Viacheslav Mizin, Alexander Shaburov
(The Blue Noses Group)
The Blue Noses Group is the most impressive phenomenon at the turn of the 21st century. The main body of the Group is formed by a couple of artists, who have come to Moscow from the eastern regions of Russia — Viacheslav Mizin from Novosibirsk and Alexander Shaburov from Ekaterinburg. They often work in cooperation with two other Novosibirsk artists — Konstantin Skotnikov and Alexander Bulnygin — and photographer Evgeny Ivanov. Besides, the Group often invites their friends-artists, relatives, children, curators and gallery workers as extra players. Sometimes they give the joint performances with Novosibirsk rock-group “Nuclear Elk”.
The principal genre of The Blue Noses is a sort of performances, to be more exact — pranks, sketches or gags, played by the artists before the video camera. These pranks are not the rehearsed plays but a symbiosis of “pat roles” and impromptus. It is as remote from theatre acting and direction as a photograph or video clips are far from photographic or video art. The “documented” pranks of the Blue Noses Group are hanging between everyday and artistic phenomena, looking like a semi-professional, semi-amateur activity, in which the intentional fiasco is indistinguishable from dilettante lapse.
Unlike the majority of artistic groups, arising in Russia in large quantities and working as launching pads for the individual creative activity of their participants, the foundation of The Blue Noses Group drew a line under its members’ personal careers. It applies first of all to Mizin, Shaburov and Skotnikov. Behind any one of them is the more or less successful, though not very long individual haul in the wake of one of the contemporary art tendencies. When joining the Group, they consciously threw away their previous experiences and distanced from the contemporary art as such. They don’t want to appear as “contemporary artists”.
The distancing from the contemporary culture is a basic strategy of the Group, evidenced in the variety of jesting practices. Parody, humour, grotesque — all methods of opponents’ derogation by means of caricaturing are widely used by the Blue Noses. Firstly, they mock all “high” trends in the 20th-century art — from suprematism to radical performances. Secondly, they don’t spare the masscult. The most popular TV-shows, the leading genres of box-office films and bestsellers like “Harry Potter” are dished up by the Group in a pinheaded, idiotic manner. Lastly, the Blue Noses attack the pantheon of the most authoritative public characters, mingling them with egregious criminals and ugly muzzles into the general esbat-carnival. It may be said that all actions of this group are animated by a priori dislike for all attempts to reconstruct the system of “positive values”, whoever these attempts makes. The poetics of any Blue Noses’ performance is based on the demonstration of a brush with the certain “value” and the merry laugh after the facile and overwhelming victory.
The Blue Noses artists address their laughter at the overthrow of ideals chiefly to — as they always underscore — the two categories of citizens: “pioneers and pensioners”. These marginalized age groups, indeed, take special delight in harsh and unconcealed cynicism, from the angle of which they estimate the positive efforts of the middle-aged and “the most responsible” part of the Russian society. Children represent the generation, which was completely lost by the power structures and avoided the brainwashing of perestroika period; pensioners are the people of Brezhnev’s epoch, whose cynical attitude towards life was formed in the 1970s as the reaction to hypocrisy, bribery and stupidity of the authorities and the oppositionists of all persuasions.
The humoristic cynicism, expressed in extravagant and “idiotic” pranks, has more than once served as a platform for the good sense and freedom spirit in the time, when neither of the competing ideologies — both in culture and politics — seemed convincing and morally justified. This was the situation of the tsarist Russia in the early 20th century (the ideological crisis of that period generated the radical society “The Donkey Tail”); the similar situation arose in the 1930s, predetermining the emergence of D. Kharms. In the stagnant atmosphere of the 1970s it was the eccentric duet of V. Komar and A. Melamid; in the early 1980s — the Mukhomor [Fly-Agaric] Group. These groups were utterly devoid of “tinkering”, work-making spirit. On the contrary, they found the real art in the circumstances, when — preprogrammed neither in design nor in language — the strange, paradoxical reasoning and behaviour arise quite unexpectedly, destroying the fitness of things.
The Blue Noses art doesn’t need creations. Their “prank” as a special kind of artistic form may be reproduced and felt apart from the original, only by means of retelling or reminiscing. One needn’t even know the Russian language or the Russian everyday life. It is generally assumed that the Blue Noses Group is an archetypal Russian phenomenon, ascending to the traditions of ecstatic crankeries of God’s fools, Orthodox monks and Siberian shamans. On the other hand, the Blue Noses may be in the tideway of other, European atheistic “black humour” tradition, aimed at the deconstruction of cultural, sacral and moral standards, which facilitate the control over society and the suppression of individuality.
It is not by accident that in five years (the Group was created in 1999) the Blue Noses made a slapping career in Europe. Today their photographic and video works are presented at the majority of international exhibitions and in the leading artistic magazines. The Group is definitely at the peak of its career, coinciding with the intersection of the trajectories of the Russian and the international communities’ development. “The pranks” of the Group are universally accepted, as they tally with not only Russian state of mind, but also with the planet’s time spirit as a whole.
The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow