Terrorism & Naivité/ irwin, interpolt etc.

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Posted by jan åman on June 05, 1997 at 05:00:20:

In Reply to: Re: Brener & Flash Art - Terrorism & Naivité posted by Jan Åman on May 19, 1997 at 11:24:32:

irwin, interpol etc
fargfab@algonet.se (fargfabriken)

Rainer, for your info. / jan

This is a "response" from Jan Åman, Färgfabriken, in response to the
response by Borut Vogelnik from the Irwin Group, regarding his response of
my response to the letter of support by Irwin for Alexander Brener.


Already the above intro should probably be enough to show that what we have
at hand here is a strange, confusing and very internal discussion, where
all details probably are of little interest to none other than those
involved in the Interpol-project itself. Nevertheless it has the potential
of a discussion of more general interest. This discussion is something I
and Färgfabriken would like to continue - and we are in the midst of
planning an event to be held here at Färgfabriken in May 1998, with the
title "Shaking Hands & Making Conflicts". It will be held during the
installation/theater stage "DABLOIDS" by the Moscow artist Leonid Tishkov,
a scenery where Tishkov's dabloids should have the potential to open up for
an interesting discussion. The "dabloid" is his figure of every man's
"mental luggage" and is thus possible to apply on every country and every
human being. We all have something to carry. Let's talk about it. More
information about this will be sent out later.

And yes, what is evident is that there seems to be a lot of different
"truths" in this story, and that there are a lot of misunderstandings to
deal with. Being burried in planning future activities at Färgfabriken I
haven't had the time to send an answer to Borut earlier, but I'll try to
make a few short points now.

As I have stated before: when Victor Misiano and I started to plan the
Interpol-project the question we posed ourselves was if there was a
possibility to make a project that was more directed towards reconstruction
rather than deconstruction and/or destruction. Maybe Victor and I
interpreted things differently, but that was what we were talking about.
Among the things we discussed was the situation in Moscow, where already a
few years back the "destruction" had become an institution, like an
abstract painting in the 50s.

When we had the pre-meetings, in Stockholm and in Moscow, it is true that
Sasha Brener and Tolja Osmolovsky were discussing with the rest of the
group a project that involved physical engagement of other potential
"artifacts" that they thought that the other artists in the group might
produce. But since there was little interest in the project (see above
regarding initial thoughts) the project was cancelled and the artists all
came up with different individual proposals. End of story 1.


An important element in all this is exactly what this strange post-project
disucssion is all about: trust, attitude, friendship. Both Sasha and Oleg
told me before the opening of Interpol how they planned to perform (we had
long and interesting talks...) - and then, at the opening, they did
something completely different! And more: in this "post-discussion" Irwin
starts by sending out a letter saying that they were surprised by the
installation by Wenda Gu, and that it was a reason for the attack by Sasha.
The story has now altered - a new "truth" has come up, and... oh well. The
story goes on... Maybe it is for the good. I'll try to answer the new
points made by Borut.

To me there was, at the time of the opening of Interpol, a complete and
very dangerous misinterpretation of what Färgfabriken and what the so
called "art communicty" in the west represents (or could represent). I am
talking about the notion that there was a lot of money around, Rainer
Ganahl wrote a text about the Moscow situation a few weeks ago that tells
about his feeling of the situation in Moscow 1995, that I sent out through
the V2-syndicate a couple of weeks ago. Read it. It can of course be
discussed, but there are many clever remarks there, or rather, I have felt
the same feelings Rainer is writing: a sort of envy of the order of things
in the "west" and as a result of this a double-bind: a wish to destroy what
bothers you, and at the same time a wish to become part of it, to get

Even if I can understand this in certain aspects, Färgfabriken was a rather
poorly selected "vicitim", since - as was well talked about, with among
others Eda Cufer - Färgfabriken started (with Interpol as the first real
project), completely outside of any state, city or other official budgets
or plans. We wanted to make a contribution for a new infrastructure,
influence by, among others, the attempt by Victor Misiano with the C.A.C.
in Moscow. We got some money for the project and nourished a hope to be
able to continue. And that was it. Maybe I should have been clearer
regarding this, and regarding the financial situation, because then a lot
of the things Borut is writing about now never would have come up.

The truth is - and I can send you figures, Borut - that the Irwin-project
was the by far most expensive project in Interpol. It cost us around
130.000 SEK (where the total budget was less than 1.000.000 SEK including
travelling, printing - all). To be able to produce it according to Irwin's
wishes, Borut was brought to Stockholm some months before the project, to
talk to a group at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, to
discuss all details. I was satisfied since Borut expressed his satisfaction
with the arrengements. The vehicle did not come out as we wished, and I
guess we are all to be blamed for this: Färgfabriken, Irwin, the group at
the institute. Especially since everbody did their best to get it ready.

It is interesting that Borut seems to suspect that there was some kind of
"destruction" from Färgfabriken in order not to get the projects by the
"eastern" artists ready. This can also be look upon from a different angle.
Interpol was an attempt to make a "flat" structure, i.e., all involved had
the same responsibility. We agreed to help out to produce works, but there
was a big difference in how this was handled by the different artists. Some
just sent faxes and relied on us to make it work, others took an active
part in the process and work themselves (regardless if they lived in Sweden
or not). It is not true that the projects by the western artists were
expensive. Bigert & Bergström for instance, produced a lot themselves, got
a limited budget from the Interpol-budget, and found their own sponsors.
For the Interprize by Maurizio Cattelan we applied for special money from
the City of Stockholm to promote Stockholm as a city for contemporary
culture. The projects by Dan Wolgers, Ernst Billgren, Birgitta Muhr,
Mattias Wagner K and Wenda Gu, cost very little in comparison to for
example that by Irwin. Since we were reconstructing the building and since
there were so many artists involved we had to rely on the artists
themselves to get things done. And to me it seemed as if this attitude was
difficult for some to comprehend. And more: some of the faxes from Moscow
reached us very late. I am not saying that we did everything perfect, just
that the story is more complex than what it seems like when Borut writes.
To get specific:

a) We were not allowed by the Swedish authoroties to have the chemical
experiment by Jurij Leiderman working in public. Everything else worked,
and it was a great piece of art.

b) Dimitrij Gutov's dinner was left for the day of the opening, after that
we agreed with the artist to clean the table, and instead we showed the
video of the dinner, which I personally think is one of the best works made
for Interpol.

c) Vadim Fishkin was told well in advance that we had problems to get his
project working. After discussing with Victor and Vadim a couple of weeks
before the opening, I said we would make a try anyway (a try...). And - it
did work a few hours during the opening (at least I got a couple of phone
calls myself). But it was technically problematic, and we decided to
collect all the cellular phones before the artists left Stockholm.

d) Tolja Osmolovskijs project was realized as he wished and the votes were
65% for keeping the exhibition open.

e) for the Irwin project, see above.

f) the exhibition by Mats Theselius on Russian/Soviet daily goods was an
exhibition that was separate from Interpol. I do not think any visitor had
any problems to understand this. There was a sign separating this for
Interpol. The project even had it's own catalogue. The funny side of this
is that Mats Theselius, who is perhaps the most important contemporary
Swedish designer of furniture, since many years have been collecting these
items, simply because he loves them and wanted to introduce a discussion of
how daily goods are produced within a capitalistic system and the former
soviet system. With the exhibition he did so. Afterwards I understood that
some artists from the "east" were provoced by the exhibition. I am sorry
for this. It was not the intention. On the contrary.

And there is more. There has been remarks in foreign articles that the
"eastern" artists did not get as good accomodation as the others. My god!!!
Some of the Swedish artists, normally living abroad, made arrangements to
stay with friends etc to save money for the project. Wenda Gu stayed in
Stockholm during four weeks, so we got a small room for him, also to save
money... Mattias Wagner K stayed at the same hotel as the members of Irwin.
This is simply an outrageous comment, and a very childish one. Get serious!

So, what is this all about? I do take the remarks made by Borut seriously.
He/they must have really thought that we treated folks differently, that we
wanted to do so, really... The envy was there!

And we, on the other hand, we were pissed of that some of the artists
involved did not seem to take the responsibility to get things done. And it
came so far as to the "performances" by Sasha and Oleg, and by me doing
something that contradicts my own thoughts and wishes, kicking Oleg (after
trying to talk to him, not getting an answer, and after a while emotionally
react to the fact that a lot of people hurt and shocked). I don't know, but
I think you need to discuss this as openminded as possible.

As I see it, there are a few important things to reflect upon. As well as
Victor I wanted with Interpol to make a project that broke with the
"fatigue" of the world/art world, that perhaps pointed out different ways
of doing things. But from my point of view in Sweden/the west - the results
produced by Oleg and Sasha was the contrary - to fulfill the expectations
of the medias, the tabloid mentality etc. And, even more important, it was
to fulfill an expectation of a view of Russia/the Russian artist. It might
have been successful as self-promotion, but on a more general level a
promotion of isolation. So the question might be right: what does it take
to be taken seriously? The wish for it? What is beyond the hope for

I have no recipe. But the tone of conversation in Borut's response is not
really inviting. I hope that this answer has made things a bit clearer. We
might all be well to take a look at our dabloids to carry them a bit
lighter. Hope to see you in Stockholm in May 1998.

Stockholm 970604

Jan Åman

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