Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alevtina Kakhidze - Revolutionary Obedience

"Art must concern itself with the real, but it throws any notion of the real into question. It always turns the real into a facade, a representation, and a construction. But it also raises questions about the motives of that construction." - Mike Kelley

Here is how it went:
Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze has been working on value and power for a while. In one of her charming projects (The Most Commercial Project), for instance, she drew objects that she liked, most of them she couldn't afford, and gave the drawings the same value that the objects had. So, a drawing of a Louis Vuitton handbag had the same value as the object itself. And when she brought her goods into her marriage, the lawyers confirmed that her estate was worth much more than her entrepreneur husband's.
In one of her projects, back in 2008, Alevtina drew the earth seen from the sky. No, this needs more precision: the earth seen from an airplane which is not her own private airplane.
Once she made the drawing, Alevtina Kakhidze wrote to some of the richest people in Ukraine - Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk (who has his own adventure in the art world now) - and asked them to make a drawing for her of how the earth looks from a private plane. It was a nice portfolio she sent them, very professional and smooth. She tried encouraging them, telling them it wasn't about drawing well. If anyone can draw, so can you!
This (and the obvious silence afterwards) made for a nice work. A clean statement about what we see and the position we see it from.

But two years later, unexpectedly, an answer arrives. Akhmetov decided to make his huge foundation to support artists' projects. And Alevtina's project was thought perfect for a beginning. Unfortunately, Mr. Achmetov is too busy/shy/untalented to make a drawing, but he will be happy to rent a private plane for Ms. Kakhidze, so she can make her project herself.
And make it she did.
The project, called "I'm Late For A Plane That Cannot Be Missed", started with Alevtina going by collective transport from her house in the suburbs to the airport. She hitch-hiked a little, took a suburban mini-bus, a suburban train, and (as expected) arrived late at the small private airport near Kiev. There was already a TV crew traveling with her by then, asking everyone on the way who they were and if they knew Alevtina. At the airport, there were several more crews, and over a dozen news photographers. After all, this was an important day for art and culture in Ukraine: the richest man around decided to support real artists, and started by allowing this innocent-looking girl to realize her dream.

And off she went. Onboard, she took only a few reporters. (There was even a struggle for the seat.)

The anxious journalists were mad when, upon returning, Alevtina declared only one thing: she will tell the whole story and answer all the questions tomorrow during her lecture performance. That made no news story at all! Disappointed and frustrated, they could do nothing but wait.

However, the next day arrived quite quickly. And here they were, the journalists, and tens of artists gathered at the conference in one of the most prestigious places in Ukraine (a part of the Saint Sophia Cathedral complex). Waiting mainly to learn how to get money for their projects. And, also, to hear what Alevtina has to say. And to see the drawings.
Alevtina starts describing how she prepared for the trip, how she got clothes specially designed for the occasion, she talks about the cost of the plane rental (10 000 euros). And then she declares:
I felt so calm on the way to the airport and in the sky but now I have to account for this tranquility. What have we done on the plane? We were there. There is no result. I have nothing to show for what actually happened there.
The journalists were confused. This is surely a scandal? No drawing!
But also - no demolition! No shocking performance! No reaction! Nothing! Alevtina did strictly nothing - she did not change the game, she did not make the plane fly somewhere else, she did not paint it red, she made no drawing. She took the flight.
Did I say she didn't change the game?
Of course she did.
Her non-action was performative. It created a new reality. It brought about a challenge to the system, keeping up the power struggle between the art and the money. Who is the boss here? And why?
Certainly, they want us to do what we want. But if we do what we want our way, we are the ones defining what they want. And for a fraction, it becomes our game. And this fraction, for me, is the work.

In one of her works, Alevtina writes (or quotes, the origin is unsure): “And do you remember, I found 10 roubles, and ran home to show mom. Not the 10 roubles, but how lucky I am.”
It is not the thing we find. It is about how lucky we are.
And how we subvert this luck.

PS. The struggle continues: in the description of the event on the Foundation's site, the actual request for Akhmetov to draw the earth is not mentioned, making it all seem slightly more like making "Dreams come true in art". What dreams, exactly?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


At the BWA City Gallery in Bydgoszcz (which has the most poignant introduction of any art gallery I've seen so far: "WHAT"), the Polygonum exhibition which opens on October 14th to showcase the Polish region's visual talents has some tasty discoveries.

"Movemental" by Tomasz Dobiszewski does look a little like a furniture catalogue. And yet there is something wrong with this catalogue. It does not clarify, it does not simplify, but multiplies, undoes the tight order of things. It lets the picture breathe, opens it up, as if it was obvious: the reverse is necessary, the negative, the outline - everything our gaze seems to take for granted. Dobiszewski adds nothing, he just cuts out and moves,allowing the rhythms to become juicier through the absurd joy of things fitting like in a reverse puzzle. Do things become undone, this way, or are they put more clearly into their necessity? After all, this is the space for the space this is.

Another tasty moment requires distance.
Evidently, it's not about the painting. But the painting seems an important introduction (and the floor, and the floor). This creature, to the right (unfortunately I didn't write down the name or author), stands as its own double. It should not be approached (really, definitely, in cases like this I understand why beauty needs distance). As any mirage, it is only what it seems, a reflection, a game of angles, a line and a line and a line. It rings a bell, and another, and I wonder, is there a way of keeping it there, of not getting closer, of remaining within the illusion that there is something beyond, just a little more plenty.


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