--- Curator: Ewa Gorzadek
--- Co-operation: Stach Szablowski
|Oleg Kulik ranks among the most interesting Russian artists of the nineties. Alongside with Ilya Kabakov, he has won the greatest acclaim from international art critics. He has displayed his works at, among others, Manifesta I in Rotterdam, Holland (1996), the Venice Biennial (1997), and at the Biennials of Istanbul, Turkey (1997) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (1998). He has managed to attract attention of art critics and exhibition curators the world over by his performance shows characterised by 'strong' expression, where he himself assumes a role of 'artist-animal', or, more specifically, 'artist-dog'; or else, at times, he would be a bird, a fish, a bull. The artist thus asks the basic question about the essence of the human in a human, and what a reverting to the state of 'original animal' may mean to him or her.|
These shows are under full control and are reasonable, too. At the same time, it is an 'export art'. The artist refers to the prevailing Western conviction that Russians are some uncivilised race, one of savages living in the never-explored steppes of Asia. The 'artist-dog' figure takes roots also, in this specific case, in a deep conviction that in the present-day world, traditional means of communication have proved a failure and that people should rather seek for a more adequate way of how to communicate. They have ceased reacting to messages conveyed in an articulated and narrative language; instead, what they can react to is only shock or show. To Kulik, this - along with the victory of mafia and the fading of intelligentsia - testifies to an end of culture, consciousness, and anthropology - in a broad meaning of the latter word. Nonetheless, in his art, he tries to reveal a post-human rather than a pre-human attitude. The essence here is a naive belief that artistic dialogue is possible.
Thus, Kulik has become a 'doggy' artist. His early performances, originated directly in the Russian realities of the 1990's. Those were crime-generating and brutal, and so, the Kulik shows were close in expression to the theatre of cruelty of 1990's. Naked, the artist walked on all fours, smeared with mud and snow, and attacked the crowd, growling at the people and biting them. In the Russian society, in parallel with the fading of cultural institutions, a cultural context has faded, too; the only context that this society lives in is politics, and thus Kulik's art refers to such a context.
In the 'export' variety of his works, the artist exposes the mechanisms of colonialism taken as part of the Western 'received views'. Namely, people of the West still tend to treat artists from Russia as ones of a second, or perhaps even third, rank. The problem is really deeper and has to do with a whole array of conflicts as might appear against the East-West relationships. As a Russian critic wrote, 'the artist's gesture of walking on all fours has been generously generated by the entire mass-media context of the recent period'. The dog performed by Kulik is of Russian nationality.
Kulik's animal projects are also rooted in a deeply ecological attitude, combined with a critical approach toward anthropocentrism, to which the artist adheres. The assumption, utopian as it is, is that animals are treated as equal to humans, in all facets of life. In what he says in public, the artist attempts at encouraging the scientists to examine animal psychology, which would result in building a dialogue relation between man and animal. The artist highlights that man is but a part of this planet's biosphere, and as such should build a society that would base on a symbiosis of Nature and human beings.
His favourite hero is dog. Dogs have since long ago been anthropomorfised by the society; some people tend to love their pet dogs more than other humans; there are dog hotels, dog restaurants, dog hospitals or dog clothing shops.
The present exhibition shows two Oleg Kulik projects, entitled Family of the Future and Pigeonhouse. The former was presented, in a theoretic form and as a collection of drawings, in the Europarte at the Venice Biennial of 1997 and at the Istanbul Biennial of the same year.
"Family of the Future" - installacion
Only after quite a while does the spectator realise that certain things there look differently; the interior might be compared, they may think, to a flat adjusted to the needs of a handicapped person. The scale of equipment or the home video library are different; the wall-paper displays some drawings, as it were, from the Kama-Sutra (the lovers being a man and a dog).
"Pigeonhouse" - performance, CCA
The work, along with Pigeonhouse, is actually part of a broader project named Zoophrenia and concerning the theme of 'Animal as human being's alter-ego', or, 'Animal as the anthropomorphic Alien'. The project is devoted to contacts of man-of-culture with other natural species treated as equal-rank beings.