Alla Gloria Militar

Alla Gloria Militar
Dedicated to the Anniversary of the end of WW II
Authorsof the idea, curators and participants, designers of the book
Aircraft gallery, Slovakia, Bratislava, 2010
In one of the most important works of world arts, Mozart’s opera Le nozze di Figaro, there is a shot of healthy pacifism characteristic for each common man. This work becomes full of irony in relation to militaristic oriented pathos of Figaro’s aria dedicated to Cherubino leaving for his military service.
Alla gloria militar! – the aria acclaiming for reaching a military fame isbrilliantly culminating with this phrase and at the same time the phrase opens a project presenting works of art being more or less connected to war.
Alla gloria militar! This phrase heroic both in its form and content – is contextually ironic. And corresponds with the character of the War having two faces itself. It is historical lyinevitable that there are two counterparts – an aggressor and the other one defending himself, the winner and the loser, the innocent and the guilty. At the same time the duality of a human nature is revealed – the highest verve of the spirit leading the person even to a self-sacrifice and on the other handthe lowest and the most obscure in a human being. Each statement on any military conflict, either bloodshed from the past or from nowadays, becomes ananti-military meaning from the point of view of this message.

Kolesnikov/Denisov


I send greetings to the organisers, participants and visitors to the exhibition project “Alla Gloria Militar“ dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War that has been taking place in Aircraft Gallery in Bratislava“!
More than 70 artists from 14 countries in Europe and America take part in this huge project. During war years the secountries stood on different parts of the battle line. Now it is the topic of war that brought artists of these countries together.
Remembering the war, common victims, suffering and joy of victory is one of few remaining precious values unifyingthe whole mankind.
In spite of relatively long time distance, the WW II has been surviving not only in the memory of a small group representing the generation that took a direct part or witnessed the war, but alsoin a genetic memory of nations of Europe and the world.
That terrible war, besides all historical conclusions and meanings, human sacrifices of colossal size, and tragedies of nations and continents, brings its central message for the mankind– each war is a WRONG.
And the artists explore the WAR conceptright through this prism.
There are no winners or losers at this exhibition, there are no fighting parties, there are neither those being for, nor those being against. Here are the artists listening the time period and throughits prism they ask a question themselves, how to protect the mankind from that destroying energy, observing the state of war in the inner world of a manduring peaceful times.
I wish all participants and visitors tothis exhibition to gain and strengthen the feeling of inseparable connection to those generations that gave us the chance to live in peace and also the feelingof our own responsibility to prolong the peaceful time as much as possible.

Alexandr Avdeev
Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation


Three bullets right through

The international exhibition Alla Gloria Militar was conceived and organised by energetic and competent cultural professionals of the Artists’ Union of Russia, namely I. Kolesnikov, S. Denisov and their assistants.
It couldn’t be expected that these supervisors would give a servile response to the official celebrations of the Great Victory in our 2010. They responded to the event in a very human, manlike, and quite artistic way. The cover and endpaper of the catalogue have colours of steel and blood, and the three bullet holes, going through the entire book, suggest that here we won’t be regaled with beautiful fabrications. Having touched this cover, one can immediately understand that there is as hooting here. But in what sense?
Artists from different countries (besides, from those countries that fought next to each other and against eachother in World War II) have been offered a topic, which included a notion of “military glory”. The expression Alla Gloria Militar is understood by not only the Mediterranean people and other speakers of the Romanic language group, but almost by all Europeans, because these words, one way or another, are presentin the culture of all European countries. Normally people react to such wordsin a similar manner. They mourn the victims and honour the fallen, and they pay a tribute of love and respect to veterans, trying to figure out how all this great, glorious and shameful nightmare happened, who and how were arranged the bloodiest hecatombs in history (not glorious at all), and who defended humankind against monsters. And what happened next.
This causes a delicate situation. People do not always want to deal with dangerous speculations and sharp unresolved issues, for they cause a headacheand bring a confusion, bewilderment and irritation. Thinkers, writers and artists, with their usual uncontrollability and creative looseness, allow themselves to talk about difficult issues and dangerous truths. (Truths can be safe too, but then theyare as little productive as safe sex.)
Humanity was protected from thefascist monster by our brave protectors and saviours, and the price of their blood earned everlasting gratitude to them. If to be specific, the European sown their happy chance to live, to two historical forces. The first squad - these were knights of the large and predatory Anglo-American capital. Another squad - these were soldiers of the carnivore totalitarian regime of Stalin. The two forces swoopeddown on the enemy from all sides. They fought, frankly speaking, for their domestic dragons against the foreign dragon, and they did everything right. More precisely, there was no other choice. The foreign beast was more dangerousthan their own (although the latter was a trouble too).
They killed the foreign dragon, trampled on the swastika, hung a couple of the most shameless scoundrels, and staged a denazification, although a not too radical and not too painful one, soas not to bring them selves any political problems. So did the knights of theWest. Soviet wonder-warriors hurriedly and hastily replaced former racists and butchers of one part of Germany for their own people (and sometimes it was not possible to find adifference) and survived the post-war whacking and oppression in their own country. What happened next as a result of the Great Victory, we all generally know, and so I won’t describe much. I personally guess that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a distant and unforeseen consequence of the glorious Victory, which on one hand saved the country, buton the other hand turned our inner dragon loose; and he’d completely ruined the economy, society, ethnic relations, and other foundations of life. History is avery ironic person. Still, there is no doubt that the winners have gained them selves military glory, while the outcomes of the Victory were different, and we still live with painful thorns in our minds. Hence the ideological hysteria about the war history that we, medics of spirit, now observe in Russia.
Contemporary artists, as quitethinking (and not just mindlessly singing their song) beings, with each passingyear were more and more certain in existence of the mystery of the historical Sphinx. Glory to the winners! In the name of what they won, what the results were, how it all finished, and what we are supposed to think about this victory of Ours over Aliens - this is adifferent question. The artists of our exhibitions give some responses to the challenge. A dangerous guess, a secret of the post-warcollective psychology, concealed from ourselves, has led to gaps and conflicts, quirks and antics, searches and disagreements that can be clearly seen in thepanorama of the exhibition.
The first wound - is a bitterness and resentment. The past mocks our common sense and moralinstinct. That is the best description of the monumental photograph, taken by I. Kolesnikov and S.Denisov, where some person, resembling Stalin, shows his red tongue to the humanity, just like a vampire, sated with people’s blood.
The subject of an unfortunate puzzle, of the dangerous mystery of the Sphinx, is running through and framing the exhibition, and the rest of its “layers” form the clearly readable subjectlines. The subject of memory is loudly and clearly started by the objects of Vladimir Anselm. This artist comes from Russia and now lives in Germany, and hesculpts from coal crumbs, making spears and helmets, guns and skulls, as if continuing the work of his almost-namesake, true-born German Anselm Kiefer, who modelled and riveted his famous “military aircraft” from pieces and sheets of lead. Kiefer created a “weapon of destruction”. It seems that Anselm’s weapons and armament soaked up Death. They cannot kill; they are not even particularly scary. But they are one of the strongest contemporary reminders about the old theme of Memento Mori. Remember about death. Heroic, in famous, never known to anyone, glorious, life-saving, useless? The black ashes of the coal spears do not answer our anxious questions.
The memory of the war - is the main subject of the exhibition. But it is paradoxical, that in the actual exhibition one cannot find a lot of reminders of that world tragedy, whichended more than six decades ago. Artists, who were born after its end (and itis difficult to find any other artists, after so many years passed) are not ready to clearly indicate that exact war, that specific event, those typical characters of that particular time. More precisely, they recall through the prism of time, mythology, or mass communications. The Polish group DUMA even turned a forming-upof a Nazi punitive squad into something like a scene from Alice in Wonderland; horrible, but, on the whole, not scary. A little bit unpleasant, but bearable.
Artists often speak about the war ingeneral, or the wars of the twentieth century in general. About horror, violence and inexplicable savageness, taken globally. It’s not that our contemporaries in Europe, as well as Russia, happened to be forgetful or muddle-headed (although this occurs too). The main reason is that our fathers, grandfathers,older brothers and peers (and ourselves) fought too much. Global and local, civil and secret wars,declared, undeclared, diplomatic, for oil, for drugs, for prestige, for faith, for so much more that it is difficult to recall what it was for exactly. It is not possible to try and recollect, and figure out how, who, where and why killed each other in the battles of Khalkhyn Gol. Who and how, when and why disembarked and attacked,retreated and fled, defeated and died in Transvaal, Panama, Cuba, Angola, Guatemala and the Middle East, and so on and so forth.
All the wars of the twentieth century have merged in our minds into some kind of a single endless event. Which officers and soldiers are depicted on the obscure quasi-photographs, taken by V. Smolyar? Let us as sume, that we can guess a Japanese man due to his small stature, a samurai sword in his hand, and his woman, dressed in a kimono.The rest of the fighters seem to be from the same military unit, since Russians, Americans, Germans and other combatants in jackets and coats, helmetsand caps were moulded from the same material, namely, from that courageousdough, which in one country was used for moulding Stalin’s falcon named Chkalov, in another country - the Americaneagle named Lindbergh, in the third country - thesky wanderer named Saint-Exupery, in thefourth - the great aces of the Reich. The silhouettes are unclear, the faces are no longer identifiable, and those whodidn’t experience the era of the world wars and other global conflicts them selves, are no longer able to draw details and clarify facial expressions.They fought against each other, that is, against themselves. A memory of thiskind is almost insulting. We remember that people died, but it is not possible to find out who they were, why they died, what for, and under what circumstances.
Certainly, artists cannot put up with this humiliating half-memory, and theytry to specify events, even with all possible generalisations. A chronically painful memory of the terrible documentary footage stuck in my mind. K.Corbisier painted a scene from some European ghetto, with the dark figures of soldiers advancing on a crowd of helpless women and children. S. Buban reminded about the terrible shots of the Vietnam War. But the exhibition – is not a museum. Even if we were to imagine that one day there would be created aninternational memorial of the battles and sacrifices of the twentieth century, I can say in advance that upon leaving the building we would mainly remember mutilated figures, remains, stumps, rubble, and fires. They are almost the same everywhere. This sameness was drawn, collected, and assembled by E. Galouzo, M. Roshnyak, and others. Cripples and corpses of all countries, unite. Krüppelund Tote aller Länder, vereinigteuch. Karl Marx would turn over in his grave, if he heard such a slogan.
For the new generations of artists, all of this glorious spinof extirpation and victims merges into one general panorama of the local-global, ubiquitous and multi-faceted theatre of operations, from Berlin to Hiroshima, from Guernica to Leningrad, from Cubato Chechnya, from El Alamein to Khalkhin Gol, from Kabul to Vietnam. In the eyes of the young generation this spectacle of planetary self-destruction looks like some kind of philosophical parable. “This is the eternal battle, wecan only dream of peace,” - that is what the artists seem to repeat with a variety of intonations, from bitter ones togrotesque, from play-like to stern. G. Sesia used the famous picture of mercenaries, posing in front of skulls, laid out in the foreground. Executioners and victims are equally immersed in fog, in the faded sepia of time. Memory is powerless. We remember, we won’t forget, but we cannot do anything with these militancy rangers, Alpine riflemen, paratroopers, legionnaires and other heroes of the century. They will go somewhere else, and will do the same thing with the same results.
A. Shchelokov depicted the eternal battle, with the same drawn fighters, in distinguishable from each other in their average uniform. They will always be fighting, against the background ofa vision of Hindu gods or magical runic ornaments (nobody knows where from andwhy they appeared). However, when we can see deities and magical characters, they always remind us of eternity and “the next world”. Perhaps, this work is about a paradise of glorious warriors from the new Valhalla, where gloriousheroes, militanti gloriosi, will be finally able to eternally relish and chopeach other, to shoot at each other, never even dying from mortal wounds. Suchan excellent prospect, a picture of the new world, where heroes will always befighting against each other, and where there will be no need to remember that you killed someone yesterday, or that you yourself had been killed the daybefore. And there will be no point in thinking about who and how you will die tomorrow.
Academically skilful A.Rukavishnikov crowned this section of the exhibition with his museum sculptures. His fighterswear on their heads Wehrmacht helmets, something ancient, or even a turban. Oreven nothing. They are fighters from all ages and nations. Their faces, likefaces of fighters of the Pergamon Altar, are contorted in a grimace, in whichrage is inseparable from pain and despair. These are portraits of the defeated winners. They cannot be stopped, even if they are killed. One cannot feel sorry for them, and one cannot but feel sorry for them. They are ready for Valhalla.
In addition to the theme of a traumatic memory, the theme of a the rapeutic memory rings out very loud in thee xhibition too. This is also a kind of a bullet, but this is a special, humane bullet with a painkiller in its head part. It will pierce, but it won’t hurt. Or we would prefer not tofeel pain. Or we learned to remember without feeling pain.
In the installations by Y. Fesenko a foolish conceptualism is presented in the form of an amusing coarseness of gilded tin soldiers. Another example - the Ukrainian-baroque allegories by M.Mazenko, where, in full accordance with the Kiev-Odessa tradition, the rich allegorical designs are gathered into garlands. Our Cossack could teach even Leo Tolstoy how to properly depict War and Peace, or what the world market is, where one can find a turnip, a gun, crops, and other goods and chattels. Here peaceful pitchfork, combined with grenades, cartridges and other ammunition, turn into a weapon to be used for a glorious resistance to the Fritz, Muscovites and other adversaries. The artist’s cunning amiability helpsone to look at such freestyle exercises of dashing talent without much of amoral indignation.
The author of War and Peace wasmentioned here for a reason. R.Vashekevich remembered our classic, copied a bearded face of some provincial Father Frost, and decorated this individual with a medical plaster and blackstickers. There are still some literate people between Minsk and Vladivostok, and they vaguely recall that Leo Tolstoy wrote a big book about the great and terrible war of the long-ago, and they still remember that he was bearded and unusual. The memory goes, and this iseven for better, because along with the memory go passion and prejudice, hatred and bitterness, a thirst for revenge and other demons.
Thank God that the artists of this exhibition do not shake and squirm with a patriotic pathos and with uniform-bursting testosterone. Military paraphernalia, as a pretext for his beautiful ironicdesign-fantasies, is dear to D. Tsvetkov. Iremember when in my distant childhood I used to look with pleasure at the dress-coatand the cap of my father, who during the war had earned a big iconostasis of orders. I must thank Tsvetkov, for he made me remember my child’s delight in looking at the golden epaulettes, edges, buttons and trimmings, and in looking at heftyorders, which to a young fool (i.e. me) seemed to be huge and beautiful. What an excellent white and colourfulcloth was used by the generous artist-tailor formaking coats of unknown marshals and generals! So many beads and so manyprecious gold threads were used for making their orders, with each of thembeing as large as a saucer! These exercises on the subject of uniform chic and formidable symbols are no longer dangerous. They have become peaceful, homey, and even charming - to the same extent as an ineradicable foolishness can be charming too.
There are sophisticated and official pacifists, but there are also pacifists that look like unsophisticated bumpkins. The Blue Noses have once again become notable for their directnessand virility. They presented their some kind of a “dream demob”: a well-fed and chubby middle-aged man in his camouflage uniform, reclining on a simple but comfortable couch, surrounded by various bottles and snacks. “Peace is better than war, just as freedom is better that unfreedom” - Siberia, free and creative, said through its hiccups. But let’s note that the paunchy hero of a tavern front doesn’t hurry to take his uniform beret and his camouflage pants off. He is still going to fight, but it won’t be a scary war, and even if one single woman screams, then the sound will soon turn into a signof consent and pleasure.
At the exhibition we won’t see the victorious heroes, and we won’t see the terrible and dangerous enemies of mankind. They are turning into the shadows of half-forgotten ancestors, and all that is left to do is to apply the psychotechnique of recalling about the not-experienced. Weapons of war, by contrast, appear in shot every now and then. But these are not the glorious weapons of salvation, and not the instruments of heinous violence. More often we see the “toy-cannons”,entertaining attractions on the theme of military equipment. Even seeminglyserious objects by A. Ponomarev, his submarines and torpedoes, rather belong tothe category of “life-size models” andother entertainment for young people. If surfacing in the waters of fabulous Venice, near the Kremlin in the Moscow River, or even appearing in the famous pool at the entrance to the Louvre, the submarine fleet by Ponomarev a won’tscare anybody, and the psychedelic paintings on the hulls do not improve the camouflage, but rather provide a sight for sore eyes. There isn’t a smell of murder. Or the smell faded. It smells of anaesthesia, narcosis - oreven a sort of a narcotic consciousness expansion.
If you cannot avoid violence - relax and try to have fun. This is, perhaps, too much, but any therapist wouldsay that a terrible experience will ruin you - unless you learn to accept terror as a given. Moreover, to distantly admire it. This psychotherapy is actually effective. V. Stasyunas painted pretty flowerson a pair of rough tarpaulin boots, which tortured Russian soldiers’ feet noless than all the butchers and investigators taken together. It seems that heis going to put these boots on his sideboard next to vases and elephants. Charming F. Burland made a whole barn of little amusing cannons, aeroplanes and submarine boats. Well done, no doubt. It is easy tocriticise these Stasyunases and Burlands, that they are infantile and foolaround when it comes to things more than serious. I won’t say anything bad tothem. They are trying to heal us a little bit, which means - toremind about our childhood, when we were making ships and guns, and when wewere absolutely not afraid of death.
To accept, and reconcile oneself tothis out of ignorance? Or to learn how to turn the hard knowledge off, and to turn the joy of life on? Let theorders ring, let the submarines shine, let the soldiers’ boots sparkle with little pink flowers. Nice and pleasant.
The bullet of a painful quasi-memory cannot be cured; the healing bullet anaesthetises an inflammation. The third hole - is the most serious: this is the hole from a ‘confirming kill’.
O. Tyrkin depicted the world from the perspective of a rifleman or a fire spotter. He is sitting in his shelter, looking into his device andproviding data for shooting. Its field of view is limited by a target, but there is no target in the aiming cross. Or there is no target yet. Or maybe atarget evaded. Whet her the target will be caught by the aiming cross, whether the rifleman not, whether he hits the target or misses it, - wedo not know. Who will be insight, if they will be at all, is completely unknown either. In other words, this is not essential. Whether they will look like the Others or not, which language our (so far) unknown target will speak, and why this target needs tobe shot - these are not our questions. Let’snote that it’s not about a memory or its imperfections, it’s not about pain oranaesthesia. A spotter and a sniper do their job. To find the target, to aim, to hit. The rest doesn’t matter.
Traces of bullets (figuratively speaking) run through the entire exhibition, but the images of the existingammunition, which was sent well and reached the target, appear only once, in the work by K. Khudyakov. A virtual battle, which resides in an interactive computer dimension. The Super technological large-calibre bullet penetrates the bodies of the virtual Harlequins, painted with coloured rectangles. There is also a thick (too thick, like a red engine oil) blood onthe fingers. Two androids, as similar to each other as children from one tube, were either going to form a union, or intended to meet each other in mortalcombat. It was then they were caught in sight, and shot from different angles. One from the right, the other from the left. The meaning of this scene from avirtual theatre, as it seems to me, is similar to Shakespeare’s Plague on bothyour houses. Each android has his own death - sparkling, ballisticly irreproachable, and technically perfect.
But enough about the bullets, let’s talk about explosives, and that means - about terrorism. The striking naked female shahid, a work by Denisov and Kolesnikov, looking like a thin creature of uncertain sex, although still with some signs of a woman, is going to elegantly and stylishly blow herself up (along with us, the viewers), pushing the mechanical clitoris of her explosive device. She is not that terrible, and she doesn’t really want to hurt us. A terror in the era of postmodernism is bringing us a universal orgasm, that will ruin all andeverything, and then any will, any sense, and any difference, will be lost in the vortex of energies. This is not that the Muslim East is threatening us, but rather the West got ready to have its final, and now we all will be in acomplete Derrida.
Finally, the Shahid by O. Kulik (the official name of which is The Holy Family, With A Hole in The Head) also makes the viewer think about our modern world, stirring up new fears in the innermostrecesses of our still unbroken heads. Today Alla Gloria Militar is starting to sound with the Arab guttural aspiration in the first word. Similar to Allahu Akbar. The Almightyand his host surreptitiously and quietly appeared among us. Their ancientsteppe enthusiasm, their idea of the eternal glory and paradise bliss at thecost of a moment - this could not been foreseen neither by the Nazis nor by the red vampires, samurai, cool-headedriflemen, or Terminators.
Why do we need of this? Yesterday’s dust - is today’s mud, says a ruthless Spanish proverb. Those who don’t want to think about it are doomed to repeatthe circle of life once again. And again. And again. The political conclusion of the exhibition is simple andhardly pleasant, because we see a clear picture of misery, but how to avoid it - noone knows. An artistic meaning is more inspiration. While photographing, drawing, filming videos, making or appropriating artefacts, the artists showthat they exist, and want to continue to think, work, invent, and createmeanings.


Aleksandr Yakimovich

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