Made in Russia

在俄羅斯 Made in Russia (translated from chinese)​​​​​​​
Spesial project of Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 4 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art
With the suport of Russian Academy of Arts, Russian Federation of Artists
Curated by Kolesnikov/Denisov. Аrtists: Sergey Denisov, Ivan Kolesnikov, Go Shou Ho
State Moscow Academy of Design and Applied Arts, 2011
Made in Russia (or Made...)
 
The story the artistic duet Kolesnikov/Denisov intends to tell – 在俄羅斯 (Chinese for madein Russia) – has a very tricky plot with many twists and turns. You can't get it just out of hand. Is it about love, art, or outsourcing and precarisation? Or is it, broadly speaking, about contemporary capitalism, theone based on the neoliberal doctrine and opening a gate to the market free of any state barriers? It may as well tell of the friendship between the peoples,the friendship built on mutually beneficial cooperation and strengthened by thestream of working force. Yet, it may equally bring to your mind the ideas of Antonio Negri, who believed that the modern notion of proletariat should include not only the traditional industrial workers, but virtually everyone who is placed under another's control, being subject to exploitation and labouring for the capital – precisely, unemployed, housewives, social service workers, scholars and creative professionals. Inother words, the class and occupational gradation of human society becomes agood deal simpler. The result looks very much like a line from Dolsky's song: 'We've got mercilessly divided into women and men'. Only in this project it isthe case of exploiters and those being exploited. However, subversity andtransgression is still there and all is far from being unequivocal. Actually, in the modern world things have got only more twisted and tangled. Everythingis ambiguous from emotions to intellect and will.
The series presentedby the artists comprises seven paintings made in black-and-white, in a traditional realist manner, what makes them all visually reminiscent of documentary photography – greatly enlarged, taken in a stop-motion mode and organized into a narrative. To be more exact, it is not so much a narrative, as a sketch from nature, pretty familiar to all and everybody from the personal experience: in the heat of passion a man and a woman rush to wards each other, throwing off clothes on their way. Six paintings out of seven represent precisely these articles of clothing cast away in a rush – sneakers, shoes, jeans, a shirt and a blouse. The seventh, one in the centre, shows the lovers themselves, merged in a kiss. All is straight forward and even banal. Besides, it doesn’t make it any better to realize that all these paintings, despite their impressive size (150х200), look like pictorial studies by an A-student of an Art College (and some college tasks do presume painting a drapery or an object from every-daylife). Still, this amorous adventure is actually a so-called undercoat. At long last, what unfolds before us is not a love story, but the story of these things, carelesslyscattered about, but thoroughly painted. Yet, they are not simple jeans,shirts, shoes, but the NEXT, TCM (Tchibo), H&M, Esprit, CFL, Disney, Palomino, FIXONI, des Petits, OKAЇDI, OBaibi, ZARA etc. In other words, the very European brands, which we know inside out, as a good pupilknows the tables. Still, we are equally aware that all these Ferre, Cavalli, Pierre Cardin, Gattinoni,Parker, Givanchi, Caran D'Ache are made in China. Such is the legendary meeting of the West and the East. Thus, marketing, design, technology, quality control, to put it shortly, the intellectual component comes from Europe andthe US, while the production is effectuated in China – cheap and easy. Over thelovers couple the central painting is crowned with... No, not the five stars of the Chinese national symbol, as it may seem at a first glance, since here thebig star is surrounded by four Chinese hieroglyphs – 在俄羅斯, replacing the little stars. So goes the world– you think it is love, but it appears to be economics in the end.
The production processas such is equally present here, though exclusively in the form of pictorial production. A video captures an artist’s hand painting the latest picture inthis series. No doubt, today Art makes a good use of mass production, with artists making incredible amounts of artworks for one biennale or another, not to speak of different art institutions. Thus, they acquire a symbolic capital, indispensable for a person fancying one real. In a way, one may speak of theartist’s return to the status of labourer (as it was in the social stratification by Aristotle, who ranked artists among the manual workers – techne), with a certain social, productive and existential experience matching that of other social groups. Then the camera moves off – the painting has been finished, and we expect to see at last the authors of this project – the Russian artists Ivan Kolesnikov and Sergey Denisov, or at least, one of the two. But what do we actually see? A certain Chinese, laying aside his brush, putshis finished work in line with the earlier ones. Isn’t this pattern familiar? The concept, method, quality control goes from Russia, while realization, so-to-say, production, takes place in China. Yet it is literally made in Russia. For the author is not the one who painted, but the one who made it all up. The one who created thebrand. Basically, the story is old, as the hills. Surely, nobody isparticularly eager to advertise it. Exploitation is something a progressive society would condemn. Now it is more often referred to as job creation. Yet, conceptual matches are far more significant. Sure, the Chinese painter is a compound metaphor of wage labour, non-standard work status, and migration as such. But then who, after all, is an artist today? He is a precarious worker within a smoothly running system of art, with his existence unstable and vulnerable. He is a freelancer engaged by several employers at a time and resorting to outsourcing in an effort to acquire acapital, both symbolical and real. He is a migrant roaming around the world in search of work, inspiration, critical acclaim and, eventually, some love from you and me. But wherever he would go, what ever labour contracts he would sign and what production forms he would choose, Made… will still be a featherin his cap.

Lia Adashevskaya
 

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