The MANI Folders. Image Source: http://4th.moscowbiennale.ru/en/program/special_projects/mani_en.html
One year prior to a default in Russia (1997), the key figure of Soviet conceptual art Andrei Monastirsky had mapped the social and economic conditions of the local artists. For the Soviet underground art, Monastirsky was some kind of “father”, the leader of independent art community. He had guided others, gave the advises and introduced younger generation of artists and intellectuals to the secret dissident elite of the contemporary art. In late 1980s the part of his art projects was the system of hierarchies in contemporary art. Together with the writer Vladimir Sorokin he created various ranks and titles to control and fixed changes in the small milieu of Moscow art scene1.
Viktor Pivovarov The Body of Unofficial Moscow Art – 1960-70s. Image Source: http://www.conceptualism-moscow.org/page?id=198&lang=en
However, in 1990s he realized that authoritarian role of the “conceptualist art father” has no sense in the new reality of the market economy. Since the disciplinary Soviet society collapsed together with the communist party and its leaders, there is no authority and hierarchies in traditional sense. Instead of ranks and titles, art community is consolidating now around the prospect of commercial and official recognition. Instead of intellectual authority and dissident ethics based on hierarchies, post-Soviet art established semi-mafia relationships in order to survive and support each other. His document reflects this new situation. Here Monastirsky shifted to the ironic analysis of the artists’ career under the new conditions. It imitates bureaucratic language of the official State papers and lists almost all important artists, curators and cultural producers of the 1990s. In the document, the ranks and titles, such as “generalissimos” or “commander” has been replaced by the four main categories: ‘integrated into the new system’, ‘international’, ‘Western’ and ‘local’.
See below my translation of this document into English2:
“MOKSHA (School of Moscow Conceptualism)
MOSCOW CONCEPTUAL CIRCLE
Social realization by March 1997 (some cases go unreported)
Nikita Alexeev – 'integrated into the new system', Head of Department for Culture in «Foreigner» newspaper. Current situation satisfies. There is an element of instability, because such type of departments can appear and disappear at any moment. However, he has more or less good salary.
Lev Rubinstein – 'integrated into the new system', Head of Department for Literature in 'Resume' newspaper. Current situation satisfies. There is an element of instability for the same reason. However, he has a good salary.
Georgy Kizelvalter - 'integrated into the new system', works in customhouse. Situation not satisfies. Good salary.
Nilolay Panitkov - ‘integrated into the new system', co-owner of antiquarian firm, which is under construction. Situation satisfies. There is an element of instability. However, he has an opportunity to get very good wages.
Sergei Gynlakh - 'integrated into the new system', Creative Director and owner of the design company Right Hand. Situation satisfies. Unlike others, he remains stable, because he depends only of himself and can work with any tasks. His income is fluctuated, but stays relatively high. He is the most successful and ‘advanced’ among the others ‘integrated into the new system’
Sergey Mironenko - 'integrated into the new system', owner of the company. Good profit.
Sergey Romashko - 'international', developed due to expanded connections and possibilities for realization.
Mikhail Riklin – 'international', developed due to huge possibilities for publishing texts and expanded connections.
Vladimir Sorokin – 'international', very good realization
Dmitry Prigov – 'international', very good realization
Yury Leiderman – 'international', realization with problems
Pavel Pepperstein – 'international', not bad realization with problems
Ilya Kabakov – 'western', full realization
Erik Bulatov – 'western', excellent realization
Viktor Pivovarov – 'western', good realization
Leonid Sokov - 'western', good realization
Yury Albert – 'western', not bad realization
Irina Nakhova – 'western', not bad realization
Vladimir Skersis – 'western', normal realization
Alexander Kosolapov – 'western', problematic realization
Vladimir Mironenko – 'western', problematic realization
Joseph Backstein – 'local', painful realization
Andrey Monastirsky – 'local', painful realization
Igor Makarevich - 'local', painful realization
Sergey Volkov - 'local', painful realization
Vsevolod Nekrasov - 'local', realization is normal and painful at the same time
Zhigalov, Abalakova – 'locals', realization is normal and painful at the same time
Elena Elagina - 'local', realization is normal and painful at the same time
Anna Alchyk – 'local', normal realization
Leonid Bazhanov – 'local', not fully realized
Andrey Philipov – 'local', complicated realization
Nikita Kozlov - 'local', complicated realization
Andrey Abramov – 'local', hermetic realization
Georgy Donskoy - 'local', hermetic realization
Konstantin Zvezdochetov – 'local', completely satisfied
Sergey Anyphriev – 'local', completely satisfied
Francisco Infante – 'local', good realization
А. М. 1997.”
The absence of state protectionism in the cultural field has turned cultural production into self-enterprise based on a system of informal relations. In a situation where previous forms of hierarchy and status have been destroyed, the new rules of game are unclear. The tragedy of ex-generalissimus Monastirsky is that he faced the new mafia-like world of primitive accumulation, where the figure of artist and the mission of art have been totally neglected. The task was to find a new way of recognition by the society in order to restore the status of art and artist. However, this restoration was impossible, because the world of primitive accumulation will always ignore art and culture. You also have to accumulate capital to be recognized and respected. In order to do so, you have to forget about art and find a job. Creative subjects of the market had abolished the figure of respected artist and academy professor3. The majority of the artists and intellectuals listed in the document under a label ‘integrated into the new system’ never returned to arts. The ‘Western’ and ‘international’ never came back to Russia, while 'local' is continuing their 'painful realization'.
E. Dyogot. Classification of Moscow Conceptualism 1991. Image Source: http://www.conceptualism-moscow.org/page?id=198&lang=en
- 1. See: Monastirsky, A., ed., 2011. Sborniki MANI. Moskva: German Titov, pp. 435-444. The document with hierarchies is part of the MANI Folders (the Moscow Archive of the New Art) See: Monastirsky, A., ed., 2011. Sborniki MANI. Moskva: German Titov. The MANI Folders is a collective publication project, which has an archive form. It consists of five folders and contains texts, interviews, documentary material and artworks of the Moscow Conceptualism. Other forms, such as book or journal were simply impossible to produce under the Soviet conditions. Today, the MANI Folders functions as a piece of art and archive of conceptual art at the same time. The MANI Folders was published in form of book in 2011.
- 2. The document is available in Russian here: http://conceptualism.letov.ru/MANI/realizacii.html
- 3. It reflects the degradation of the universities and art academies in 1990s. The informality and corruption have become a norm at the academy due to cuts in education and mass impoverishment of the teachers. Moreover, many of the intellectuals went to work at media and business or immigrated. Today the overage wages at the Moscow’s universities are 200-500 euros per month, while the overage rent of the one bedroom apartment is roughly 600 euros per month. See the report of academic salaries with the international comparison data: http://www.chileno.co.uk/chile/academic-salary-in-29-countries#.U5oFmy94KPU