Once one has developed a keen eye for the symptoms of decline, one understands morality, too—one understands what is hiding under its most sacred names and value formulas: impoverished life, the will to end, the great weariness. – F. Nietzshe
*Война in English means The War
Perhaps that is paranoiac, but I somehow still find ethics (official morality) incompatible with aesthetics (Jan Saudek, Banksy, Andre Serran, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Šarūnas Sauka, “One Thousand and One Nights“, etc.). However…as long as the concept of art exists, the discussions about the forms, perception, significance, meaning, aim, mission and value will always exist .. Sadly, quite often these discussions are turned into criteria, which endow the object, action, the construct with a status of an artwork, as if art could not exist without definitions.
It is a closed circle, which is sometimes so difficult to break (especially for art critics).
Maybe that is why these days the world of Russian art and culture is shaken by sulphurous debate on what art truly is.
Several discussions in Russian:
Initiators of these discussions named Война are a group of artists and intellectuals, who got fed up with silence, censorship, oppression and humiliation in their live as well as creative work.
The true face of the group would be best reflected by a photo from an orgy-like event Fuck for the heir – Medved‘s little Bear!, which took place due to Dmitri Medvedev‘s taking over the presidential power from Putin, but I do not want to be accused of pornography distribution, so I suggest getting to know another face of this active community.
Fuck for the heir – Medved‘s little Bear! (more pictures here)
“Война” was founded in February 23, in 2007, the day of the soviet army in Russia. Everyone can become a member of the group. Similarly, everyone can freely quit „Война”. Activists of the community can not even say how many members there are and what events subgroups are organizing. But they do not really care about this… What they care about is restoring the romantic image of an artist – intellectual, fighting and defeating the evil. An image, the representative of which can be every courageous creative person. This aim is the main one in the group‘s manifest.
The media hate such anonymity, that is why after every event or artists’ arrests members of the group are being “hunted“. The reasons of the event or even its content is not emphasized; instead separate group members‘ portraits are picked out and highlighted around the press.
There are few portraits worth your attention, without which „Война” would be unthinkable in the informative media.
Alexei Plucer – Sarno (Алексей Плуцер-Сарно) is “Война‘s” ideologist, the creator of the brand. He is a well-known philosopher, compiler of substandard lexis (swear words) dictionary, art critic and a contributor to “Война”.
Philosopher Oleg Vorotnikov — Thief (Олег Воротников — Вор) is the founder and leader of “Война”.
Leonid Nikolayev (Screwed Up Lionia) (Леонид Николаев (Лёня Ёбнутый)) is also the leader of “Война”.
Oleg Vorotnikov‘s wife Natalia Sokol (Goat) (Наталья Сокол (Коза)) together with son Kaspar (Каспер), the youngest member of the group. She is also responsible for the generating of ideas for events.
The media, society and repressive bodies started taking an interest in these people after their first action during the 1st of May (international workers’ day), it took place in the first year after the group was established. “Война‘s” activists, being not particularly modest, shouted “freedom for the cash machine” while throwing homeless cats at “McDonald’s” workers to congratulate them with the labour day.
Now I can imagine aggrieved people, delirious and red with anger, screaming one over the other. What kind of art is it, to get these poor, exploited employees showered with creatures treated badly both by destiny and people and having nothing to do with it… Some time ago I might have agreed that poor people and animals must be spared… But after becoming familiar with Война‘s movement, I automatically raise another kind of question. If celebration of May 1st in “McDonald’s“, which represents the Mecca of consumption, does not cause these people any negative emotions, why flying cats should?
Context is the crucial element trying to understand the non-understandable.
It is only critical thinking that can turn Война‘s attacks into art, not the stereotypes or universally accepted standards.
Their art is relevant, and while the situation in Russia is complicated (an ordinary citizen, lacking money or influential friends has no value and truly remarkably little freedom in social, political and daily life), Война‘s actions sometimes gain hurtful forms, offending ordinary (in their thinking capacities) people‘s feelings.
During a city feast in Moscow, the activists arranged an event “In Memory of the *Decembrists” in a giant shopping mall, where they hanged gays (one of them was Jewish) and drudges with Caucasian traits (illegal workers from brotherly republics).
According to Oleg Vorotnikov, who is one of the leaders, hanging of marginalized, stigmatized, ignored groups carries many meanings. It is like a parallel between tsarist and contemporary Russia, whose government does not care about the lives of the ones opposing the regime. Today there are journalists being got rid of, killed (killers and their clients usually remain untraced), while in the tsarist Russia advanced Decembrists were banished or just murdered. These people and a struggle against never ending, only new forms gaining corvee was symbolised by 3 hanged drudges – peasants and members of southern Decembrist movement, 2 hanged gays – liberal Decembrists, struggling for the abolishment of monarchy and constitutional governance, also members of northern movement. At the same time, it is a symbolic condemnation of the society, silently praising slavish work and homosexuality.
These artists just like a mirror reflect what is happening with people right here and right now, revealing an endless fear to see an idiot in front of yourself and realise, that this idiot in the mirror is you. A feeling that the mirror does not deceive makes the representatives of the government and repressive institutions feel hopeless. This frightful truth is treated like extremism — activists are spied upon, locked in remand prisons and there are quite a few criminal cases initiated against them. That is why one of the main features singling these artists and their work out is ENDLESS COURAGE.
During a trial session in the region of Tagansk Война arranged a punk concert where they performed a song All cops are bastards. They also held a live broadcast of the concert and shot a video for the song.
This event is a demand to cancel an absurd law legalizing censorship. The accused is a well-known contemporary art curator, art critic Andrei Yerofeyev, organizer of an exhibition “Forbidden Art“. He is charged for displaying pictures offending human dignity, promoting hatred. His fault was the refusal to take off ‘the evil’ from the wall.
Censorship Sux was the support campaign for Andrei Yerofeyev, which took place by the Prosecutor‘s Office, after the inquiry had started.
Another exceptional feature of the group is the desire for UNCONDITIONAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
“Война” activists are frequent guests at the cop shop. Usually they walk out of it injured, no matter what their gender, age or merits are. Humiliation of Copper in His Own House Part 1 is a kind of educational campaign, an attempt to try to acquaint uneducated policemen with values, also, an establishment of a connection with society, majority of which fears the self-will of the policemen.
A number of accidents in Russia resulting in deaths or serious injuries occur due to excessive use of the beacon. An officer can always pop out on the road with beacon on, ignoring traffic regulations. Deadly performance is a struggle against homicidal privileges.
People, who these campaigns are against, become participants in them, the instruments to reveal the absurdity of the situation (the body to maintain the order is the source of violence; the beacon, intended to be used to help in a complicated situation, becomes the symbol of death and so on).
Ordinary citizens in an authoritarian country can hardly express their discontent, that is why “Война“ with the help of public exposure and theatricality turns the weapon of the weak – protest campaigns – into art.
“This is a highly political street art. Its concept is highly politicized and especially relevant. To such an extent that it could be called a particular poetic action, unrelated to art. But the fact that there is no art in Война‘s campaigns turns them into ultra-modern art – claim activists.
By creating and materializing such campaigns, these people perform a profane act, demystifying and desacralizing art, taking it out from the galleries, museums, ateliers to the streets, turning it into a part of everyday life, making it a way to express their views, into a form of uncensored (in all its senses) liberating speaking.
This is confirmed by their action Palace Revolution, after which the activists were prosecuted for hooliganism, as they attacked government property by overturning a police car. Campaign‘s pretence – to return the child his rolled away ball. Its context – the reform carried out on law enforcement bodies. It is supposed to limit police’s self-will and increase its responsibility to the society, improve the condition of those convicted for minor crimes. Laws, improving the situation of defendants, are ignored in order to suppress extremism; the police is given an unrestrained freedom. So for now only the name has changed (militia to police), but the content remains crappy.
Война can not overturn the system, so it overturns a car.
The primary and boundless source about war with indifference, stagnancy and narrow mindedness is the official group‘s website.
*The Decembrists (Russian – dekabristy, dekabr – December), Russian revolutionists, who lead the rebellion against autocracy and corvee in December, 1825.