Война* or a struggle with inner idiot

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.

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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.

Monika Slancauskaite
About author:
Monika Slancauskaite
There are four things that led Monika to Art Pit - eagerness to meet free people, curiosity, anger and a need to turn her dissatisfaction in nowadays situation of art and culture to something more than grumbling under her breath. She loves Art Pit because it is a creative space, where interest in art and life, thinking, breaking free of stereotypes... Read further >
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