There’s an international “Performance Art: Ethics in Action” conference going on in Moscow, for experts and artists “to converse and do research for a large-scale exhibition on the history of Russian performance” set for late 2014. It takes place at socialite/art world powerhouse Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. The history of Russian performance art is full and rich — particularly potent were the points when performance art challenged tyrannical authority and transgressed mainstream norms of “morality” but don’t get too excited.
ARTinfo spoke with Garage chief curator Kate Fowle about all this. Her well-rehearsed answers reek of pretensions at social awareness and double-speak. Fowle is fairly insistent that the press pays too much attention to the arrest of artists and censorship in general.
There’s someone speaking about Pussy Riot, of course, as an intervention that “represents a radical shift in a public exposure for performance insofar as it was produced for social media.” Great point! Just don’t pay attention to the fact that Pussy Riot served time for said intervention so much. Speaking of Petr Pavlensky possibly serving jail time for nailing his balls to the Red Square as a protest against the apathy, stagnation and Fixation of Russian society on its own helplessness, Fowle says:
I was in Moscow at the time and loads of artists were talking about it when it went viral… It’s not only about the arrests and not arrests, or what is perceived as arrestable and what isn’t. There are plenty of performances where protagonists weren’t arrested…
When asked a very reasonable question – ”Are there challenges you face working in Russia? Issues with censorship or homophobia?” – Fowle’s answer was a true acrobatic feat of pseudo-ethics!
Honestly one of the biggest challenges is the prejudices of people who have not spent any time in Russia. It’s driving me mad. In Moscow we are having ongoing conversations about a number of different pressing issues around the development of culture, including the gay legislation. The international media immediately wants to go for the sensational.
For example, there’s a magazine called Afisha in Russia that published a whole issue in March featuring a number of people in culture coming out as gay. There are many things like that that aren’t even mentioned in the press.
That’s because March comes before June. That Afisha issue came in March, before June when Russian president Putin signed the “Anti Gay Propaganda” bill into law. The law outlaws and punishes any mention of the existence of LGBT by individuals or the press.
Putin recently denounced opposition to this discriminatory law as assault by “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance” and declared that the law was “vital to global morality.” But enough about that. Back to art!
One of my jobs is to try and raise awareness of things that are actually going on. What’s frustrating for a lot of practitioners in Moscow is that they feel like they’re shouting into a vacuum because what gets reported on are the negative things rather than the steps that people are taking to develop culture and society.
I’m sorry for my crude illustration, particularly sorry to Petr Pavlesnsky for Photoshoping Zhukova’s head morphing out of where his ceremoniously punctured scrotum would be.
Thanks for making all those points, Fowle, you trained press monkey — like the one about how you’ve worked in China and Russia is better than China.