Popular Tags

“We want a world revolution, carried out by the artistic means and without any victim”: Interview mit der russischen Voina-Gruppe

“Mordovian Hour (Cat throwing in MacDonalds)”, 2007

Für das Buchprojekt “Art & Agenda” habe ich letztzes Jahr ein Interview mit der russischen Voina-Gruppe geführt – es wurde nie veröffentlicht und ich habe es nach Aufräumarbeiten erst jetzt wieder gefunden. Befragt wurde die gesamte Gruppe: Oleg Vorotnikov (alias “Vor” – the chief ideologist), Natalia Sokol (alias “Kozlyenok” – the chief coordinator), Leonid Nikolayev (alias Crazy Lenya) und Alex Plutser-Sarno (the chief media artist).

Alain Bieber: Your name means „war“. Against what and who are you in war?

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: We are in war with the glamorous timeserving conformist art-market, which reproduces art-rubbish that is badly behind the times. The galleries and catalogues are choked up with it.

Oleg Vorotnikov: We create a new left-wing art front, somehow reminiscent of the revolutionary art of the 1910 – 1920s. With the very fact of our existence in this radical left-wing front, we are shifting all the ideological poles of the art world and the political space as well. The radical right-wing essence of the rest of the contemporary Russian art becomes evident against the background of the Voina art-group.

Kozlyenok: The weakness of the so-called “opposition” movements in Russia becomes evident too.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: Of course, there are artists of integrity. For example, Andrey Monastirsky or Hermann Nitsch. Their actions were crystal honest. Such people are few and far between.

Kozlyenok: But the Voina art-group is not just honest. It breathes a new life into the real political protest art in the whole world.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: And, of course, we make war on the socio-political obscurantism and the right-wing reaction. We ideologically exterminate the obsolete patriarchal-repressive socio-political symbols and ideologies.

What is your mission? What is your ambition to do art?

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: We create an innovative art-language – for the sake of pure art, not for money. That is the language, adequate to the today’s cultural and socio-political context; the language that can describe the actuals of the new era and that doesn’t have analogues in the past. We make a Russian contemporary art, devoid of outmodedness and provinciality. It wins admiration of the intellectuals all over the world. Instead of boredom and dust, we bring fun into art-spaces in the best traditions of the carnival medieval art. We revive the lively expressive sincere art, that makes people have a deep emotional experience. The monumentality and scale harmonize with the rich content – in contrast to the overblown form, lacking of content. It is no coincidence that our Dick on the Liteyniy bridge was 65 meters high, 23 meters wide and weighted 4 thousand tonnes!

Do you have some kind of a “manifest”?

Oleg Vorotnikov: We are against of endless empty words, that accompany the art, which lays so far apart from the real life. Our art tells without words everything that we want to say.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: Nonetheless we make actions on the significant red-letter days and anniversaries. During the actions we use various slogans. After the actions we make short statements. For example, the action “The palace revolution” took place on the 15th of September 2010 and was timed to the Biblical Judgment Day. On that day the Voina group tipped over 7 police cars in the center of the St. Petersburg city, just near the gates of the Mikhailovsky (St Michael’s) Castle. The action was held under the slogans “Beg for mercy, cop!”, “Wicked cop always blames his balls!”, “Repent your sins, two-faced dirty dealin’ cops!”.

Kozlyenok: Our main artists, Alex Plutser, said after the action: “We are disgusted by the two-faced cops, who have already torn Russia to pieces and who are now sharking the loot. The Voina group demands the cardinal reform of the Ministry of Home Affairs. We demand to fire out all the bandits and bring them to justice. On the Judgement Day cop has to kneel down and beg us, workers of fine arts, for forgiveness. The God’s punishment is coming. Repent your sins, cops!”. That was a very accurate message.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: We don’t have a manifest. We have an anti-manifest. In my blog I collected the comments, in which the right-wing radicals express their opinion on our actions. And I wrote a true poem, based on the real comments. That is a torrent of xenophobic invectives addressing to the contemporary art. This text I shouted through the megaphone at the main exhibition of the commercial art – the Art Moscow Fair in the Central House of Artists. From then on that text is our anti-manifest. Here is a short quotation from it – you can choose a few phrases, that seem to you amusing; this text should not be interpreted too seriously, as it is ironic and sarcastic: “Contemporary art is a wretched rot! Contemporary artists are fucking freaks. I’d like to burn them in the blastfurnaces or crush them with a heavy catterpillar tractor. Fuck your mothers in the pension fund and make pictures of that, art-morons. We have way too many fucking premature bustards! Morons are now to be called artists. Eat shit! You better kill yourselves in full view of everybody. Contemporary art, mother fuckers! Contemporary art is an orgy of the ecstatic morons! Contemporary artists are stupid brutish cattle, fascists and betrayers of the motherland. Contemporary artists are a batch of degenerates, whose behavior evidences the decline of the Russian Federation biomass. Contemporary artists are mutants, a batch of moral monsters and degenerates. Contemporary art destroys morality, evolutional potential of humanity, destroys chastity and family, and mankind. Contemporary artists are enemies. They took away bright dream from everybody. They doomed the whole nation to slavery. I’d like to send them to mines. They turn contemporary art into sex-shop. Russia is a Russian country. And in Moscow synagogues multiply. Russia is being brought to her grave. Contemporary artists are the shit of the nation! Contemporary artists are a batch of idiots and block-heads, who spoil the reputation of the country. Contemporary artists are idiots, schizophrenics, hysteric men and deviant persons. Mentally ill people should be watched after. They are to be kept in mental hospital. Contemporary art is a child pornography. It is a pitchfork that should be driven into the balls of the rotten artists, who are ready for everything for the sake of their glory. Contemporary art is Hell. Contemporary art fucks itself”. So this how the contemporary art is treated in Russia. And the Voina art-group thinks the same of the right-wing glamorous artists. The full text of our anti-manifest is here.

About politics & art: What do you think about these two worlds? Has art to be political? Is art always political? Is your art political? Should there be more political art?

Oleg Vorotnikov: There is neither politics, nor state in Russia any more. There are only powerful mafioso clans and petrodollars.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: The art should be honest, noble and unselfish. And I think that an honest artist just can’t paint pussy cats, fishes and pots with flowers when it’s Holocaust at its height. He can’t be silent about the horrible crimes that are committed around him. Osip Mandelshtam wasn’t a political poet, he was a pure aesthete. But nonetheless he wrote the most outstanding and strong novel against J. Stalin.

Your work is quite radical. How important is it (for you & your works) to go beyond all limits?

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: The group doesn’t have a goal to necessarily cross the limits. But an honest artists in his work can’t and shouldn’t think about the “limits”, shouldn’t censor himself and be afraid of everything.

Kozlyenok: All the more so in Russia, where everything is forbidden – even the human rights, guaranteed by the Constitution.

Leonid Nikolayev: We haven’t violated the “basic decencies” conception of the Russian citizens. On the contrary, we expressed their indignation with the authorities who break all the proprieties, laws and moral/ethical norms.

Oleg Vorotnikov: In today’s Russia all the elementary human rights are violated. The police beat people unmercifully even on the peaceful demonstrations. Thousands of people suffer in prisons. After they had arrested me, put the handcuffs on my hands and a plastic bag on my head so I couldn’t breathe, they started beating me with their legs against my kidneys, liver and head. This is the life in Russia. It is almost impossible to hold an action that would be “permitted” by the present corrupted Russian authorities.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: But we do not break the moral and ethical laws. On the contrary, we are fighting for their revival. That’s why the whole country enthusiastically applauded to our Dick graffiti.

Kozlyenok: 30 seconds after the action, the bridge was drawn apart and the gigantic Dick rose menacingly just in front of the windows of the main FSB office. Millions of people watched this action in the Internet and were ravished. Just imagine – no one was injured in the Voina actions within 4 years and corrupted cops who are after us have killed hundreds of people in Russia within this period.

We hear always a lot of things in the media. But how dangerous is it really in Russia to be an artist like you?

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: In Russia it is very dangerous to be an artist who makes a left-wing protest art. There are thousands of political prisoners in Russia. It’s just that the mass media write about famous artists, like we are, or about businessmen, like Khodorkovsky. And ordinary political prisoners die out in camps in obscurity. The group has a wide experience – the activists were arrested and brought to police stations over 50 times not only from our actions, but from the Dissenters March as well. The group already has two cases of suspended sentence. And right now the founding father of the group, Oleg Vorotnikov, and Our President, Leonid Nikolayev, are being held in the investigative isolation ward “Lebedevskoye”, which is in 39, Lebedevskaya street, St. Petersburg. The answers to this questions they handled from the prison.

Kozlyenok: They are wrongfully and illegally accused of the article 213, part 1, paragraph B, which means, “hooliganism, committed for the reasons of political, ideological, racial, national or religious enmity or hatred; or for the reasons of enmity or hatred to a social group” – to the POLICE.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: Oleg and Leonid were kidnapped by the officers of the Center for Extremism Prevention around 7 in the morning on the 15th of November in Moscow. The arrest was carried out with a lot of procedural infringements. The artists with handcuffs on their hands and with bags on their heads were thrown into the microbus, where they were laying on the cold iron floor during the 10 hour -trip to St. Petersburg. On their way to St. Petersburg the artists were beaten from time to time against the heads and kidneys. The human right defenders, who visited him two weeks after, found a lot of scratches and hematomas on their bodies. This fact is documented. There is a publication about it on the Radio Svoboda website. All the activists, participating in our projects, are constantly being wiretapped, watched after. 12 activists of the Voina art-group are hiding at the safe flats. Every week they change Skype and e-mail accounts, the cell phone numbers and don’t stay at one place for more than 2-3 times. The police took away illegally the passports from Kozlyenok (Natalia Sokol) and her baby, a-year-and-a-half-old son Kasper. In Russia it means the civil death. For example, she and her son can’t get any medical treatment, can’t do anything without them.”

What kind of project you would realize in the future (and was impossible till now, because too big, expansive, utopian, political, crazy etc.)?

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: The Voina activists are romantic heroes of a new epoch, they are new robin hoods, who defeat the evil powers. And we would like to hold an action, by which the World Evil would be destructed.

Kozlyenok: Exactly so! We want a world revolution, carried out by the artistic means and without any victim.

And final question: If you could change one thing in the world – what would it be?

Leonid Nikolayev: As a President of the Universe, I would abolish the war, even the smallest one. Not the Voina (War) group, of course, but the war, where people are killed. That would cut out the arms expenditure and the life on the Planet would change greatly.

Oleg Vorotnikov: I would abolish the State. In that case there would be no police, no army, no legitimate violence. And as a result the war would be impossible.

Kozlyenok: I would abolish all the bureaucrats on the planet. Then all the wars and states would disappear, all people would unite into free communes and communities according to the interests. The world would be organized as the Internet, where the life is in full swing, but there are no authorities there.

Alexei Plutser-Sarno: I would change the language by deleting from it all the repressive-patriarchal concepts. And first of all the Concept of a Man, which is the greatest illusion of the Age of the Enlightenment. Together with the concept of a man, all its derivatives such as “state”, “war”, “bureaucrats”, “hatred”, “murder” and even “God” would disappear. All those words create the fantasmatic protective shield of the false symbols and the foolish illusions around a man. Through this shield he/or she doesn’t see neither the God, nor the Universal emptiness.


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Marwin,

    Vielen Dank für das Interview. Schön, mal mehr von VOINA zu erfahren ohne kyrillisch lernen zu müssen.

Add Your Comments

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <ol> <ul> <li> <strong>