John Duncan on Sat, 15 Feb 97 21:19 MET

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nettime: brener

>Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 13:17:16 +0100 (MET)
>X-Length: 00004491
>Status: RO
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>To: (citizens)
>From: (CM von Hausswolff)
>Subject: brener
>This text was sent to me from my friends in Ljubljana. KREV has fine
>diplomatic relations with the NSK State and Alexander Brener is a good
>friend. For the support of artistic freedom and the abolishment of
>political stagnation, especially in the art world, I hereby take the
>liberty of forwardig this message. Please distribute it to whoever you
>think could use of it.
>>Date: Thu, 13 Feb 1997 19:53:10 -0800
>>From: Miran Mohar <>
>>Organization: IRWIN
>>X-Mailer: Mozilla 2.0 (Win16; I)
>>Mime-Version: 1.0
>>To: CM von Hausswolff <>
>>Cc: "C:WINDOWSmailSent"
>>Subject: brener
>>This is a letter of support for Alexander Brener, an artist who has to
>>stand in front of a Dutch court on charges of vagabondage and destruction
>>of the Malevich painting "Suprematism 1922-1927."
>>We met Alexander in 1994 in Moscow, where he was known as a poet of
>>controversial Russian-Jewish identity. When we met with him he had just
>>re-emigrated from Israel, where he emigrated with his family few years
>>before. He explained his return to Moscow as a gesture of his
>>disillusionment with any existing political system, finding Russia after
>>the collapse of socialism an appropriate place to make an artistic
>>statement of that disillusionment. Our common language--which resulted in
>>a few joint projects, including Interpol and Transnacionala in 1996--is
>>based on the belief that the contemporary art situation is highly
>>politicized, in the sense that economically stronger countries control
>>and abuse the system of values we inherited from the tradition of
>>contemporary art of this century as a common spiritual good. It is
>>therefore necessary and legitimate for any artist to question the
>>position andbmechanisms of implementation of an individual art work in a
>>system of art which refuses to be just a toy of markets and ideologies.
>>To satisfy this necessity, Brener transposed his poetic statement from
>>literature to the direct physical language of actions-performances. In
>>the beginning of 1994, he did an action in the Fine Art Museum
>>(Puskinskij Musei) in Moscow, where he stood in front of one of van
>>Gogh's paintings and excremented in his pants while repeating: "Vincent,
>>Vincent." He described this action as a dialogue with the beginnings of
>>modernism, where
>>"excrement in pants" had a double meaning--both of great pleasure caused
>>by the work of art and the notion of excrement as a symbolic
>>materialization of the monolithic ideology that Van Gogh was placed in as
>>its founder.
>>Once he provoked Dimitry Prigow, who is an exemplary avant-garde artist
>>living in Moscow. While Prigow was reading his poetry, Alexander jumped
>>on the stage, houting, "It's burning! It's burning!" grabbing his own
>>buttocks. That, he xplained, was his answer to Prigow's belief, that his
>>poetry is a cold analysis. Prigow accused him of being a Fascist.
>>Another similar event took place during the reading of poetry by another
>>Russian legend, one of the most sophisticated poets of the sixties -
>>Jevgenij Jevtusenko. During this reading, Alexander stood up and repeated
>>the phrase: "Silence, my mother wants to sleep." His provocation angered
>>Jevtusenko, who called upon his bodyguards to help. Another action was
>>Brener's public masturbation on the diving platform of the swimming pool
>>built during socialism on the site of a destroyed orthodox church. This
>>action was made during a one-day exhibition organized by the artist
>>Andrej Velikanov. Brener was later arrested by the police for the action.
>>We should also mention one of the most political actions of his. He went
>>to Red Square in boxing equipment in the middle of the war campaign in
>>Chechniya and shouted in the direction of the Kremlin: "Yeltsin, come
>>In October 1995, Brener visited Ljubljana where he did three short
>>actions on the streets. One of them took place in front of the Slovenian
>>National Opera and Ballet building, which is located between the
>>Slovenian parliament and an Orthodox church. He climbed onto the balcony,
>>pulled his clothes off and appeared in nothing but a pair of black boxing
>>pants. He then put boxing gloves on, sang an Arabic liturgical song and
>>smashed a baroque window in the Opera house. After leaving Ljubljana, he
>>returned to Moscow, where a few weeks later he threw few bottles of
>>ketchup on the facade of the Byelorussian Embassy, destroying them in
>>protest of the almost-dictatorial Byelorussian regime.
>>The event that made him a controversial figure in the international art
>>community took place in February last year in Stockholm, Sweden in the
>>context of the Interpol project, where he destroyed an artwork made by
>>the Chinese artist Wenda Gu. As participants in the same project, we
>>understood the reason for his action. Interpol was a project curated by a
>>Swedish curator Jan Aman and Russian Victor Misiano as a three-year
>>project in progress, where the main aim was to establish communication
>>among different artists.The project was not classically curated. The
>>artists were supposed to formulate the exhibition as a collective through
>>communication and interaction between their works. The curators were
>>supposed to provide a possibility for meetings in Stockholm and Moscow
>>and to organize the final event. It was especially stressed that
>>classical individual art objects were not welcome at this exhibition.
>>When we actually came to realize the project, we were all shocked to see
>>that an enormous work by Wenda Gu took up the central alley of the space,
>>with no attention to any other artist presented there. The disappointment
>>was even bigger when we realized that the organizers represented by Jan
>>Aman were very proud of this work, accepting no objection that this work
>>by definition broke the rules of the game established in three years of
>>prior communication.
>>As Jan Aman was the financial supporter of the project, the whole story
>>became West-East polarised, also the more so because it was obvious that
>>Victor Misiano was ultimately thrown out of the game. Therefore, on the
>>day of the opening, Brener simply destroyed Wenda Gu's work. For that he
>>was accused of being  a fascist by the group of artists and by the
>>organizers of the exhibition, and a very primitive and nonchalant letter
>>was sent to all important addresses of contemporary art institutions,
>>claiming that Misiano and
>>all Russian artists present are a group of fascists.
>>Our position toward this action is that his action was completely
>>legitimate in the described context because, after three years of talking
>>and constructing a bridge of values between individuals of two different
>>socio-political and cultural contexts, the organizers allowed an art work
>>that totally negated the basic ethical imperatives of the project to be
>>presented in the classical and universally accepted manner. None of these
>>actions could be called vandalism or Fascism--the method by which even
>>people from a sophisticated contemporary art community usually stigmatise
>>them. They are based on a very consistent and carefully built value
>>system presented in his literature, essays and public speeches.
>>As Alexander stated during his visit in Ljubljana, he doesn't believe in
>>a political democracy, but he does believe in a democratic art--that is,
>>an art of individuality fighting for mental and spiritual freedom and
>>moral progress. Political democracy is impossible because it demands
>>total responsibility of every member of the society. Therefore, art is a
>>good tool, which should be used for democratic self-development. For
>>Brener, the majority of Russian art is not democratic because it derives
>>from a very narrow circle of Russian intelligentsia. There are some
>>exceptions such as Tolstoy, Mayakovsky andKhlebnikov. He distinguishes
>>avant-garde art from modernism by the difference in their impact.
>>Avant-garde art has an ethical impact, which is completely different to
>>the formal impact of modernism.
>>For Brener, the avant-garde artist is a man who is able to pledge all his
>>being against Western civilization. As Western civilisation is a violent
>>appropriation of all other worlds, for him the language of affect (as
>>defined by Atnonin Artaud) is the only weapon against the unquestionable
>>power of Western societies. In his actions, he articulates this language
>>of emotions through three basic feelings and principles: sexuality,
>>aggression and impotency. We described some previous works and actions,
>>together with Brener's philosophical and ethical position in relation to
>>the question of art, in order to prove that
>>his latest action--in which he sprayed green paint in the shape of a
>>dollar sign on the Malevich painting "White Suprematism 1922-1927", a
>>white cross on a white background-- is an act of consistent artistic
>>language of expression and therefore can not be interpreted as an act of
>>lunatic or a criminal act.
>>Of course, we understand that on the judicial level there is the
>>difference between the legitimate and legal aspects of a specific
>>incriminating act. We all know that one of the main purposes of law is
>>the protection of property.  As we are informed, the market value of the
>>painting before Brener's intervention was claimed to be 20 million Dutch
>>guilders, and after the action, according to the Stedelijk Museum's
>>evaluation, the painting lost one quarter of its market value.
>>We state that this is an arbitrary evaluation, which should be discussed
>>in the context of the mechanisms that create the value of artifact in the
>>20th century. First of all, there is no evident proof that the value of
>>the painting is really lower then before. It may be even higher if the
>>legitimacy of Brener's act can be explained, proved and accepted now, or
>>in the future. The economic value of an artifact depends on its symbolic
>>value, and symbolic evaluation is made under certain value systems
>>accepted in an economic-spiritual-social exchange. Therefore there is the
>>possibility that Brener's act didn't cause any financial
>>loss but rather a profit to the legal owner of the painting.
>>Another question here involves the legal ownership of the painting--and
>>thus the legitimate right of the museum in exhibiting it. It is known
>>that Malevich exhibited in Berlin in 1927. Because he had to return to
>>USSR before the exhibition ended, he asked Hugo Haring to keep the works
>>until he returned to Germany. He asked another person to keep his
>>theoretical writings. He never returned to Germany, and it is not known
>>what exactly Malevich asked Haring to do with his works. Some of them now
>>belong to the Stedelijk Museum and probably got there as the result of
>>transactions made after Malevich's death in 1935, when various political
>>regimes in Western Europe as well as in Russia were hunting this kind of
>>work and the value systems attached to them. It would be interesting to
>>see the documents of those transactions and the economic values that the
>>works had at that time.
>>Brener's action consciously and deliberately stuck a finger into a very
>>deep and serious wound in contemporary European political history caused
>>by proletarian revolution, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, the Cold War and
>>the chaotic process of establishing a new world order under the
>>leadership of global capitalism. As the matter of fact, contemporary
>>art--modernism and avant-garde art--was the only value system that
>>opposed the aggressive and narrow social and political divisions of the
>>past as they fought for primacy and the globalization of their
>>ideologies. Only contemporary art was creating a value system and
>>language of integral individuality, first spread throughout European
>>culture regardless of political and social borders. During the Cold War,
>>this first autonomous and independent language of early avant-garde art
>>became the official value system of Western democracies, and therefore
>>one of the most sophisticated ideologies ever existed. The end of cold
>>war brought out many unresolved questions and conflicts of the past.
>>Among other things, it raised the question of the historical roots of
>>Western economical supremacy, which plays a major role in adding market
>>values to the symbolical values of global civilisation.
>>The main strategy of maintaining cultural, symbolical supremacy through
>>the economical supremacy are appropriations which can be followed through
>>many examples from legitimately questionable but probably legal (we say
>>probably, because of the slippery definition of the real market value of
>>a cultural object) appropriations of archaeological treasures from
>>ancient cultures to the unclear material identity of the Malevich
>>collection left in Western Europe after the exhibition in Berlin in 1927.
>>Is it true that the global capitalism is a new definition of the cultural
>>colonization of the Western world of all the
>>rest of the world?
>>We believe that Alexander Brener didn't destroy anything that Kazimir
>>Malevich contributed to  humankind. On the contrary, he artistically
>>enlightened the misunderstanding as to what Malevich actually contributed
>>to humanity by reflecting the act of reification, where the so-called
>>cultural world is showing respect to his dead object while at the same
>>time disrespect to the genuine, living culture he comes from. The force
>>behind this misunderstanding is symbolized in the sign he sprayed over
>>the work.
>> Knowing Brener, we believe that his action didn't take place in the name
>>of any political or national identification but in the name of individual
>>and artistic expression and the legitimacy of artistic intervention
>>in--and interpretation of--actual historical injustices and violations.
>>His action proved that he is a legitimate descendant of the best minds of
>>his cultural tradition.  He belongs to the spiritual continuity of
>>Futuristic poets such as Mayakovsky and Khlebnikov. Therefore, his action
>>is legitimate if not legal--and sometimes legitimacy has to be put above
>>the legality if we want to preserve our spiritual life against narrow
>>materialistic dictate.
>>By that we don't want to legalize the ritual of destroying objects of art
>>as anormal way of cultural communication. There have been [a] few
>>examples of destroying an art object of one artist by another in the
>>history of contemporary art. Only a few of them became legitimate in the
>>contemporary art tradition. Their legitimacy is based on the clarity of
>>reason, on the clearly defined ontological support behind an act and not
>>in the act of destruction as itself.
>>We are aware that these kind of spectacular actions can be a very
>>convenient way of getting attention and publicity in the context of
>>present societies, which are guided by the power of information. We
>>sincerely believe that Brener's action is not an abuse but rather an act
>>of risk and heroism dedicated to his genuine beliefs.
>>Finally, we would like to say something about his charge of vagrancy.
>>Stating what he is stating, doing what he is doing, Brener's artistic
>>activities produce values that are still priceless in any of existing
>>states of the world. Therefore, it is quite normal that he cannot afford
>>accommodation in an expensive, welfare town as Amsterdam is at the
>>moment. Being poor or attacking the norms of the present is another
>>legitimacy he shares with the dead and living individuals who created,
>>and who are creating, the very controversial
>>notion of art.
>>We sincerely hope that the Court of Netherlands  will approach to
>>Alexander Brener's act by spiritual intellectual vigour which will enable
>>its representatives to think out all the complexity of the event and make
>>a charge in his defense.
>>1. See his texts "I speak in the language of emotions," Interpol project.
>>(A global network from Stockholm and Moscow), Catalogue published by
>>Fargfabriken, Stockholm 1996, and "I am spending the night in Brooklyn,"
>>in the
>>book of poetry called Transnationala, published by Hereford Salon, London
>>2. See the text "Malevich: Falling into a black square" in ARTnews,"
>>(Summer 1991) by Konstantin Akinsha
>>Eda Cufer
>>            Ljubljana, February 11, 1997
>>Goran Dordevic
>>Dusan Mandic
>>Miran Mohar
>>Andrej Savski
>>Roman Uranjek
>>Borut Vogelnik
>>IRWIN/Dusan Mandic
>>Periceva 38
>>1000 Ljubljana
>>phone:               + 00 386 61 327 279
>>phone & fax:     +00 386 61 322 605
>Carl Michael von Hausswolff
>Roslagsgatan 58, S-113 54 Stockholm, Sweden
>tel: +46 (0)8  612 27 03
>fax: +46 (0)8 16 83 39

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