June 22, I expected to fly to St. Petersburg to see my students, but because of the coronavirus, everything will go online, through the screen. I really don’t like this, to be honest. There is nowhere to go, although, of course, it is upsetting.
In other respects, the quarantine did not disrupt my plans, on the contrary, it made it possible to focus on the project related to Russian folk dialects and fairy tales.I follow the path begun by Solzhenitsyn, trying to preserve the amazing originality of our language, which, alas, we are losing by leaps and bounds.
See how many things are.
– I don’t see, but I hear … Do you observe any precautions?
– You know, I’m used to being clean. Like everyone who has to work with paper, reproductions, rare books. I always wash my hands carefully. In addition, from a young age, I rinse my nose with salt water, as doctors advise. This helps to save oneself from a cold, and now, they say, protects from all kinds of germs.
Fragment of the sculptural composition “Children – Victims of Adult Vices”. Ignorance.
– Wear a mask?
– I’m a big stay-at-home, I don’t leave the estate anywhere. The market, shops – assistants are engaged in this, and so far I have never pulled a mask on myself.
– If you have to, which one will you choose? You, a famous mask maker, probably have a whole collection.
– Yes, carnival and theatrical. But for protection, a gas mask with a bag on the shoulder is better.
– Do you have it too?
– Of course. I collect old helmets, other things related to the war and in the meantime. There are uniforms, and a lot of all sorts of things.
– You were not offered to participate in the world anti-virus mask show?
– Not contacted yet. Although, I agree, it is worth reviving the white gauze bandages, getting rid of the general facelessness. Feeling as if I was in the hospital.
You can paint beautifully masks, come up with funny pictures, but I definitely have no time for that.In addition to everything else, there are enough theatrical concerns. I signed a contract with the Moscow Art Theater, and at the end of the year there will be a premiere of my musical “The Sand Man” based on the tale of Hoffmann.
Unless, of course, the virus intervenes again and confuses the cards.
Fragment of the ballet “The Magic Nut”. Scenography by Mikhail Shemyakin.
About the apocalypse
– What do you think about the pandemic? Not in a medical sense, but rather in a philosophical one.
– I study the Talmudists a lot, read what Jewish thinkers said and wrote.Still, one of the wisest nations …
– For the phrase “one of” may be offended.
– I am telling a parable. Imagine that we, people, the population of the Earth, are invited to a luxurious house, where there is a garden with wonderful birds and ponds with beautiful fish. At the doorstep we were warmly greeted by the owner and said: “Use, enjoy.” What have we done? First, they dirtied the house, broke it, ruined everything, then went to the garden, mutilated it, trampled the grass, mutilated the trees, defiled and polluted the river so that the fish floated upside down.Barbarians, vandals!
– Yes, yes, you immortalized some in Moscow on Bolotnaya, depicting the vices of humanity.
– In general, the owner returned, looked at the atrocities, made a remark – one, second, third … Nobody heard him, the people forgot that he was visiting, and continued to rave.
Anyone can run out of patience. How would even a polite and well-mannered person act in such a situation? He will take a wild pack by the collar and put it out, shake it out forever to save the garden and the house.After this horde, nature will probably recover for a million years.
Here’s my, so to speak, attitude to this situation.
We were given a demonstration lesson, whipped. If we don’t come to our senses and begin to rebuild, even worse problems await ahead. I would not like this.
– Who is the owner of the house, Mikhail?
– Well, each designates in its own way. Christians have a three-faced God. Muslims have Allah. Scientists talk about higher intelligence. The Masons have a Great Architect.
– What about you?
– I have everything combined in one. The Supreme has no name. The point is not how to name it. It is important to designate in the soul, to understand that there is a peak that we are unable to comprehend.
At your doorstep.
– So, if we don’t change our minds, the next is the apocalypse?
– I don’t know, but it’s obvious that each subsequent warning will be more stringent. First, the naughty kid gets a slap in the ass. If he continues to misbehave, a belt or something cooler will be used.
There is an interesting American film that I would make everyone watch from school. It is called “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. An alien arrives in a mysterious ball. On the orders of the Pentagon, they first try to soak it, fortunately, nothing happens, a man comes out of the ball.
The actor who starred in The Matrix, I don’t remember the names of the artists well …
– Keanu Reeves.
– Yes, here he is playing an alien from a smart planet.They ask him why he flew in, and Reeves’ hero says that he came to save the Earth. People think that help is addressed to them, but it soon turns out that the alien intends to rid the world of homo sapiens.
It turns out that an observer lived among earthlings for sixty years. He reported to the messenger of heaven that people are, of course, interesting, even amazing creatures, but are subject to destruction, since they are destroyers by nature.
The main character is ready to start a total cleanup, saving the life of animals, birds and other creatures, but in the end I persuade him to give him another chance.The kind alien agrees and flies away. Everything ends optimistically, such a Hollywood happy end.
In reality, we may not be spared.
– I have already said: stop shitting on the Earth that has sheltered us. Otherwise, COVID-19, which has really caused a lot of grief, will seem like a child’s fireball compared to what lies ahead.
We are constantly trying to create some new bombs to bang each other, and then a little creature in a crown comes, so tiny that several million of these viruses fit on the tip of a needle, and says: “Okay, basta, guys! Everyone sit do not stick your nose out at home! ”
Those who did not believe in the severity of the threat, probably, have already flew into a parallel world feet first.Here’s what to think about.
Theatrical show of costumes “Masquerade Ball in the St. Petersburg Exhibition Hall” Manezh “. Photo: RIA Novosti
– Do you feel that humanity will learn a lesson?
– In this sense, I am a pessimist. Once I read an interview with an outstanding scientist Sergei Kapitsa: “It is not an atom or cancer that will destroy the world, but a greedy fool.” Unfortunately, this is true.
I am far from politics, but I understand: power and corruption go hand in hand everywhere. no matter how clever thoughts they formulated, those who rule the world and manage real money do not want to change anything.They wanted to spit on our reasoning. From the high bell tower.
In my opinion, there, at the very top, there are many seriously ill patients. But not a physical illness, but a mental one.
They are struck with a devilish passion for power and profit. Hence the desire to assert oneself, one’s insignificance, at any cost. Nobody likes them. At best, they endure because of the crumbs falling from the master’s table.
If the world lived according to the laws that heaven gave us, everything would develop differently …
With his wife Sarah.Photo: RIA Novosti
About the past
– When the pandemic broke out, were you at the carnival in Venice?
– I have been going there for many years in a row, I participate, I represent theatrical Russia. The program is always varied and extensive. This year the pupils of the “Maria’s Children” foundation flew in. These are orphans, children with developmental disabilities. They were at the carnival for the second time. Together with Anvar Libabov, a wonderful clown and artist from St. Petersburg, they brought and showed a real performance.
I was struck by the view of Venice without the crowds of tourists. It was like back in the old days when I first came there in 1972. You sit on San Marco, enjoy the silence and good weather. And the museums were empty. I wandered around the halls alone, stood in front of my favorite paintings and thought: my God, what a great time. Sarah and I lived for ten fabulous days, went to our place in France, and suddenly it turned out that Italy was closed. We managed to jump out in time.
– Did you risk it?
– We rented an apartment and did not want to leave them ahead of time.What for? The money has been paid, it will not be returned back, and I am a person, so to speak, with a big name, but with a small pocket.
– It turns out that nothing has changed since 1971, when you were expelled from the USSR, asking to leave with your things? More precisely, without things …
– It was a prerequisite. In the Big House, I was told: “Nobody should know about leaving, including parents. With you – nothing, not a suitcase, not a bag!” I put in a plastic bag reproductions of paintings by my favorite artists and a few small objects for still lifes.That’s all with which he flew away from the USSR.
Only later did I understand the reason. Various forces fought within the KGB. Some employees sincerely wanted to save me, the second expected to put me in jail for a long time, and the third were ready to destroy, put me up against the wall. After all, I was walking according to Article 64 of the RSFSR Criminal Code – treason to the Motherland, a deliberate act with the aim of damaging the state independence, territorial inviolability or military power of the Soviet Union. And this is the capital punishment – execution with confiscation of property.
So they pushed me out of the country empty-handed, without anything. Otherwise, he risked falling into a hole with a bullet in the back of his head. And so they put me on a plane and spat it out to Paris. Thanks to the French for immediately agreeing to accept the exile.
“I try to think less about what I am unable to change …” Photo: Alexander Dzhus
– Why did you become a recluse?
– It happened so. We lived in Paris for ten years and moved to New York. At some point I realized that to paint large canvases I need a room outside the city.We went to look and saw a huge house with a park. We decided to take it off. We liked it there so much that we didn’t want to go back to New York. Stinks from exhaust gases, humming cars, crowds in the streets … And a few hours away – waterfalls, forests and other beauties. In a word, Catshill, where Rip van Winkle fell asleep for twenty years, the hero of the novel by the beloved writer Pushkin, Washington Irving.
Since childhood, I have read about these places and, once there, I felt at home. We lived in this village until we returned to Europe.But we already understood that we would not return to the city. Firstly, it is less comfortable, secondly, it is expensive, and thirdly, we are very fond of nature and every animal.
We have six dogs, about the same number of cats and donkeys. It is difficult to live in a metropolis with such an economy.
– Is it really cheaper to maintain a castle than housing in the city?
– There is nothing to talk about! Nowadays, few people need locks. A good large apartment in Paris costs several times more than an estate with a house somewhere in the French hinterland.For decent housing in the capital, you will have to pay five million euros. It can be much more expensive. A million – at least for something more or less quality. And they sell locks like mine for seven hundred thousand euros. Below is the price of a business-class apartment in the center of Moscow.
Therefore, one should not think that the French are chasing suburban real estate. On the contrary! Nobody wants to buy. In fact, people work, get up every day and go somewhere – to the office, to production. Artists can afford the luxury of living in castles.Like Picasso, for example.
– Or Shemyakin.
– Don’t compare us!
– Picasso is a lump! The greatest master, and what Shemyakin is, time must show …
There are thousands of them in France, castles, and some are abandoned, without proper care. Here in the neighborhood, before my eyes, a beautiful 15th century castle is turning into ruins. Nobody buys, and it will only remain in old photographs.
Vladimir Vysotsky and Mikhail Shemyakin.Photo: Mikhail Shemyakin Center
– Your colleague Oleg Tselkov calls you a lone wolf.
– I pay him the same. He’s the same outside the pack. Recently, by the way, Oleg and I spoke on the phone … He is not only a wonderful master and an amazing thinker, but also my beloved person. It is a pleasure to communicate with him. There is both humor and an unusual outlook on life. Grotesque as in his works.
I’m sure Oleg doesn’t get bored alone with himself either.I am always amazed by the question: “Are you not lonely in the wilderness?” Every time I repeat that I am never alone. In my workshop, Bach plays, then Miles Davis replaces him with an amazing trumpet, then Armstrong hums along with Ella Fitzgerald. Opposite are Kierkegaard and Heidegger sitting and talking their sad nonsense. I argue with them, and sometimes I agree. When I work and my hand goes wrong, Dürer immediately prompts: “Bad, asshole, you keep the line!”
You can’t even imagine how many amazing people constantly crowd in my workshop! How can you be bored here? You take one book, the second, the third… And I have hundreds of thousands of them! You don’t know how to stretch the day and lengthen the night. Time is forever not enough for anything.
I am in constant conversation with Sarah. I always have something to discuss with my wife. We start with a long breakfast, continue walking with the dogs in the park (we have it big and beautiful), and finish with dinner. We never dine.
At midnight we start working on our autobiography, and closer to six in the morning we go to bed.
– Do you have pedigree dogs?
– Anyone.From Chihuahua to the huge Irish wolfhound.
– Are there any hunting ones?
– Small spaniel, but not for hunting. I don’t hunt, I don’t fish and I don’t kill anyone, on the contrary – I even save bugs if they get into the bathroom or sink. It comes to such stupidity that it is a pity to swat a fly. Although it is necessary – they are too annoying. Like some people.
– Tell us about the memoirs.
– Long promised to Lenochka Shubina, the smartest and most ferocious editor of the AST publishing house.I have been working on the first volume for three years. I walk chronologically. I am writing myself, by hand. Then Sarah retypes it, brings it to me, I proofread it, edit it, cross out the excess, give it back, she makes the edits. So we walk in a circle. I try to avoid not only verbosity, but also poly-letters.
I read a lot of memoir literature and noticed that even the memoirs of famous people often turn into a kind of family album, where some uncle Vanya and aunt Tosya appear. The author gets carried away, drowns in details that are interesting only to him.”And Alya also came to see us, she was a friend of Aunt Tosya …” A pile of unnecessary information that no one really needs is dumped on the head of the unfortunate reader. Yes, maybe the reader is on the “drum” of these uncles and aunts! I am trying to write something truly meaningful, capable of interest and, I hope, something to enrich the reader.
In principle, a story about a family can become useful and instructive, but the quality of the literary language and the degree of talent are important for this.
Mikhail Shemyakin and Vladimir Vysotsky.Photo: Patrick Bernard / Mikhail Shemyakin’s archive
– You have someone to remember about. The names – Nureyev, Dovlatov, Vysotsky, Baryshnikov and Brodsky – will be of interest to everyone.
– I am going to write about them already in the second volume.
And in the first one there is not a single photo – neither dad, nor mom, nor grandparents. Nobody and nothing.
– Everything is built on my drawings. They should display what could not be photographed, but can only be reproduced from memory.And of course, the drawings will be unusual.
But my father and I were a special person. For example, he could appear at a banquet in some underpants and dance on the table. He often did not care about the rules of etiquette and decency. Probably Gulyaypole left an imprint when, as a young boy, his father was aide-de-camp at Father Makhno. This indifference and genetically passed on to me. So in the drawings, the indifference of Shemyakin Sr. and Shemyakin Jr. will be displayed.
With mother Yulia Nikolaevna Predtechenskaya. 1946 year.
– Have you inherited your paternal traits, Michael?
– I am a very rebellious person, yes.Suffice it to recall life in the mountains when he escaped from the madhouse. We kept them there for six months, trying to wean them off brushes and pencils. They experimented with psychotropic drugs as in a guinea pig.
A large chapter is devoted to this in the book – “The Way of the Wise Dog”. A dog bitten by a snake runs away somewhere in the mountains or into the forest, eats grass and roots, after which it either survives or dies. So I, one might say, did the same. I began to have a severe withdrawal from the drugs that were stuffed in the psychiatric hospital.I lived in caves where scorpions and other reptiles lived. Then he met hermit monks. Found them in the mountains of Svaneti. It is difficult to describe in words, easier to draw. Hopefully, in a couple of months I will finish with the text of the book and do the illustrations. I was promised that this year it will be possible to publish. If, of course, I hand over the manuscript on time.
– A couple of years ago they were going to tell about my father for a collection on the history of the KGB, which is published in Moscow. Happened?
– Yes, the novel “The Red Centaur” was published in the eleventh volume, and now, in my opinion, the sixteenth is already out.
There are also interesting memories of my mother, she wrote beautifully. The compilers of the collection asked me for a fragment, so I gave it. Now they demand more and more. I said: “No, guys, that’s enough for you a passage about how mom goes to the front.” From the point of view of literature, she was fluent in the language, perfectly. I can’t do that, so I told about my father without any fuss.
But in his autobiography he devoted a lot of space to him. No one has had such a strong influence on me as he did. Mom was such, you know, a snob, an intellectual.From an old noble family, she studied French, graduated from a theater institute and so on, so on, so on … And her father is an orphan, Makhno’s adjutant. An absolutely terrible childhood and crazy youth. He stole at the Khitrov market, used to be a bit, knew Gilyarovsky, called him Uncle Gilya.
I think my father did not understand how to educate and communicate with his own children. I remember walking after being discharged from the psychiatric hospital, meeting him. He asks, as if they parted yesterday: “I heard that I was lying in an insane asylum?” The answer is: “Yes, dad.”I tried to explain something, to tell how hard it was. Father did not listen, only shook his head: “Wow! Wherever Shemyakins are thrown! Well, bye.” And he went on. And I stood with my mouth open and looked after the retreating figure in an officer’s greatcoat …
The artist’s father, Guards Colonel Mikhail Petrovich Shemyakin.
At the same time, I clearly understand: his influence is present in all spheres of my work. A very important moment in life! Only over time did I begin to decipher what my father is for me.Although for all this, of course, was a terrible person.
I am grateful to fate for a lot, my book is gratitude to her, although many will not understand it. Even take Professor Sluchevsky, under whose supervision terrible experiments were carried out on me in the Osipov clinic. Now I am writing a book and I understand that it was a test. Once you overcome it, it means you won. Only in this way the soul and consciousness are tempered, a person rises a step up.
That’s why my book turns out to be very strange.People may have a question: what is so beautiful about the fact that you were bullied, checked for a break? I hope the reader will understand why, in spite of everything, I have achieved something in my work.
I had a difficult childhood. My father drank a lot and boozed, my mother had a difficult character. Even looking around from afar is terrifying, but looking up close is even more terrible. Nevertheless, I perceive many things differently with age.
– More tolerant of steel?
– I see the world from a special angle. I can’t really judge people.Rather, I grieve if friends betray. And this happened. And more than once. But you still can’t get very angry with them. You can’t stoop to hatred.
You were offended, and you took in response and sulked. That means he showed his weakness. It is better to try to understand why the person allowed the pod and not to rush to condemn him. Sooner or later, you will come to the conclusion that a traitor is not worthy of anger, but only pity.
About the eternal
– But, say, with Ilya Kabakov, your paths parted.
– We did not break the pots. Recently I talked with Emilia, Ilya’s wife, and said that he had sent him books … He chose one path, I continue to stomp in the old way. At the same time, I speak publicly about Kabakov only as a brilliant artist, a unique draftsman. And I’m not dissembling. This is the smartest and most talented person. Whatever you touch, everything turns out grandiose. God kissed Ilya on the crown of the head.
– What about the recently departed Limonov?
– I pray for him.You know, it is very important to remember the departed. I understand that my prayer will not help much, but this way I preserve the memory of those who are no longer around. Here was a popular mime in the Soviet Union Boris Amarantov. You probably have not heard this name?
– I don’t remember.
– Look on the internet. Unhappy man! He had a good career, he even opened a pantomime theater in the USSR, but all the time he wanted more. In the mid-seventies of the last century, out of stupidity, he refused a Soviet passport and emigrated to the United States.It turned out that in the West nobody needed Boris, Amaranth was not Marcel Marceau, but only his copy.
Ten years later he returned to the Union and soon committed suicide. This is such a terrible fate. Who will remember the suicide today? And I knew him personally and I still pray for his soul, although a lot of time has passed. I myself am pleased that I have not forgotten Borya.
So it is with Limonov. An interesting figure! By the way, he was not indifferent to me … I keep his manuscript, Edward began to write a novel about my childhood. We talked, but I could not be friends with him, as with Vysotsky.Limonov once sadly said: “No, I will never be such a friend as Volodya for you.” It was a kind of jealousy, in the future he, as is inherent in him, “screwed” me. Such is Lemon, you can’t make an orange out of it. But damn talented!
We had a special friendship with Volodya, we understood each other very well. Like, probably, no one. Vysotsky dedicated more than a dozen songs and poems to me. The most famous are “The End of the Wolf Hunt” and “Domes”.
With his wife during the “Immortal Regiment” march in St. Petersburg.2016 year. Photo: from the personal archive of Mikhail Shemyakin
– Did you celebrate your own 77th birthday, Mikhail? The date is beautiful …
– We sat on May 4 like a family. Modestly, quietly. As my late uncle used to say: “We drank ours to the Citizen.” Fortunately for those around me, I have not been practicing my former parties with noise and shooting-firing at chandeliers for a long time. I rarely go to banquets, but when I get out, they definitely start pestering me with the question: “Will you have a drink?” I refuse politely. They insist: “Maybe champagne? Whiskey? Relax.”I say: “Yes, I can have a drink. I will relax, but you will strain.” And they immediately leave me alone …
I don’t force anyone else to strain. Therefore, the birthday passed calmly. But May 9 is a holy holiday. And my father went through two wars, and my mother served with him in a cavalry regiment, spent two and a half years in the saddle …
In addition, on May 9, my only daughter was born. She is not with us for a year and a half, Dorothea died in January 2018. Therefore, May 9 is both a bright and a sad day at the same time.Recently, I often remember the biblical truth that the sins of the fathers will fall on the head of the children.
– Blame yourself for the death of your daughter?
– No, I did everything to make her an interesting person, to take place in life. Dorothea succeeded. She was 53 years old and left a great artistic legacy. As an amazing artist, sculptor, jeweler. Now I am working on her two-volume edition.
The daughter, unfortunately, was exposed to the eternal Russian disease. Female alcoholism is almost incurable.I, too, suffered from this national disease for many years …
With my daughter Dorothea.
– Do you know the state of depression?
– I don’t understand what you mean by this word. Yes, it happens, I feel sad when I think about our society, about young people. Due to the coronavirus, a lot of gloomy thoughts go into my head. I think: well, well, self-isolation will end, but we will not learn anything, we will smoke the sky, pollute the soil and water. Wrap up again, spin up, stink and smoke! This means there will be a new warning and a new virus.Maybe more terrible than today …
From such thoughts it becomes sad. But I try to talk less about what I am unable to change. It is better to occupy your head with thoughts about the ways of Russian art.
– When will you be expected in Russia?
– Let the borders open first. It’s a pity, I can’t attend the Academy of Arts to defend my students. Only through the screen. In advance, before the coronavirus, I invited venerable art critics, a big event was planned. After all, I spent six years with the guys, helping them to become original artists.Therefore, I am working on a book, I hope it will help create a different education system in the visual arts.
Conversation with Vladimir Putin. July 3, 2019. Photo: RIA Novosti
– Will you take new students?
– I don’t think about it yet. For the first year, the state paid me off, and then he himself paid for the students’ studies. I had to go into debt, but only recently I again re-borrowed and paid the rest so that my guys would not be kicked out before graduation.I’m not some kind of oligarch …
I still love Russia and even in a foreign land continued to serve her. I am ready to do this in the future. Last year I met with Vladimir Putin, we said that no one is eternal, everyone is mortal. I want my developments, research, library and other archives to be mothballed and become the property of the Motherland.
On Putin’s instructions, the director of the Russian Museum, Gusev, and officials from the Ministry of Culture flew here. We made plans and then silence. It is clear, now a pandemic, but this is not the first time this has happened.If Russia does not need my legacy, I will give all the countries that show a keen interest.