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Hannelore Fobo

Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture' and 'Stiob'
Популярная Механика 'Насекомая культура' и 'стеб'

11 December 2018

Video and manuscript of the lecture


Hannelore Fobo with the LP "Popular Mechanics - Insect Culture“ and a vintage print from (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's photo shoot for the LP Cover at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London

Hannelore Fobo with the LP "Popular Mechanics - Insect Culture“ and a vintage print from
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's photo shoot for the LP Cover
at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London

"Popular Mechanics - Insect Culture“ is a coproduction by
New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev (sound collages)
Sergey Kuryokhin (synthesizers, composer), Igor Butman (saxophone)• .
Новые Композиторы Валерий Алахов и Игорь Веричев
Сергей Курёхин, Игорь Бутман
Cover photograph: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov • (E-E) Евгений Козлов
recorded 1985, Leningrad
released 1987 by Ark Records, Liverpool

All vintage prints with text >>

Insect Culture Press review (1987) >>

Video of the lecture


The lecture Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture' and 'Stiob' was part of the panel

Kuryokhin's Stiob
Postmodernist Laughter in the Postcommunist Dark

IAS - Institute of Advanced Studies
University College London
11 December 2018

Participants: Alexander and Anna Kan (BBC Russian, London)
Hannelore Fobo (an independent art critic and curator, Berlin)
Andrei Rogatchevski (IAS / UCL / UiT - the Arctic University of Norway)

 Kuryokhin's Stiob Postmodernist, Laughter in the Postcommunist Dark,  IAS - Institute of Advanced Studies University College, London 11 December 2018


Manuscript with Illustrations

Abstract

In 1987, Colin Fallows and Pete Fulwell of Liverpool based Arc Records released an LP recorded two years earlier in Leningrad. Insect Culture was a collaboration between four leading avant-garde musicians: pianist and Popular Mechanics leader Sergey Kuryokhin, saxophonist Igor Butman and New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev.

The recording fused free jazz with virtuously arranged Dadaistic sound collages. The New Composers, using little more than a high quality tape recorder and chrome tapes, had sampled well-known Soviet pop songs and speech fragments from movies and other sources.

The result was “satirical, humorous, eclectic, dense, chaotic, cryptic“ (Rateyourmusic.com). The lecture examines this particular type of Soviet parody – “stiob” – and presents archival and vintage photos by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.



1.
Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture' Популярная Механика 'Насекомая Культура' photo: (E-E) Evgenj Kozlov 1985. Cover design by Colin Fallows LP cover, offset print, 31.3 x 31 cm Ark Records, Liverpool, 1987


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture'
Популярная Механика 'Насекомая Культура'
photo: (E-E) Evgenj Kozlov 1985.
Cover design by Colin Fallows LP cover, offset print, 31.3 x 31 cm
Ark Records, Liverpool, 1987


audio file


This is a fragment from the LP “Popular Mechanics – Insect Culture”, recorded in Leningrad in 1985, released by Colin Fallows and Pete Fulwell of “Ark Records” (Liverpool) in 1987, and re-released in Moscow by SoLyd records in 1998 on cassette and CD with a bonus track and a text by Alexander Kan.


2.
Популярная Механика 'Насекомая культура' Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture', Cassette sleeve, cover SoLyd Records, Moscow, 1998


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
Популярная Механика 'Насекомая культура'
Popular Mechanics 'Insect Culture', Cassette sleeve, cover
SoLyd Records, Moscow, 1998

The fragment is a humorous comment on the musical instrument allegedly representing “the soul of Russia” – the balalaika. The balalaika is a rather simple folk instrument, and musicians display their mastery by playing it very fast. Here the melody is speeded up absurdly, like a badly wound up machine, as if giving proof of the players’ unlimited dexterity.


3.
Insect Culture review, 1987, Text: Unidentified author, Photo art: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov from the photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture-review
Insect Culture review, 1987
Text: Unidentified author
Photo art: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
from the photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985

The reaction of music critics to Insect Culture was quite enthusiastic. One critic stated, "At various points, I thought my roof was leaking, my walls were shaking, my plumbing bursting and that next door neighbours were involved in some noisy, unshapely coupling involving ktichen utensils and lawn-mowers."

“satirical, humorous, eclectic, dense, chaotic, cryptic“. Quite obviously, the West had not expected such a production to come from the “wild” East, and in my paper, I will speak about the specific satire or “stiob” and humour we find in “Insect Culture”.


4.
Sergey Kuryokhin Igor: Verichev, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Valery Alakhov, Passage shopping mall, Leningrad. From Kozlov‘s photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985 6x6 black and white negative with Kozlov‘s scratching


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
Sergey Kuryokhin
Igor Verichev, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Valery Alakhov
Passage shopping mall, Leningrad.

From Kozlov‘s photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985
6x6 black and white negative with Kozlov‘s scratching

More exactly, I will try to explain why it is important to distinguish, with respect to art, between stiob and humour as two steps in a dialectical process, as antíthesis and synthesis.

In fact, I consider humour to constitute a higher form of artistic expression than stiob, although stiob may enjoy more popularity, at least in academic circles, because analysing a specific stiob is particularly rewarding when looking at an artist’s strategy of questioning social conditions. What is more, such strategies are today frequently mistaken for art itself. I will return to this question at the end of my lecture.


5.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Sergey Kuryokhin, Igor Verichev, Valery Alakhov, Passage shopping mall, Leningrad. Coloured vintage print, 23.3 16.5 cm, 1985 From the photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Sergey Kuryokhin, Igor Verichev, Valery Alakhov
Passage shopping mall, Leningrad.

Coloured vintage print, 23.3 16.5 cm, 1985
From the photoshoot for Insect Culture, 1985

Insect Culture musicians were Sergey Kuryokhin on synthesizer, Igor Butman on saxophone and New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev with music and sound collages. The New Composers created the fragment we just listened to.


6.
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin June 1981, Leningrad, Photo: Hans Kumpf Left: Sergey Kuryokhin, The Ways of Freedom, Leo Records, 1981


www.e-e.eu/My-Trips-to-Russia/index2.html
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
June 1981, Leningrad • Photo: Hans Kumpf
Left: Sergey Kuryokhin T
he Ways of Freedom Leo Records, 1981

Kuryokhin had gained a reputation in the West as a brilliant piano-player and as the “enfant terrible” of the Soviet music underground.


7.
Left: Igor Butman; centre, with guitar: Boris Grebenshikov Literary Club 81, Leningrad, August 1983. Photo: Hans Kumpf


www.e-e.eu/Kuryokhin/index4.html
www.e-e.eu/Club-81
Left: Igor Butman; centre, with guitar: Boris Grebenshikov
Literary Club 81, Leningrad, August 1983. Photo: Hans Kumpf

Butman was only 24 years old, but he was already celebrated as a jazz virtuoso. Kuryokhin had played with him since the early 1980s.

Like the previous picture from 1981, this picture is also by German clarinettist and journalist Hans Kumpf. He took it in August 1983 during a jam session at the Leningrad Literary Club 81 with Kuryokhin and other musicians and performers. The young man playing the guitar is Boris Grebenshikov, the leader of the band “Aquarium”, and one of the fathers of Russian rock music. “Tibetan Tango”, a song Kuryokhin had written for Aquarium in 1983, found its way into “Insect Culture”.



8.
Popular Mechanics / Pop Mekhanika 1986, Leningrad Palace of the Youth, Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov


www.e-e.eu/Pop-Mekhanika-1986
Popular Mechanics / Pop Mekhanika 1986
Leningrad Palace of the Youth
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

As a matter of fact, in the 1980s, the collaboration between musicians of different music styles – avant-garde, jazz, pop and rock – was common among young Leningrad musicians and a cornerstone of Kuryokhin’s Pop Mekhanika life performances. Here is an example from 1986.


9.
New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev during the performance Балет Трех Неразлучников / The Ballet of the Three Inseparable Ones, Leningrad, 1985 photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov


www.e-e.eu/Ballet-Exhibition
New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev
during the performance
Балет Трех Неразлучников / The Ballet of the Three Inseparable Ones
Leningrad, 1985
photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Alakhov and Verichev, on the other hand, were pioneers in sampling. Their approach was technically and artistically sophisticated and ínnovative in the way it used Russian speech fragments. This is why Kuryokhin invited them to join his project “Insect Culture“. It was the first LP production released under Kuryokhin’s brand “Popular Mechanics” or “Pop Mekhanika”, yet it was an atypical “Pop Mekhanika” performance for a number of reasons: it included a very a small group of musicians, it was no life performance, and, most importantly, Kuryokhin and Butman used the New Composers’ pre-recorded material, which was against Pop Mekhanika’s principle of spontaneity.


10.
Interior of the Radio House, St. Petersburg, Italian Street 27 photo: Vladimir, 2016

http://fotokto.ru/photo/view/4410276.html
Interior of the Radio House,
St. Petersburg, Italian Street 27
photo: Vladimir, 2016

The New Composers themselves were not present during the recording of the master tape at the Leningrad Radio House, which, by the way, had to be carried out secretly, because at that time, Kuryokhin was not yet publically recognised.


11.
VISION, China, no 175, August 2018, New Russian Aesthetics Resurgence, ‘Popular Mechanics’ Leningrad 1986 Painted photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

VISION, China, no 175, August 2018
New Russian Aesthetics Resurgence ‘Popular Mechanics’
Leningrad 1986
Painted photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Here are some more pictures from “typical” Pop Mekhanika performances from about the same time, 1986 and 1988. This one was reprinted in Vision, China


12.
top: Pop Mekhanika, Stockholm, 1988. Video still. Left: Popular Mechanics / Pop Mekhanika, Leningrad 1985 or 1986, Vladimir Chekasin, Sergey Kuryokhin, Igor Verichev, baboon

www.e-e.eu/E-E/Pop-Mekhanika/imagepages/26.html
top: Pop Mekhanika, Stockholm, 1988. Video still.
Left: Popular Mechanics / Pop Mekhanika, Leningrad 1985 or 1986
Vladimir Chekasin, Sergey Kuryokhin, Igor Verichev, baboon
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov


Stiob appears in the form of animals on stage.


13.
www.e-e.eu

If you want to know more about “typical” Pop Mekhanika performances, you can look up several performances on our homepage www.e-e.eu,

then go to “Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika / Popular Mechanics – all documents“


14.
www.e-e.eu/Kuryokhin

“Our homepage” means the website I have been creating for artist (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, a participant of the Venice Biennale in 2013 and a leading member of the Leningrad avant-garde group of the 1980s “The New Artists”.


16.
Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994. Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland, 22.9.2016–15.01.2017 Curators: David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk, Paintings: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Object: Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov


www.e-e.eu/Notes-from-the-Underground
Notes from the Underground
Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994
Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland, 22.9.2016–15.01.2017
Curators: David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk
Paintings: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Object: Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov

A large number of his works from the 1980s, among them many artists’ portraits and his Insect Culture series, were displayed at the exhibition “Notes from the Underground”, in Lodz, 2016


17.
Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994. Akademie der Künste Berlin, Germany, 15.03.2018–06.05.2018, Curators: David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk, Collage: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Object: Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov with E-E


www.e-e.eu/Notes-from-the-Underground-Berlin
Notes from the Underground
Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994
Akademie der Künste Berlin, Germany, 15.03.2018–06.05.2018
Curators: David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk
Collage: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Object: Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov
with E-E

and Berlin 2018, The exhibition was dedicated to art and alternative music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994.
I have used Kozlov’s works in this paper.


18.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov> Valery Alakhov (with white T-shirt), Sergey Kuryokhin, and Igor Verichev. Passage shopping mall, Leningrad, 1985 6x6 black and white negative (coloured) with scratching, 1985 From the photoshoot for Insect Culture


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Valery Alakhov (with white T-shirt), Sergey Kuryokhin, and Igor Verichev.
Passage shopping mall, Leningrad, 1985
6x6 black and white negative (coloured) with scratching, 1985
From the photoshoot for Insect Culture

Here we see Kozlov´s original photograph of the Insect Culture record cover in a coloured version. It is part of a photo shoot including 17 pictures. Here are some vintage prints from the series.

Kozlov took this picture from a pedestrian bridge on the first floor of the Leningrad “Passage” department store, looking down on the visitors. He asked Alakhov, Kuryokhin and Verichev to walk towards the bridge with quick steps. The idea was to freeze the movement with his camera, similar to Iain Macmillan’s famous picture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. Macmillan had also been standing above the group of musicians, on a ladder. The likeness was not accidental. Kozlov was well aware of the young musicians’ creative power.

As the focus of this panel is on stiob, I will highlight the New Composers’ contribution to Insect Culture, because their contribution constitutes the satirical and humorous aspect of the record.


19.
taz, Berlin, 8 November 2018, featuring the New Composers photos: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1985


taz, Berlin, 8 November 2018
featuring the New Composers
photos: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1985

A characteristic feature of the New Composers’ early work is their ingenious response to what Alakhov calls “Soviet Pop art” – popular movies and records that filled public and private spaces with mediocre kitsch and pathos deemed appropriate to fulfil the needs of the “simple Soviet citizen“. In other words, shallow entertainment of a type popular all around the world, only that it didn’t possess the professional quality of Hollywood entertainment and definitely lacked glamour.

Like that of many other countries, “Soviet Pop art” remained a “local affair” – much too local for the New Composers who decided to give it a fresh look.


20.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov New Composers mid 1980s


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
New Composers
mid 1980s

As other young people of their generation, Alakhov and Verichev managed to become quite familiar with international trends in music – rock and pop groups, avant-garde and jazz. In their circles, Stockhausen and Kraftwerk were brand names.


21.
Private apartment Leningrad, late 1970s, photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov


Private apartment
Leningrad, late 1970s
photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Some Soviet musicians possessed huge collections of Western records. For others, trading these LPs or copying them and selling the tapes was an illegal but profitable business. This picture is from the late 1970s, which means well before perestroika.


22.
Left: Valery Alakhov, unknown, Brian Eno, and Igor Verichev Leningrad, 1987. Photos: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1987 Right: Smart. New Composers with special guest Brian Eno 1999


Left: Valery Alakhov, unknown, Brian Eno, and Igor Verichev
Leningrad, 1987. Photos: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1987
Right: Smart
New Composers with special guest Brian Eno 1999

Later, during perestroika, contact with Western musicians became more frequent. Here is a picture from 1987 with the New Composers and Brian Eno in Leningrad. Ten years later, when the New Composers had turned to ambient music, they would release the album Smart with Brian Eno as Special Guest.


23.
Igor Verichev talking to Valery Alakhov and (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, photo: Hannelore Fobo, 10 November 2018


Igor Verichev talking to Valery Alakhov and (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
photo: Hannelore Fobo, 10 November 2018

In a recent telephone conversation with Verichev, Alakhov and Kozlov, Verichev stressed the fact that he had started to pursue his passion already in school – in the seventies –, using his cassette recorder to design sounds and noises in the style of «Ummagumma» by Pink Floyd, released in 1969.


24.
Maly Drama Theatre, Saint Peterburg, Rubinshtein st., 2006 photo: Vladimir Koltsov 1990, Creative Commons


Maly Drama Theatre, Saint Peterburg, Rubinshtein st., 2006
photo: Vladimir Koltsov 1990, Creative Commons

In 1983, Verichev got a job as a sound engineer at the studio of the Maly Drama Theatre. In this way he gained access to huge amounts of unused or discarded tape material. His findings included film music, dialogues of animated movies, educational radio programmes, technical instructions, theatre rehearsals and more. Together with Valery Alakhov, he started his own group New Composers, re-recording the material on tape recorders via loops, pitch shifting and other technical devices.


25.
catalogue Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994. Ed. David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk, Koenig Books, 2017


e-e.eu/Notes-from-the-Underground (Lodz, 2016)
www.e-e.eu/Notes-from-the-Underground-Berlin (Berlin, 2018)
catalogue Notes from the Underground • Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994
Ed. David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk, Koenig Books, 2017

In a text from 1983, Verichev defined this method as “Versification of Information“: “The manipulation of sound information from various spheres of our life imparts to music a new and quickly changing significance.

The result of Verichev’s and Alakhov’s collaboration, distributed to their friends on cassettes, was a particular musical variety of the stiob, if we accept the definition of stiob by sociologists L. Gudkov and B Dubinin from 1994: “Stiob is a type of intellectual sarcasm, consisting in the public or written diminution of symbols, achieved by deliberately using the symbols in question within the context of a burlesque.”


26.
Новые Композиторы – Ветер перемен / Перцепция Вербализация, New Composers – Winds of Change. Perception and Verbalisation. This CD with tracks from 1985 and 1986 was a gift to (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. List of songs written by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, red marks = “favourite songs”


Новые Композиторы – Ветер перемен / Перцепция Вербализация •
New Composers – Winds of Change. Perception and Verbalisation
This CD with tracks from 1985 and 1986 was a gift to (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.
List of songs written by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, red marks = “favourite songs”

Here is a CD of a cassette with recordings from 1985 and 1986 called Ветер перемен / Перцепция Вербализация – Winds of Change. Perception and Verbalisation. Several tracks were used for Insect Culture.

Among them is Na mashine / In a car, taken from the musical film Песни моря “The Songs of the Sea” from 1971 see list of all songs >>.


27.
Na mashine / In a car. Written by Temistocle Popa and Robert Rozhdestvensky, performed by Dan Spătaru, from the musical film Песни моря “The songs of the Sea”, 1971 with Dan Spătaru and Natalya Fateyeva


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM47jgegPbQ
Na mashine / In a car
Written by Temistocle Popa and Robert Rozhdestvensky
performed by Dan Spătaru
from the musical film Песни моря “The songs of the Sea”, 1971
with Dan Spătaru and Natalya Fateyeva

The Rumanian-Soviet coproduction, described by Internet Movie Database as “A film-review, film-concert with almost no subject and nice songs” relates the románce between a young Rumanian man and a girl from the Soviet Union, thus giving proof of the Soviet Union’s international aspirations.

The song “In a car” celebrates the happiness of driving with the loved one “in a car around the world”.


28.
Na mashine / In a car. Written by Temistocle Popa and Robert Rozhdestvensky, performed by Dan Spătaru, from the musical film Песни моря “The songs of the Sea”, 1971 with Dan Spătaru and Natalya Fateyeva


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM47jgegPbQ
Na mashine / In a car
Written by Temistocle Popa and Robert Rozhdestvensky
performed by Dan Spătaru
from the musical film Песни моря “The songs of the Sea”, 1971
with Dan Spătaru and Natalya Fateyeva

Considering the almost total ban on travels outside the Soviet block, this was completely unrealistic, but the larger part of the audience was probably just dreaming of owning a car, although perhaps not of the one in the movie. The New Composers condensed the song to its essence.

In the chorus, the words “na mashine” – “in a car” – have slight variations in each of the four verses – in a car, hey my car, oh my car, stop my car. These words now overlap, as if they were hitting on each other with a slight rhythmical defect, and this creates a funny effect, like a slapstick.

Butman paraphrases the sampling with his saxophone. At the beginning we hear a fragment from Kuryokhin’s playing the synthesizer.

audio file


However, it is important to note that for the New Composers, deconstruction of meaning was not an end in itself. Just as important, if not more important, was the pleasure obtained by constructing new meaning. To be exact, the new meaning was a semantically meaningless meaning – the meaning of pure sound, achieved through the loops.


29.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: New Composers, 6x6 black and white negative with scratching. From the photoshoot for Insect Culture 1985


www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
New Composers
6x6 black and white negative with scratching
From the photoshoot for Insect Culture 1985

I will present another example from Insect Culture The text of the first three lines of the verse is rather trivial – unless you look at it from a position of Zen-Buddhism.

“Live is beautiful, and there is nothing in the world we love more than life."

The forth line is divided, with a word in the middle that is amputated.

“But it seems that it is not under – so well understood and close is passion.”

As the last word страсть, passion,is being repeated, the pitch is reduced and the duration increases, which gives it a solemn, almost menacing tone.

You will hear the text with its specific syllable and consonant repetition. Enjoy the softness of the Zh, the hammering staccato of the T, the sublime roundness of the plosive B in combination with the I and L …

We may call this “savouring pure sound”.

Bon appetit!.

audio file


Прекрасна ты, жизнь

И ничего мы на свете так не любим, как жизнь

Что-то далекое и вместе с тем близкое

Но кажется, что непо... [непонятно? непонятное? непонято? не понять?]

...так понятна и близка страсть


The technique of syllable and consonant repetition creates a distinct aesthetic value that goes beyond the typical stiob. A stiob displays intellectual superiority in more or less subtle forms of witticism. An example of the latter is Kuryokhin’s famous TV improvisation “Lenin was a Mushroom“. But if stiob has a liberating effect, it still owns a compulsive element: it cannot let go what it needs to combat – authoritative meaning.


30.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Shark (Lower part). Mixed media on canvas, 221 x 159, 1988


www.e-e.eu/Leningrad
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Shark
(Lower part). Mixed media on canvas, 221 x 159, 1988

Humour in a work of art, on the other hand, reflects the joy of achieving inner freedom. As they are breaking the pathos of the proposition with their nervous stammering, the syllable and consonant repetitions create a sort of bizarre chant, a fantastic mantric utterance – a mad sacred formula effective through the repetition of specific phonemes, not through combatting meaning.


31.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Shark (Upper part). Mixed media on canvas, 221 x 159, 1988


www.e-e.eu/Leningrad
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Shark
(Upper part). Mixed media on canvas, 221 x 159, 1988

In fact, there was nothing to combat. The sentence we have just heard – “Live is beautiful, and there is nothing in the world we love more than life” had lost its meaning long ago. It had become an empty formula as the result of routine use in official political “newspeak”, the “GULAG of existence and thought”, as linguist Yuri Vorotnikov defined Soviet “newspeak” it in 2007.

Humour brings back to life what has been killed by negligence. The New Composers’ playful and unpredictable “versification” restitutes language its magic power without forcing it to bear a meaning.


32.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov New Composers and Friends Painted photocollage 18 x 23.7 cm mid 1980s


www.e-e.eu/1984
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
New Composers and Friends
Painted photocollage 18 x 23.7 cm mid 1980s

Humour doesn’t exist without stiob, but it assimilates and transforms it. We may say that stiob is reactive and humour is creative. In the language of dialectics, stiob is the antithesis and humour is the synthesis.

You may or may not agree with me that the fragment of “Insect Culture” we just listened to expresses humour, not stiob or witticism. This is a matter of taste. What is important is that such a difference exists.

In his book “Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More” Alexei Yurchak tries to elevate stiob to the level of “an everyday aesthetic of living”, that is, from antithesis to synthesis or “total art of living”. Yurchak believes that “In extreme cases, as with the Mitki and the necrorealists, life as a whole transformed into neverending stiob“ where “it was often impossible to tell whether it was a form of sincere support, subtle ridicule, or a peculiar mixture of the two“.

I do no agree with Yurchak. What Yurchak calls a “total art of living” with “its own stiob philosophy, language, forms of behaviour, ethical norms, styles of interaction, drinking habits, unhealthy diet, and so forth“, is actually closer to the description of a specific social code created by specific groups of a specific age who happen to be painting or film-making – an anti-urban code in the case of the Mitki, and a Soviet version of punk culture for the necrorealists. We are talking about a short period of their life, which in the case of the Mitki ended in the 1990s with a prolonged stay in the USA with the Alcoholics Anonymous. In their later years the Mitki and Necrorealists started leading a profoundly middle-class life while keeping their artistic style.

However, what is interesting in Yurchak’s romantic approach towards art is the fact that he is aware of the shortcomings of satire as a means of expressing “total art”. He therefore requires sincerity, too. But this is the same as asking Charly Chaplin to not simply play, but also sincerely believe that he is the Tramp or the Great Dictator.


33.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Left: Игорь, мир? Mир? – О, нет. Igor, peace between us? – Peace? No way. Mixed media and collage on paper, 226.5 x 97 cm, 1989 Right: Валера. Душа Вещей. Valera. The Soul present within Things. Mixed media and collage on paper, 226.5 x 85 cm, 1989


www.e-e.eu/Igor_Valera/Igor_Valera1.htm
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Left: Игорь, мир? Mир? – О, нет.
Igor, peace between us? – Peace? No way.
Mixed media and collage on paper, 226.5 x 97 cm, 1989
Right: Валера. Душа Вещей. Valera. The Soul present within Things.
Mixed media and collage on paper, 226.5 x 85 cm, 1989

“Total art” is not a strategy or attitude, whether sincere or mocking or both. In 2011 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov stated with regard to stiob: “You may ridicule the world with your tongue stretched out as long as you please. It simply means that you are just an artist, not a creator. You know nothing about great harmony, you only know how to criticise. This is the problem in modern art.”



Uploaded 18 December 2018
Last updated 11 June 2019