The start of the present decade was marked by a growth in interest to the practice of performance, both in Russia and abroad. The national art community, excited by the wave of activist street art, argues about the legacy of 90’s activism and the relevance of those who foresaw an aesthetic relation with practice Collective Actions. The art of Ivan Novikov, student at the Surikov art institute, is an example of the critical performance art form created by a person with an academic background. More like Fluxes, a conversational genre — both an analysis and art.
With his performances, the artist appeals to the analysis to the phenomenon of contemporary art. Hidden at first glance, these announcements, which even now can be seen scattered in large sums across the city streets, can be seen as a cynical appeal to buy art. A gallery wall transforms itself into a forum where each willing can leave their opinion of revolution. Or a person disguised as a policeman after a viewing of Ruben’s reproduction can give his aesthetical reaction. An odd combination. Instead of Beuys’ hat — a black mask (that of a riot policeman? Or subcomandante Marcos?) Contemporary artist and police — sounds like a dark joke for the degrading art education, having lost the link with reality in the madness of this administrative-command system.
If the practice of collective action occurred outside city limits devoid of any meaning and in turn the activists worked in a symbolically supercharged atmosphere, than Novikov is more likely referring to commonality. His art articulates an appeal to a public arena which perhaps is not yet accustomed to the Russian context. In his art there is an absence of an ‘all or nothing’ approach. The artist at the end of the noughties appeals to the everyday non hysterical and non metaphysical communications. This type of atmosphere has not yet been able to flourish in Russia although to an extent it corresponds with the Soviet parks and yards. From one point of view late capitalism is characterized as the complete disappearance of the possibility of live contact and expression, yet on the other it is the introduction and imposition of virtual chatting. The artist attempts to walk this fine line. Not flirting with the language of the establishment, constantly drawing one into its vortex of infinite manipulation, and trying to understand the arbitrariness of the possible the proximity between employee and company director during a corporate training.
«Communication is cheap» could be the slogan of a modern social network. Only for a few gigabytes of ads per month. Why?
Romantic image of the artist who believes that communication can be facilitated through direct democracy. In memory there is a red rose on the desk of Joseph Beuys who spent 3 months in his office to discuss issues of art and social freedom.
Ivan Novikov is taking the first step — up until now he only comes to the gallery during the evenings and only for a few hours — but after all its only the beginning.