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Split nik website http://www.vilma.cc/splitnik
LOOKING FOR KUKARKIN
In June 2011 I travelled to Russia for the first time, carrying preconceptions largely formed from Martin Cruz Smith novels.
I joined Lithuanian artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas and their Russian assistant, Anna Kotova, in an attempt to track down Alexander Kukarkin, an elusive Russian writer from the Cold War era. Our researches became as contorted as the Helter Skelter in Sokolniki Park where Nixon and Khrushchev had their famous 1959 Kitchen Debate.[i] This text is an account of our research, looking for Kukarkin.
Our resulting art project, Splitnik, is showing at the Moscow Biennale
23 Sept – 30 Oct 2011
at the Tsum Art Foundation, Tsum Department Store, 2 Petrovka str., Moscow
Open Mon–Fri: 10:00–22:00, Sat–Sun: 11:00–22:00
Nearest Metro Stations: Tverskaya, Teatral’naya.
We are inviting participation in dialogues about the Cold War and its legacies now, particularly in relation to the role of artists, writers and books. We invite your Future Casts. You can participate in person in the Splitnik installation in the Moscow Biennale, or participate by commenting online:
Splitnik on Facebook: http://vkontakte.ru/splitnik2011 [Russian]
Or comment on http://www.vilma.cc/splitnik [English]
Or comment here on http://traceywarr.wordpress.com [English]
- July 2010, Oxford
- August 2010, Vilnius
- September 2010, Oslo
- March 2011, Cambridge (US), Coventry
- May 2011, Oxford
- June 2011, Moscow
- Summer 1959, Moscow
- August 2011, Vilnius, Cambridge (US), Oxford, Moscow
- September 2011, Moscow – Some Topics for Debate
Scroll down for text or download pdf version here: LOOKING FOR KUKARKIN
[i] See an account of the ‘Kitchen Debate’ online at http://www3.sympatico.ca/robsab/debate.html
1. July 2010, Oxford
The story of our pursuit of Kukarkin begins for me in summer 2010, when I organise a residency by Lithuanian artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas in Oxford. I have been working with them on and off since 1994. In art projects that they describe as ‘decolonisation’, they explore the recent transition to capitalism in the former Soviet republics. Villa Lituania at the 2007 Venice Biennale,[i] prods the West into understanding what the face of Communism once looked like in Soviet-occupied territories, at the same time as exploring what might be worth hanging onto from Communism. Their work is based in research and participation. In ProTest Lab, they examined the erosion of public space by indiscriminate property development, which they dubbed ‘mallification’.[ii] See Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas website: http://www.vilma.cc/splitnik
Nomeda and Gediminas show me a book, written by Russian author Alexander Kukarkin in the 1970s, about the ideology and culture of the West, which had been one of their text books at art school growing up in Russian-occupied Lithuania in the 1980s. The two worlds – Western capitalism and Soviet communism – were split and sealed off from each other by the Berlin Wall and Cold War rhetoric. In their Lithuanian copy of the book, Anapus Geroves (Beyond Welfare, 1974 edition), Western artists appear with names rendered into Russian: Brousas Noumenas (Bruce Nauman), Viljamas Berouz (William Burroughs), Endis Vorolas (Andy Warhol), Teit Galerija (Tate Gallery).
Nomeda writes: ‘My mother bought this book in the seventies after half a day of queuing. For the generations of the seventies and eighties this book was one of very few sources of information on styles, trends, art and discourse in Western culture, and this fact made the book a hit in the Soviet era.’[iii]
Instead of dissecting the rotten body of Western capitalist culture, the book was an inspiration. ‘It showed you what to desire,’ Nomeda says.
We are interested in who Kukarkin was since he had unprecedented knowledge of and access to Western culture, when it was closed off to the majority of Soviet citizens. And so begins a process of investigation leading up to the manifestation of our collaboration on Splitnik, in the Moscow Biennale.
History tells us about the posturing of the Cold War and the US/USSR nuclear armament threat that hung over the world during that period. We are attracted to polarisations and fall easily into that groove. We know about the US/USSR split, the competition of the space race, the spies, the fear, McCarthy’s witchhunts, the mutual demonisation – all of it well imaged through Churchill’s phrase ‘The Iron Curtain’[iv] and the physical reality of the Berlin Wall. History tends not to emphasise demonstrations of a more sensible, reconciliatory human spirit, countering the idiocy of inventing the potential for nuclear armageddon: when Truman didn’t use nuclear weapons against the Chinese in 1951, when Kennedy stood down in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the introduction of the White House/Kremlin Hotline to pre-empt hasty nuclear deployment, the national exhibitions that aimed ‘toward building better relationships and improved understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union’,[v] or the joint space programme. Undoing demonisation of the other, repairing the split, is occasionally the work of policymakers and politicians, but more often the work of dissident individuals: Bertrand Russell and the pacifist movement, the women of Greenham Common protesting against US Missile bases, bringing down the Berlin Wall, many uprisings that gradually led to change, peaceful protests in the Baltic States.
2. August 2010, Vilnius
Nomeda and Gediminas translate a few chapters of Kukarkin into English. I find an English translation by Keith Hammond, published by Progress. The English version does not have the same detail on Western artists as the Lithuanian version. The comic-style captions in the Lithuanian edition are another intriguing feature. The different illustrators and book designers could be an avenue of enquiry. We find it was a book with a big spread – people in India had come across it. We are interested in the role of a book, of art and cultural activities in politics and society, the deployment of culture on both sides of the Cold War.
Progress Publishers was established in 1931, published foreign language editions of Soviet books and issued a distinctive invitation in each of their books:
‘REQUEST TO READERS. Progress Publishers would be glad to have your opinion of this book, its translation and design and any suggestions you may have for future publications. Please send all your comments to 21, Zubovsky Boulevard, Moscow, U.S.S.R.’
So far we have been unable to track down where the publishers’ archive of responses might be and whether there were any Reader responses to Kukarkin. Nor have we found any information on the English translator, Keith Hammond. We would be glad to hear from anyone who has a lead on this information.
The English book jacket tells us Kukarkin was a diplomat and his diplomatic career is another possible avenue of enquiry.
Nomeda: ‘I always thought the book was written by some spy, or group of spies who traveled the West, visiting various exhibitions like Documenta, the Venice biennale, MOMA … She or he must at least have been a KGB colonel … It was impossible for anyone else not only to travel to the West, but also to get access to most of the titles in the bibliography.’[vi]
Nomeda and Gediminas locate copies of the magazines Amerika [vii] and Anglija, which Kukarkin referenced, and which were forms of propaganda targeting the scientific, bureaucratic nomenclature and artistic elites.
3. September 2010, Oslo
Nomeda & Gediminas present their exhibition Splitnik at the Henie Onstad Art Center in Oslo with pages from Kukarkin’s book mounted on aluminium and a wooden structure acting like a media navigator, a viewing device that looks back and forward at the same time. Their project is a performing and rewriting of the book. It looks at questions raised during negotiations between two ideologies.
Nomeda: ‘Most of the arguments in the original book turned on a critique of art’s autonomy, attempting to reveal the lack of values in the consumer society of the West, obsessed with the accumulation of things and objects. It was therefore also a harsh critique of the “anti humanistic” abstract art famously branded by the US. The culture of the accumulation of things was criticized as lacking any social conscience. It was presented as alienating, as disengaged from any social or political conscience. We aim to test the efficacy of critique in its temporal dimension, suspended between the Soviet times and today.’[viii]
4. March 2011, Cambridge US, Coventry UK
Gediminas is Associate Professor at MIT in Cambridge. He and Nomeda email telling me Peter Weibel had invited them to participate in the Moscow Biennale, and asking me to collaborate with them. Peter Weibel’s curatorial statement emphasises audience as participants and the role of technology in contemporary art.
I attend the Association of Art Historians conference at University of Warwick, near Coventry in the UK, which has a panel on Art Histories, Cultural Studies and the Cold War and another on Post-Socialist Prospects and Contemporary Communisms in Art History. The starting point for the Post-Socialist session is the search for renewed critical potential in socialism and communism now in, for examples, the work of Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizik and the On the Idea of Communism conference held at University of Birkbeck, London, in 2009.
5. May 2011, Oxford
I read Kukarkin in the Bodleian Library. Initially the Bodleian system tells me the book is ‘in an inaccessible place’ but eventually it is located and delivered to my desk. Kukarkin makes a fair point about dystopic, cynical, fatalistic tendencies in Western culture. He undertakes a bizarre literature review drawing on diverse sources: Harpers magazine, Hollywood movies, Roland Barthes. He craftily uses self-critical Western sources to critique Western art, without apparently noticing that this self-critique might be one of the strengths of Western culture. He deliberately ignores the more constructive elements of Western art. His account of Western culture reads rather like the account of a visiting Martian, but many of his points are still valid now, and valid from a Western perspective too. He draws attention to the continuing problem of audiences’ alienation from modern and contemporary art and conservative desires for traditional concepts of art[ix], issues concerning aesthetics and ethics in art, abstract versus representational art. He points out that 20th century scientific and technological developments took place simultaneously in the antagonistic and competitive socio-economic formations of the Cold War and wonders how that might play out in the future.
A taste of Kukarkin:
‘The principle directions of bourgeois art in the 20th century are attempts to represent ugliness in visual art and evil in literature… Happenings are neither pleasant nor funny… Art has degraded into absurdity and pointless activity…Pop music is mostly about sex and drugs [but he quite likes Blondie]…The goddess of American culture is Mamona and not Athena…American artists pander to the desires of their rich patrons…Modern art is alienating people…In Marxist aesthetics the reproduction of reality lies at the basis of art…Artists took on the role of social commentators and became bad artists…Adopting an ideological position they have crossed the boundaries of art and become journalists… Abstraction is an alienation from anything social and human…Non-object art cannot communicate in a language everyone understands. What does it mean?…Pop art is a conscious dissociation from the difficulties of life and any opinion about it, deliberately evokes the cult of things, fits perfectly with the ideals of the consumer society.’
He quotes Italian critic Helene Parmelin chastising ‘decadent charlatans of art, who replaced high principles of realism, humanism and non-conformism with empty twaddle about experiments’. The West, according to Kukarkin, is, ‘a factory of falsification…A vacuum of intellect and feeling…TV is an instrument of stupidity, folly, torture, stupefaction, vulgarisation.’
He quotes the 1977 USSR Constitution’s statement of everyone’s right to education, culture, freedom of creativity, work, relaxation, health care, maintenance in old age, housing (without mentioning the failures on both sides to deliver that).
Kukarkin analyses films (The Exorcist or The Carpetbaggers) with the full weight of the intellectual giants of philosophy. He argues that mass art (film) is intellectually debasing and depraving the public and paralysing its social activity, disguised as innocent entertainment. The Soviet Union, he says, is very far from forcibly imposing on anyone its ideals, spiritual values or moral categories.
Is Kukarkin rehashing what a lot of Western theorists were saying or was he influential on them? I wonder about the cultural wings of the CIA and MI6.[x]I come across a reference to Kukarkin in the US State Department Archives, turning down an invitation to speak at Harvard University.[xi]
The argument between socialist realism and abstraction in art, concerning the artist’s role in society continues now. In 1925 George Grosz and Weiland Herzfelde published ‘Art Is In Danger’, accusing abstract artists (such as Wassily Kandinsky) of being wanderers into the void, ‘standing silent and indifferent, that is, irresponsibly, in relation to social occurrence’.[xii]
Making plans to continue our research in Moscow, we think about travelling by train from Vilnius to Moscow, as Nomeda and Gediminas remembered doing during Soviet times. However changed geo-politics mean that the train is hugely expensive and would require multiple visas, crossing new borders and territories. We decide to converge on Moscow by plane. The process of gaining a Russian visa is fraught with frustrations, trying to match a telexed invite in Cyrillic with application form and supporting letter. I spend several hours and visits at the visa issuing office in London. A row of Russian dolls of decreasing size stand on a shelf attached to a wall in front of an air conditioning unit. The dolls vibrate on the shelf, inexorably shuffling forward, with the frustrated visa queue, threatening to fall on the head of the clerk sitting below.
6. June 2011, Moscow
With the assistance of one of Gediminas’ graduated students from MIT, Anna Kotova, we follow the sparse leads to Kukarkin that we have. We stay in the delightfully 1970s style lime green and orange Lithuanian Embassy Guesthouse where clocks are set to Lithuanian time, TVs present Lithuanian news and we are fed good Lithuanian food. Unable to read city and Metro signs in Cyrillic, I am thrown back on reading the shape of the city instead. The Metro is extraordinary and seems to involve walking further than doing the same journey by walking. The traffic is furious. The environment seems inhuman somehow, designed for cables, industrial machinery, and not for us.
We hoped to interview Kukarkin but discover that he has died (when? where is he buried?)
Kukarkin was a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Academy of Science of USSR. One of his former colleagues is wonderfully dismissive:
‘The character who you are looking for material on [Kukarkin], from my point of view, was a paltry standard konyunkturschikom of the Soviet regime. He did nothing worthwhile, at least for the attention of the modern researcher. In my environment no one knows anything about him and does not remember him or his work. He was an ordinary servant of the regime, of whom the Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands, including Lithuanians. Is your interest in your countrymen of that rank? I am surprised by your interest in him. However, this is your business. I personally do not know anything about it. I do not have materials or know where to get them in Russia. Please do not bother me anymore on this issue.’
At Dom Kino (House of Cinema) where Kukarkin would have watched private screenings of Western cinema, his office is still there, his apartment address and telephone number still in the files, and the staff speak highly of him. He wrote a monograph on Charlie Chaplin (1960), the Soviet History of American Cinema (1964) and wrote a film scenario and acted as script consultant for the film, Pretender, directed by Chudyakov. The film is concerned with the search for life traces of a mysterious man who knew too much, was a TV presenter and was then found dead. Chudyakov tells us:
‘He was the best specialist in USSR on American lifestyle. He knew bourgeoisie culture very well, and was the best specialist of western cinema. He was a very discreet man and no one knew anything about his family, we only once saw his wife and heard he had a daughter. Philosophers hated him as Kukarkin betrayed pure philosophy and engaged into the applied things like TV and cinema. This was unforgiveable.’ We discover that Kukarkin’s daughter works at the Institute of Theory and History of Cinema.
With a professor at the State Institute of Art we discuss future thinking in the 60s, technoutopias, futurodesign, techno-aesthetics, the inspiration of the 1959 American exhibition. We hear about leads to some of Kukarkin’s colleagues working with aesthetics. We visit Falanster, a radical bookshop and ask about Progress Publishers.
At the Biennale press conference at the Ministry of Culture the people on the door are initially reluctant to let us in, despite the fact that Nomeda & Gediminas are officially invited artists. We find there are two possible sites for our installation: Art Play or the Tsum Department Store.
At Red Square we do photo-taking rituals along with everyone else: us with Kremlin, us with Eternal Fire and War Memorial, us with Lenin’s Tomb, Saint Basil’s, and also chocolate ice-cream eating ritual that Nomeda remembers from childhood.
We visit a James Turrell exhibition at The Garage, an art space in an old bus garage, founded by Roman Abramovich’s wife. At the door the security man asks me if I have a taser or pepper spray in my bag. I feel that I may have left home without essential accessories.
We visit the Biennale site at Art Play, and on the way, encounter a man, who is perhaps drunk and homeless, falling from a tree, high above our heads. He has regained consciousness when the ambulance arrives, but the extent of his injuries are unknown, like his motivations. The image of him falling to the pavement remains on our retinas for hours. We tour around the British Higher School of Art & Design.
We meet with Biennale staff and Peter Weibel, who have their offices up six flights of stairs in Ilya Kabakov’s old studio. We inspect Kabakov’s tiny kitchen and toilet.
We visit Tsum to look at the spaces and the department store context.
Returning to the Lithuanian Guest House late at night, there is a midsummer celebration going on in the grounds.
The idea of future casting evolves. The Passing Age was written in the context of the Cold War and proposed a global Marxist future to replace the passing age of a decadent and spiritually moribund capitalist West. Splitnik examines the deployment of culture on both sides of the ideological divide during the Cold War, and considers the legacies of this now and for the future. Kukarkin’s book was translated and altered for different geographical and political contexts. We are interested in its temporal translation. The space race and arms race of the Cold War are familiar, but culture was also significantly deployed by both sides.
Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto was a form of forecast or futurecast, along with other futurecasts such as Brave New World, Future Shock and The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler (who Kukarkin mentions). Today there are future studies research centres and futurecasting experts such as the Global Scenario Group.[xiii] The largest Future Studies centre in the world is in Taiwan. We imagine that Splitnik could offer visitors an opportunity to make their own futurecasts, to revisit Kukarkin’s territory and reconsider it from their own perspectives in 2011. We want to invite proposals from the public to lead discussions.
According to Wikipedia, Future Studies experts argue that we are in the midst of a historical transformation and current times are not just part of normal history. Future Studies is not value-free forecasting, but is creating alternative futures. Future Studies experts see creating the future as participatory – the role is to create enhanced public ownership of the future. Simple one-dimensional or single discipline orientation is not satisfactory – trans-disciplinary approaches that take complexity seriously are necessary. The significance of hope cannot be stressed enough as a pivotal force in creating a better future. Merely one article, book or vision does not make for transformation; rather it is consistent effort over a life time that can help create a better world for future generations. Sustainable futures are understood as making decisions that do not reduce the options of future generations, that include the long term, the impact of policies on nature, gender and the other – not a simplistic ideal of sustainability (i.e., back to nature) but rather a paradigm that is inclusive of technological and cultural change.[xiv]
I am especially interested in that point about the significance of hope as a pivotal force – and specifically in the role of culture, and in particular visual artists, literature and film, in shaping the future. The links between 20th century science fiction and technological development are a well-known example, investigated in a study commissioned by the European Space Agency.[xv]
The US/USSR telephone hotline set up during the Cold War is perhaps one such example of hope, and perhaps the 1959 American Exhibition in Moscow is another.[xvi]
We visit the office responsible for organising the 50th anniversary exhibition on the 1959 American Exhibition in Moscow and meet a radio presenter who walks us around the exhibition site in Sokolniki Park reminiscing about her childhood memories of the exhibition. We go into the small Library in the park where the librarians find us a documentary film about the exhibition. We ride the Ferris Wheel, and Nomeda photographs the remnants of the Glass Pavilion that housed part of the exhibition. As we leave the park, dozens of chess players are intent on their games.
7. Summer 1959, Moscow
In 1957 US/USSR relations ‘moved from the freezer to the refrigerator’[xvii] and in 1958 a Cultural Agreement was signed initiating cultural exchanges and direct US/USSR citizen contact. The American National Exhibition in Moscow, held over six weeks in summer 1959, showed 2.7 million Russians various aspects of the American way of life, and was the site of Vice-President Richard Nixon’s famous Kitchen Debate with Premier Nikita Khruschev. Time magazine described Nixon’s ‘verbal slugging matches’ with Khrushchev as ‘peacetime diplomacy’s most amazing 24 hours’.[xviii]
A Soviet Exhibition was presented in New York the same summer at the Coliseum and focussed on Soviet technical achievements including the Sputniks, and on industry and agriculture. Americans filled the comment books with remarks reflecting Cold War animosities: ‘I missed seeing your typical Russian home (dump) and your labor camps (slave camps).’[xix] There was significant anti-Soviet public sentiment in the US: McCarthy was hunting down American Communists 1950-1954; over 53,000 Americans died in the Korean War 1950-1953; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in 1953 in the US as Communist spies for allegedly giving away secrets on the atomic bomb.
The exhibitions attempted to bring two nations closer together at a time when many thought it impossible. Khruschev called the exhibitions ‘peaceful competition’. Eisenhower set up the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1953 and their projects included cultural exhibitions, Amerika magazine and The Voice of America radio broadcasts. Wulf describes the USIA projects as ‘America’s charm war’.[xx] ‘The USIA exhibits … were spawned by the belief that personal contact—with enemies as well as friends—was an important element in creating more favorable conditions for stability and Peace.’[xxi] The cultural exhibitions were ‘a soft power instrument’[xxii], raising awareness of America and its values among a Soviet audience, an idea that continues in cultural diplomacy today (including art biennales). The idea was to reach past the Soviet party line, and directly address Soviet people. ‘The success of the Atoms for Peace exhibition to deliver a more human side to the atomic arms race would initiate the long-term practice of museum-quality exhibitions as American foreign policy tools for the next forty years.’[xxiii] The 1959 American exhibition was both hope and propaganda – it was trying to cross the split, but it was also competitive and took place against a background of increasing tension over Berlin, which began in 1948 and culminated in the building of the wall in 1961. From 1949 to 1961, almost three million people left East Germany to escape to West Berlin. By late 1950s, the East German “brain drain” was the dominant political issue between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The American Exhibition promoted the American way of life to Russians, with companies such as Pepsi-Cola, Ford, Chrysler, General Electrics, Cadillac, Disney and Polaroid exhibiting. Sergei Khruschev, the son of the Soviet Premier, visited the exhibition with his father as a small boy, and commented recently: ‘Our life was not a consumer society but a sacrifice society for the future’.[xxiv] George Nelson’s enormous dome, based on Buckminster Fuller design, housed the spectacle of the multi-screen projection of Charles and Ray Eames’ film, Glimpses of the USA. IBM’s RAMAC computer answered 4,000 pre-programmed questions about life in the US. 3 million cups of Pepsi were consumed at a time when the Soviet government didn’t permit the sale of Western consumer goods .[xxv] The displays included US country and line dancing, a fashion show, a book exhibition, Helena Rubenstein’s beauty kiosk. The photographic exhibition, The Family of Man, emphasised that we all belong to one human family. A significant element were the 75 Russian-speaking American guides who were considered live exhibits and encouraged by President Eisenhower not to brag to the Russians. Speaking at a recent conference reconsidering the event, one of the guides, Linda Gottlieb, emphasised Edward R. Murrow’s ideal of the human encounter: ‘the last three feet’ of diplomacy.[xxvi]
‘A model American home [was] dubbed “Splitnik,” since it was divided down the middle to provide a path for the millions of visitors … This installation also included the kitchen that would, unsuspectingly, host one of the great rhetorical battles of the Cold War.’[xxvii]
Khrushchev: ‘You know nothing about Communism except fear.’
In a tense, impromptu exchange in the kitchen of Splitnik on Friday 24 July Nixon and Khrushchev referred to both sides’ nuclear threat. Time characterised Khrushchev’s part in the debate as ‘braggy defensiveness’. Nixon asked isn’t it better to compete with washing machines than war machines. The frank exchange between the two leaders continued over several days, in several places.[xxviii]
Nixon: ‘You are strong and we are strong. In some ways you are stronger, but in other ways we might be stronger. We are both so strong, not only in weapons but also in will and spirit, that neither should ever put the other in a position where he faces in effect an ultimatum.’
Nixon argued that the United States, the world’s largest capitalist country, had from the standpoint of distribution of wealth come closest to the ideal of prosperity for all in a classless society.
Nixon: ‘The fact that one of us may have a bigger bomb, a faster plane or a more powerful rocket than the other at any particular time no longer adds up to an advantage. No nation in the world today is strong enough to issue an ultimatum to another without running the risk of destruction.’
The second half of the 20th century, Nixon went on, ‘can be the darkest or the brightest page in the history of civilization. The decision is in our hands.’
Nixon emphasized the importance of cultural exchange and people contact to address mutual hostility.
William Safire, the publicist for the model kitchen and an eyewitness to the debate said: ‘This was an event of strategic confrontation, not public diplomacy. The division of Berlin … was the problem…[It] was a real war between communism and capitalism.’[xxix]
67 American artists including Pollock, Calder, Rivera, Benton, de Kooning, Feininger, Gorky, Guston, Hopper, Motherwell, O’Keefe, Rothko, Tanguy and Tobey had work presented in the art exhibition. The art was the most ambiguous and controversial part of the American Exhibition – showing some critical views of American society, and some of the artists, such as Levine, Shahn and Evergood, were attacked by right-wing US politicians and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) for having Communist affiliations.[xxx] Strong anti-art pressure from US Congress was exercised on USIA throughout the Cold War. Congressman George Dondero’s assault on the arts paralleled McCarthy. President Eisenhower, however, intervened to prevent Congress from recalling paintings and making drastic changes in the exhibition, but made the concession of adding a supplementary exhibition of ‘safe’ historical paintings including Cassatt, Sargent and Whistler. According to Marilyn Kushner the art was popular with the Moscow audience: 20,000-30,000 people waiting in line to see it each day. Right-wing American legislators referred to the abstract art as communist, confusing a Soviet public used to Socialist Realism as official art and the idea of abstract art as decadent. Eisenhower described the abstract art as scribble and Khrushchev called it terrible. Victor Kemenev at the USSR Academy of Art, wrote that US abstract artists were ‘like inmates in an insane asylum’.
8. August 2011, Vilnius, Oxford, Cambridge (US), Moscow
We resume our tracking of Kukarkin from our various global positions, with Anna using a Russian Facebook page to initiate dialogues. Architect, Julija Reklaite, and architecture graduate, Marius Bliujus, join the team.
The Biennale team have decided that we will present Splitnik in the TSUM department store, where the interactive artworks will be concentrated.
At the London Russian visa issuing office again I find that I have grown (Russianly?) stoical.
9. September 2011, Moscow
We reconverge on Moscow for the Biennale installation and pre-opening preparations. Marius joins Anna in assisting with the installation build.
During the Biennale we are inviting members of the public to use the Splitnik installation as a site and inspiration for dialogue – for Future Casts. Revisit Kukarkin’s territory and reconsider it from your own perspectives now in 2011. Future Casts could be texts, drawings, dances, films, sound.
Here are some topics for discussion in response to our Kukarkin research that you can contribute to or establish your own, different topics:
What are your future casts?
What values and virtues, in these post-Cold War times, might be salvaged from the past Communist experiments for us to use now?
The historical British, German and Scandinavian Welfare States perhaps came closest to egalitarian societies in the 20th century? Are there other models to consider?
Do we trust politicians now not to use the ultimate deterrent, as Cold War politicians had to be trusted? Do we trust the media to play their essential role as check and balance, voice of conscience for politicians? (bearing in mind, for examples, UK politicians expenses scandal, low voting rates, Murdoch Empire phone-hacking fiasco). What do artists contribute to this political check and balance now?
In 2011 the Soviet socialist experiment has failed and liberal capitalism fails to deliver quality of life to millions of people globally, so what is the way forward now?
What alternative values to the ubiquitous language of profit and capitalism can be proposed? What is untransactable about being human?
Is Capitalism finally tottering?
What new initiatives might there be for de-demonisation and de-splitting now and where are the major divides?
How effective is cultural diplomacy?
How has the debate around aesthetics and ethics, the social and political role of art shifted?
Is abstract art socially irresponsible? Non-communicative?
Why is the kitchen always the best place to talk?
|Feb 1917||Tsar Nicholas II forced to abdicate.|
|Oct 1917||Lenin overthrew the Provisional Government and established the world’s first socialist state. Russian Civil War.|
|1918||Lithuania’s Act of Independence re-established it as a sovereign state after centuries of Russian occupation.|
|1924||Lenin died. Stalin elected.|
|1929||Leon Trotsky exiled.|
|1937-38||Stalin’s Great Purge.|
|1939||Hitler invaded Poland and France. Soviets invaded Poland.|
|1940-44||Lithuania first occupied by Soviet Union, then by Nazi Germany and then reoccupied by the Soviet Union.|
|1941||Nazis invaded Russia.|
|1945||Soviet Army captured Berlin. Potsdam Conference following the Second World War.Winston Churchill lost the UK election and election of Clement Attlee’s Labour Government. US drops H-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.|
|1946||Churchill Iron Curtain speech.|
|1947||Truman committed to containing Communism worldwide. Hollywood Communist investigations. CIA created.|
|1948||Communists took control of Czechoslovakia. Dividing of Germany and Berlin.|
|1949||NATO. Warsaw Pact. People’s Republic of China founded by Mao Zedong. Russian nuclear bomb test.|
|1950||China Russia Alliance. Korean War. McCarthy. Paul Nitze, US State Department, authored hawkish NSC-68 document strategizing a fierce military superiority over the Soviets.|
|1951||Truman considered use of nuclear weapons against the Chinese. Rosenbergs found guilty in US as Russian spies. Burgess and Maclean, two of the Cambridge KGB spy ring in the UK defected. Another Cambridge graduate, Michael Straight, son of Dorothy Whitney Elmhirst, the founder of Dartington, was also a KGB spy.|
|1952||US H-bomb test|
|1953||Rosenbergs executed in electric chair. Protests in East Berlin suppressed. Stalin died. Khruschev elected and began de-Stalinisation. Eisenhower sets up USIA.|
|1954||McCarthy condemned by US Senate. North Vietnam is a Communist State.|
|1956||Polish uprising suppressed. Hungarian uprising suppressed. First communications satellite ‘Sputnik’ launched by Russia, beating the USA into space.|
|1957||Sputnik II orbits the earth with the dog Laika on board. US Department of Defence forms the Advanced projects research Agency (ARPA) to bump up its technological prowess.|
|1958||Imre Nagy, leader of the Hungarian uprising hanged. First Aldermaston anti-nuclear peace marches in UK.|
|1959||Castro in power in Cuba. American Exhibition in Moscow. Soviet Exhibition in New York.|
|1960||US spy plane shot down.|
|1961-69||Arms Race. Bertrand Russell leading civil disobedience actions in UK and imprisoned at the age of 89.|
|1961||Yuri Gagarin in space. 30,000 East Germans per month moving to the West through West Berlin. US Election of John F. Kennedy. East German Border closed – erection of Berlin Wall. US backed invasion of Cuba at Bay of Pigs fails.|
|1962||John Glenn in space.|
|1963||Valentina Tereshkova in space. Another of the Cambridge Five, Kim Philby escaped to USSR. Emergency Hotline set up between Kremlin and White House. Assassination of Kennedy.|
|1964||Khruschev removed from power and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. Bertrand Russell peace movement.|
|1966-69||China Cultural Revolution.|
|1968||Soviets invade Czechoslovakia.|
|1969||Apollo II moon landing. Jan Palach suicide protest in Prague. China Russia border clashes. ARPA produced ARPAnet, a military research network, the world’s first de-centralised computer network, which became the foundation for the internet.|
|1972||Nixon visited China.|
|1973||US withdrew from Vietnam. The internet crossed the Atlantic to the UK and Norway.|
|1975||US/USSR first joint space mission: Apollo-Soyuz.|
|1979||Nicaragua – US trying to keep communists out of South America. US Cruise Missile bases in Europe. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Publication of Kukarkin’s The Passing Age in English.|
|1980||Lech Walesa uprising in Poland. Ronald Reagan elected in US and describes USSR as The Evil Empire. Margaret Thatcher elected in UK and exposes Anthony Blunt, another of the Cambridge KGB spies, who was the curator of the Queen’s Art Collection.|
|1981||Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp established in UK protesting at US missile base.|
|1985||Gorbachev – liberalisation.|
|1986||Chernobyl, Ukraine – world’s worst nuclear plant disaster. Universities and individuals begin using the internet.|
|1987||Reagan Gorbachev de-armament treaty.|
|1988||Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.|
|1989||Fall of the Berlin Wall. Solidarity landslide victory in Poland. Hungary becomes a democracy. End of Communist rule in East Germany. Ceausescu killed in Romania. Havel elected in Czechoslovakia. Tim Berners Lee proposes the World Wide Web.|
|1990||Boris Yeltsin elected. Germany unified. Lithuania is the first Soviet Republic to declare independence.|
|1991||Yeltsin defeats Communist hardliners. Gorbachev resigns. Soviet Union ceases to exist. New Russian Federation.|
|1990-95||Russian Economic Crisis. Oligarchs capturing state assets during privatization.|
|1994||Internet traffic has increased by 25000%.|
|1999||Yeltsin resigns. Vladimir Putin elected.|
|2008||Medvedev elected President. Putin Prime Minister.|
Kukarkin, Alexander, The Passing Age: The Ideology and Culture of the Late Bourgeois Epoch, transl. Keith Hammond, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979.
Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas Splitnik http://www.vilma.cc/splitnik
Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas http://www.nugu.lt
Urbonas, Nomeda & Gediminas, Rees, Simon, eds., Villa Lituania, New York: Sternberg Press, 2008.
‘Foreign Relations: Better to See Once’, Time, 3 Aug 1959.
‘The Kitchen Debate’ http://www3.sympatico.ca/robsab/debate.html
Badiou, Alain, The Communist Hypothesis, London: Verso, 2010.
Bell, Wendell, The Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era, 2 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997.
Boyle, Andrew, The Climate of Treason: Five Who Spied for Russia, London: Hutchinson, 1979.
Caute, David, The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Churchill, Winston, ‘Iron Curtain Speech’, 1946. Online at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/churchill-iron.asp
Cull, Nicholas J., The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945–1989, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Dennis, Kingsley & Urry, John, After the Car, Cambridge: Polity, 2009.
Elder, Robert, The Information Machine: The United States Information Agency and American Foreign Policy, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1968.
European Space Agency, Innovative Technologies from Science Fiction for Space Applications. Online at http://www.itsf.org
Frascina, Francis, ed., Pollock and After, The Critical Debate, New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
Freeland, Chrystia, Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism, New York: Crown Business, 2000.
Gailbraith, John Kenneth, The Affluent Society, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.
Global Scenario Group http://www.gsg.org/
Guilbaut, Serge, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985.
de Hart Mathews, Jane, ‘Art and Politics in Cold War America’, American Historical Review, vol. 81, no. 3 (October 1976), pp. 762–787.
Hauptman, William, ‘The Suppression of Art in the McCarthy Decade’, Artforum, vol. 12, no. 4, October 1973, pp. 48–52.
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Hoffman, David E., The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, New York: Perseus Book Group, 2002.
Jakabovics, Barrie Robyn, Displaying American Abundance Abroad: The Misinterpretation of the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow, Thesis, Barnard College, Columbia University, 2007.
Klebnikov, Paul, Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia, New York: Harcourt, 2000.
Komar and Melamid, ‘The World’s most Wanted and Least Wanted Paintings’ online at http://awp.diaart.org/km/
Kushner, Marilyn S., ‘Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy’, Journal of Cold War Studies, Winter 2002, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 6-26.
Masey, Jack, Six Weeks in Sokolniki Park: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American National Exhibition in Moscow 1959.
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Philby, Kim, My Silent War, London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1968.
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Snyder, Alvin, Warriors of Disinformation: American Propaganda, Soviet Lies, and the Winning of the Cold War, New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995.
Straight, Michael, After Long Silence, London: Collins, 1983.
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Wulf, Andrew, Book Review: ‘Cold War Confrontations’, Cultural Diplomacy, Winter 2010, pp. 116-119.
Wulf, Andrew, ‘Summer of Splitnik: Remembering the American National Exhibition in Moscow’, posted 29 July 2009 online at http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/summer_of_splitnik_remembering_the_american_national_exhibition_in_moscow/
Watson, Gray; van Noord, Gerrie & Everall, Gavin eds., Make Everything New: A Project on Communism, London: Book Works, 2006.
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[i] Urbonas, Nomeda & Gediminas, Rees, Simon, eds., Villa Lituania, New York: Sternberg Press, 2008.
[iv] Winston Churchill, ‘Iron Curtain Speech’, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946. Online at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/churchill-iron.asp
[v] Kushner, Marilyn S., ‘Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy’, Journal of Cold War Studies, Winter 2002, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 6.
[vii] See Snyder, Alvin, Warriors of Disinformation: American Propaganda, Soviet Lies, and the Winning of the Cold War, New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995, and Elder, Robert, The Information Machine: The United States Information Agency and American Foreign Policy, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1968.
[x] For a discussion of the CIA’s cultural activities see Guilbaut, Serge, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985.
[xi] State Department Archives http://www.archive.org/stream/departmentofstatx2049unit/departmentofstatx2049unit_djvu.txt
[xii] Grosz, George & Herzfelde, Weiland, ‘Art Is In Danger’, 1925. Reprinted in Harrison, Charles & Wood, Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.
[xiii] On future studies see, for examples, Global Scenario Group http://www.gsg.org/; Recorded Future www.recordedfuture.com; Dennis, Kingsley & Urry, John, After the Car, Cambridge: Polity, 2009; Bell, Wendell, The Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era, 2 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997.
[xvi] See the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/. During the Cuban Missile Crisis philosopher and peace campaigner, Bertrand Russell exchanged telegrams with Khruschev, with Khruschev reassuring Russell that he would not be reckless.
[xvii] Wulf, Andrew, ‘Moscow ’59: The “Sokolniki Summit” Revisited’, CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, Paper 1, Los Angeles: Figueroa Press, 2010, p. 11.
[xviii] ‘Foreign Relations: Better to See Once’, Time, 3 Aug 1959.
[xix] New York Times, 5 July 1959.
[xx] Wulf, Andrew, Book Review: ‘Cold War Confrontations’, Cultural Diplomacy, Winter 2010, p. 116.
[xxi] Masey, Jack & Morgan, Conway Lloyd, Cold War Confrontations: U.S. Exhibitions and their Role in the Cold War, Baden: Lars Muller Publishers, 2008, p. 402. In the army, Jack Masey worked alongside designer Bill Blass and artist Ellsworth Kelly in the Camouflage Engineers creating dupe rubber tanks and other battle materials.
[xxii] Wulf, ‘The “Sokolniki Summit” Revisited’, 2010, p. 5.
[xxiii] Wulf, ‘The “Sokolniki Summit” Revisited’, 2010, p. 10.
[xxiv] Quoted by Andrew Wulf, drawing on first-person accounts at the conference, From Face-off to Facebook: From the Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate to Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century, held at George Washington University, July 23, 2009. Wulf, Andrew, ‘Summer of Splitnik: Remembering the American National Exhibition in Moscow’, posted 29 July 2009 online at http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/summer_of_splitnik_remembering_the_american_national_exhibition_in_moscow/
[xxv] Pepsi was the first US consumer good to go on sale in Russia in 1964.
[xxvi] Wulf, ‘Summer of Splitnik’, 2009.
[xxvii] Wulf, ‘Summer of Splitnik’, 2009.
[xxviii] Time, 1959.
[xxix] Wulf, ‘Summer of Splitnik’, 2009.
[xxx] Francis Walter, Chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) claimed that 34 of the 67 artists selected had been involved in some Communist organisation. Kushner, 2002, p. 10.