Stealing Tomorrow's Trends

Issue no4
Aug - Sep 2019

A show in Moscow exhibits snapshots of finished and unfinished works that were photographed at the studios of famous artists like Christian Jankowski, Deimantas Narkevicius and Erwin Wurm and many more.

The show The Trends made by Russian artists Antonina Baever and Roman Minaev in The New Wing of Gogol's House, Moscow, in collaboration with The Foundation of Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantine Sorokin, shows ideas for new artworks in their process of making which were taken away from studios of other artists.

Deimantas Narkevicius, Igor Samolet

If one believes in all what is said in curator's statements, one can be sure that this show traces its origin in historical anecdote about Vladimir Tatlin who sneaked as an art model into Picasso's studio in Paris with the plan to steal some of his ideas – the trends for the new season. According to this story Tatlin was caught in the act by the owner of the place while he was copying Picasso's sketches. He had to leave the studio disgracefully.

Meanwhile, Pablo Picasso himself, as everybody knows, never was caught or forced to withdrawm while his mottos are well known: “Good artists copy, great artists steal” and “When there's anything to steal, I steal.”

What can we learn from this story? That every artist steals?

Nowadays such actions can have serious consequences as we know from the cases of Richard Prince vs. professional photographers and Instagram accounts' owners whose images he took or Sarah Morris vs. American origami enthusiasts. But what would happen, if you stole the idea with the consent of the artist you are stealing from?

It may sound quite contradictory but it is not. It is like a deal with the devil when the artist has an agreement, written or spoken, with another artist about using his or her idea for an artwork before he or she exhibits it him- or herself. And that's exactly what Antonina Baever and Roman Minaev did in their project The Trends.

Baever and Minaev are the absolute masterminds of this exhibition even if they state they are not. “We are just curators here”, they modestly say. But actually the curators are undercover artists. Usually curator is the one who moderate, not only between several artists or artist(s) and institution, but also between curatorial idea and artworks. In this case, Baever and Minaev are playing role of curators and artists at the same time.

Baever and Minaev used photography as a basic medium of “stealing” and reinventing the ideas. Their first step of the project was to ask some more or less famous artists to let their agents get into their studios and take pictures of new artworks or sketches. Formally they decided to count these photographers-agents also as authors of the show as well as the artists whose ideas were used. First, they had to find these agents. Sometimes it was a student of an artist which idea they wanted to “borrow”, sometimes a random person (mostly also an artist) who just stayed at the same place and the same time etc. Finally they built the network which totally looked like typical project about art community.

So there are lots of photos – of installations, objects, drawings, performances and even of a screen which showes a video. This documentation captures ideas of eight artists from different countries and their re-interpretation in the photos of Baever and Minaev's agents.

Anna Khodorkovskaya, a Russian artist based in Vienna, made a selfie in front of a new drawing by the Russian artist Anna Jermolaewa who also lives in Austrian capital, which was not yet shown in gallery or museum. Russian photographer Igor Samolet came to Lithuania where Deimantas Narkevicius lives and took a picture of a led screen with a video showing, which now looks like an unprofessional screenshot.

San Keller, Tom Huber

Latvian artist Ivars Gravlejs took photos of pieces made by his good friend Avdey Ter-Oganyan, Russain artist based in Prague – they are not paintings of Ter-Oganyan who used to make, by the way, copies of Modernist artworks previously in his art career, but just found footage of these Modernist artworks first shown and documented with a tablet in social web after which this device with artworks on the screen was also shot.

Christian Jankowski, Yagama Yankovskaya

Christian Jankowski's installation is represented fragmentarily on the photo but we can also see a blurred figure of its author.

Erwin Wurm, Eva Würdinger

There is always a shift between “idea”, its documentation and its representation in the show. Artists, artists-curators and their agents – each of them – built their own level of artwork on the basis of previous one(s). Only one image looks totally regular – it's the photo of Erwin Wurm's sculpture. The curators decided to put it on show as it was the sculpture itself.

Alexey Neretin, model of the exhibition (fragment)

Also Baever and Minaev contributed to the show by making a small model of the whole art space with tiny copies of artworks made by Alexey Neretin – giving all one more extra level of meaning.

It's necessary to look back at some previous actions by the authors of this exhibition to understand how they came to this point. Antonina Baever is an artistic director of an independent art space ISS MAG (they call it gallery but technically it more looks like an artist-run space) where she shows young and emerging artists. As an artist she made a few videos and installations, and also took part in lots of collaborative projects, mostly underground or punk-style. Baever usually participates in network experiments and sometimes starts them herself. As for Roman Minaev, he was always interested in post-conceptual aesthetics and Dadaist “simple” gestures. As a professor in the Rodchenko art school he teaches this, to say, ideological line to a group of students united by the similar views and interests. De-Series is one of his own projects made in collaboration with these students (Baever was one of them).

The video series was produced as a result of requests in a computer program: every step in production was preceded by divination on generative soft, generator-mancy. At my point of view, it was unnecessary to produce real series because the idea was good enough without boring and difficult embodiment. But in The Trends, on the contrary they couldn't skip the multi-level process of materialization of “stolen” ideas. If De-Series project looks like conceptual joke, the show The Trends questions typical approach to the issues of property in the art sphere, distribution and documentation in complex. And also undercover artists demonstrate how they can steal without stealing in our time of permanent lawsuits on copyright.

The Trends
Gogol's House New Wing, Moscow
30.10 t/m 29.11.2015

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2019