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The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Text: Hannelore Fobo, 2020
Fragment of the upper part of page three fromTimur Novikov four-page typescript "The New Artists". The picture displays the text fragment discussed below.
The text was first published under Novikov's pseudynom Igor Potapov in the mid 1990s in Антология Новые художники 1982–1987 • Anthology. The New Artists, 1982-1987, edited by E Andreeva and E. Kolovskaia, Saint Petersburg. In the Anthology, the text is dated to 1986
Chapter 1 Native roots and western influences.
A passage in Timur Novikov‘s text from 1986  about the New Artists (written under Novikov’s pseudonym I. Potapov) gives Novikov's account an ideological charge which might be overlooked at first:
Недолгий интерес группы к французским «Фигурасьон либрэ», немецким «новым диким», американским граффитистам, комиксам и компьютерам заметно окрасил творчество многих художников группы. Эта возрастная болезнь быстро прошла, замененная у "новых" взаимовлияниями.
Процесс перестройки в стране стимулировал самосознание и победу отечественных корней над западными влияниями. «Новые художники» открыли клуб друзей В.В.Маяковского - организацию, призванную укреплять и развивать отечественные новаторские традиции. 
By working in various fields, the artists also educate themselves and acquire the outlook (“looking about”) peculiar to them. As they studied the arts, they could not fail to notice kindred movements in world culture. Interest in these movements arose in the mid eighties with the arrival of new artists in the group: Sergei Bugaev, Andrei Krisanov, Inal Savchenkov, Oleg Maslov, Alexei Kozin and Michail Taratuta, who joined a bit later than two other members, Vadim Ovchinnikov and Sergey Shutov.
The group’s brief interest in the French group Figuration Libre, the German Neue Wilde, the American graffiti artists, and comics and computers noticeably coloured the work of many artists in the group. This age-related affliction quickly passed, giving way to mutual influence.
The process of perestroika under way in the country has stimulated self-consciousness and the victory of domestic roots over western influences. The New Artists opened the V.V. Mayakovsky Friends Club, an organization designed to strengthen and cultivate domestic innovative traditions.
Thomas Campbell’s English translation is from The New Artists catalogue, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, which includes a shortened version of the original text, listing artists’ names without years of birth. In the last paragraph, the adjective отечественный / otechestvennyi appears twice, and Campbell chose to translate it as “domestic” in both cases.
“Domestic” in combination with “roots” is often used in economical and political contexts, such as “the domestic roots of neoliberalism” or “the domestic roots of India‘s foreign policies”. However, as the term otechestvennyi stands in the centre of our attention, I would suggest a different translation, as I already did in the introduction – native, thus also slightly adapting Campbell’s translation: “The victory for our own native roots” and “…to strengthen and cultivate innovative native traditions”. 
Opting for native, I took into consideration a paragraph from George M. Young’s book “The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers”. Although Novikov didn’t use “otechestvennyi” in an esoteric context, he nevertheless used it in order to contrast his own culture and tradition to a somewhat inferior Western culture, which is not too far from the way Young characterises the Russian Cosmists:
[…] Third, and connected to the previous point, the Cosmists are at least slightly – some of them even more than slightly – anti-Western, and in Russia, today as yesterday, this resonates. To the Cosmists, the intellectual culture of the West is isolative, individualistic, arrogant, divisive, uncentered, and self-destructive. Cosmism is presented as a robust native alternative to the fashionable but shallow and overrated Western intellectual currents of deconstruction, ecosophism, species egalitarianism, and other alien abominations. 
For Novikov, open-mindedness towards the West co-existed with anti-Western notions; if such notions were simply an undercurrent in 1986, they got more explicit in the early 1990s, when he founded the “New Academy of Fine Arts” with the purpose of saving beauty that he found betrayed by the materialist West (one of his slogans was “Picasso is cash”). We can observe a similar process with musician Sergey Kuryokhin, whose legendary “Pop-Mekhanika” performances were staged with artists from Novikov‘s group. Kuryokhin turned from a modest critic of the West, at the beginning of the 1980s, to a fierce supporter of Alexander Dugin and his National-Bolshevist Party in 1995, all the same continuing his career in the West (See Chapter 9).
What Novikov proposes in his article is, in essence, a short history of ideas with respect to the New Artists – a history marked by two breaks: by a first rupture caused by the second generation of New Artists who brought in figuration libre, graffiti, comic etc., and shortly afterwards, by a second rupture, when everybody abandoned these western influences and discovered their own roots, thus: “The victory for our own native roots over western influences”. These roots, we understand, emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century with the Russian avant-garde: “The New Artists opened the V.V. Mayakovsky Friends Club, an organization designed to strengthen and cultivate innovative native traditions.” In fact, these phrases sound as if the New Artists had drastically changed their style by the time Novikov wrote his article, in 1986.
Novikov‘s early texts about the New Artists, published under his pseudonym Igor Potapov, constitute the only contemporary descriptions of this group of artists. Their importance as primary sources can therefore hardly be overestimated. Consequently, these texts are printed in books and catalogues and also available online.
The original Russian text of The New Artists and other articles by Igor Potapov / Timur Novikov were first published in Anthology. The New Artists, 1982-1987, published in Saint Petersburg around 1995 . The catalogue for the New Artists exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA), 2012, includes Potapov-Novikov's The New Artists text (the source for the English translation quoted above), but also some other of Potapov-Novikov’s early texts about the New Artists . The Anthology and the MMOMA catalogue, both co-edited by art historian and exhibition curator Ekaterina Andreeva, are important manuals for research about the New Artists. The MMOMA catalogue proposes itself as a scientific edition (научное издание) .
Among his texts from that period, Novikov must have considered the one about The New Artists especially relevant, since he used it at least twice to present the group in international exhibitions. A shortened version of The New Artists text translated into English – entitled The History and Principles of the ‘New Artists’ – appeared in the 1988 exhibition catalogue 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad, Young Unknowns Gallery, London . This shorted version included the passage quoted above. It was reprinted a year later in the press release announcing the New Artists exhibition and festival “Perestroika in the Avant-Garde”, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 1989 . In both cases, Novikov introduced himself as chairman or head of the fine arts section of the Club of Friends of V.V. Mayakovksy. It was one of several functions Novikov had given himself upon establishing this organisation; he was also the Club’s vice-chairman.
We must, however, bear in mind that Novikov – the New Artists’ undisputed spokesman – set himself the task to present the group as strong and vigorous, and that required the use of certain keywords and slogans. At the beginning of perestroika, “The victory for our own native roots over western influences” is such a motto of the day.
With regard to art history, Novikov’s approach becomes problematic when we accept such slogans at face value, because we are then tempted to overlook the complexity of the group's artistic context. In the next chapter, I will show that with the sentence just quoted, Novikov suggested an impact of perestroika – that is, politics – on the New Artists’ creative practise that is hardly supported by facts, because in 1986, the New Artists were not shaking off western influences in favour of a movement “back to the roots”. To be precise, such avant-garde roots manifested themselves both before and after the beginning of perestroika, though always alongside western influences, which is in itself an interesting phenomenon. But do such roots allow us to draw any conclusions regarding the group’s cohesion?
Contrasting native roots with western influences, Novikov suggests a kind of genealogy: marrying outside the caste is not good. It is a concept reminiscent of the medieval proverb “Blood is thicker than water”. Besides, Besides, Novikov‘s statement is somewhat counter-intuitive: we might have expected that with perestroika, as the country started opening up to the West, such an artistic turn would have gone the opposite direction, from native roots to western influences. But perestroika was fostered by national movements, which is often overlooked, although these movements accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union.
At this point, a paradox arises: how do we know that some kind of native roots manifest themselves in a work of a particular artist? Actually, we can only reasonably argue in favour of roots when we find stylistic influences of an “older” artist on a “younger” artist. But this is no different from establishing stylistic influences of any artist on any other artist. So why should we speak of roots in the case of stylistic influences from Mayakovsky‘s work, while in the case of stylistic influences from, say, Andy Warhol‘s work, we would speak of influences?
Distinguishing between roots and influences, we first establish traces of an artist’s style in some other artist’s style. Then, in a second step, we would call these traces roots when we are able to establish a genealogy between those two artists – a kind of family tree – but would call them influences instead when we cannot establish such a genealogy. The term roots is closely associated with the notion of tradition – that which is felt to be part of one’s own culture. In this way, the question of roots is intimately linked to the question of whom we accept or do not accept to be a member of the family.
I will therefore simplify the question of roots vs. influences and consider as influences all stylistic traces left in the works of the New Artists. Following Novikov, we may then define some of these influences as roots on the grounds that we find relevant stylistic features in the works of the Russian avant-garde which, in this way, becomes the New Artists' predecessor. Again for the sake of simplicity, I will stick to the established canon of the Russian avant-garde – Malevich, Mayakovsky, Kandinsky etc. – although this raises questions of ethnicity: how Russian is the Russian avant-garde? This is a question I will discuss in chapter 9.
Hence, avant-garde features would constitute the New Artists’ own or native roots. Consequently, native roots and native influences will be treated as synonyms, while western influences cannot become western roots.
 Regarding the date: see Introduction, footnote 2
 See Chapter 1, footnote 1.
 Potapov, Igor (pseud. Timur Novikov)
“Novye Khudozhniki” (Russian) [“Новые художники”,] “The New Artists” (English), 1986
In:[Novye Khudozhniki [Новые художники] / The New Artists, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, pp. 28/29.
English translation by Thomas Campell. Like the English catalogue text, the Russian catalogue text is a shortened version of the original text. They both list artists’ names without years of birth.
See also Chapter 1, footnote 2
 My suggestion was supported by Kieran Scarffe, a translator form the Russian, who also proposed these minor syntactical changes.
 Young, George M. The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, p.4/5
 See: Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika. Performances with links to nine performances between 1984 and 1995:
Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika / Popular Mechanics – all documents. Web 12 August 2020.
Among the New Artists, Novikov and Bugaev were particularly active at Pop Mekhanika performances, especially after 1988.
 Fobo, Hannelore. Empire and Magic. Sergey Kuryokhin's “Pop-Mekhanika No. 418” (1995). Second, revised version 11 March 2020, p. 3 “Everything related to America is horrible!” Web 22 August 2020.
 Antologiia Novye Khudozhniki (Anthology. The New Artists, 1982-1987) [Антология Новые художники 1982–1987], edited by E Andreeva and E. Kolovskaia, Saint Petersburg, approx. 1995, pp 85-87. The imprint doesn’t indicate the year of publication. In the Anthology, Igor Potapov’s text “Novye Khudozhniki” was dated to 1986, and this date was used in other publications, as well.
 Other catalogue texts by Igor Potapov / Timur Novikov are: New Trends in the Contemporary Painting of The New Artists; The New Theater; Zero Music as a Phenomenon of the New Music.
 Page 2: Exhibition Catalogue. Web 12 August 2020.The New Artists. Edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012 , p. 2
 Young Unknowns Gallery: 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad, 1988
 Bluecoat Gallery press release: The New Artists. Members of the Club of Friends of Vladimir Mayakovsky, 7-28 January 1989; undated. Web 4 October 2020
 See Aleksei Venediktov’s interview with Vladimir Pastukhov, Honorary Senior Research Associate at the University College of London, where Pastukhov stresses the nationalistic impulses of perestroika and of those events following it:
Кстати, на самом деле, если мы вспомним перестройку и последующие затем события, то теперь «холодным умом, разуверяюсь я во всем», я полагаю, что это все-таки было в значительной степени националистическое движение и, собственно говоря, и Ельцин в некотором смысле исповедовал определенные иллюзии, которые были тогда именно у российской национальной элиты.
Echo of Moscow, 10 August, 2020. Web 11 August 2020
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020