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TRACTOR DRIVERS / 35-th anniversary of the bulldozer exposition
25 Август 2009

35-th anniversary of the bulldozer exposition

09.09.09 - 11.10.09

K.Batynkov, A. Gradoboev, A. Djikia, K. Alexandrov, V. Anzelm,
F. Bogdalov, S. Shutov, C. Kostrikov, Pl. Infante, A. Petrovichev,
E. Semenov, A. Nasonov, N. Turnova, V. Sitnikov,
D. Tsvetkov, D. Krotova, V. Orlov, N. Nasedkin

Idea: Konstantin Batynkov

The project is to mark thirty-five years since Moscow nonconformist artists staged their show in Belyayevo that the government authorities of the day resolutely nipped in the bud.

within the parallel program of the 3-rd moscow biennial of contemporary arts

The bulldozer became the semantic characteristic of that dialogue between the officialdom and art, as well as a sort of pinnacle of their years-long confrontation.

The 1962 exhibition in Manezh that was vilified in the period officially referred to as the Thaw got the topographical name the Manezh Exhibition. In scale the bedroom community of Beyayevo was obviously inferior to an historical landmark of the type of Manezh. The aborted exhibition came to be called the Bulldozer Exhibition due to the patently unusual tool of ideological pressure on the opponents of the 'unshakeable' pillars of the Soviet regime, still strong and wielding its bulldozers as an expression of the brutal passionarity of the Stagnation Period.

The name stuck: the role played by the bulldozer in that case was self-evident. The bulldozer stood for the State - a mythical defender of the 'collective subconscious'; its opponents represented men in the arts, disunited by their quests within the fairly insular and heterogeneous discourse of the so-called underground. Those opponents almost univocally rejected the official government ideology as the only correct one. Just as univocally they renounced the entire complex of immanent culture, social priorities, ideas and values.

In turn, the subculture of the dissenters, who frequently represented patently marginal groupings, was likewise rejected. Nevertheless, it was the latter, some driven by despair, others acting by design, exhibited their works outdoors in the autumn of 1974. The other art made its statement then. Nothing substantial was actually shown. The majority of those who came to the Belyayevo wasteland that September had no intention to publicly deconstruct their programmatic works, saving them for better days. These days came soon enough, after the bulldozer performance was over and quite unexpectedly became a happening and even a happy end to some.

The show as such failed to take place and in fact boiled down to art motivation surrogate, a social showdown and in part an act of provocation. The antithesis was manifested in the form of a fairly expressive civil act rather than within the framework of art per se. One way or the other, they made a hash of it, and not only because of the bulldozer intervention. From the very beginning it was a controversial undertaking. The bulldozer blade alone was straightforward, together with the somewhat exaggerated affectation of the authorities' interactive response. In fact, had there been no bulldozer operator team, hardly anybody would have remembered that exhibition.

The bulldozer operators performed their mission, even though it offered no historical prospects to them. It was a form of special public obedience within the limits of the social package and manning schedule. That was that.

Anyhow, the gains of the injured party proved far more evident. Quite a few of the contributors to the Bulldozer Exhibition as a result got an open visa to the civilized market environment, the long-awaited start in life.

This is, however, the outward aspect of the process referred to as the History of Art of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century.

The inner aspect presupposes the existence of the 'bulldozer' prior to creativity in art as its manifest antinomy. As a phenomenon of social and cultural space, the 'bulldozer' has its own motivation, its right, and simultaneously, its pathos and uselessness. The 'bulldozer' is always at the ready like the proverbial armored train kept in case of an emergency to the accompaniment of peaceful rhetoric of the builders of the bright future.

With the motion of its quest art provides for a reaction, making allowances for its fairly unpredictable format. Art, especially contemporary art, is rather structured in life to comply with its laws. Herein lie both the motives and the motivation of artistic activity that has to take into account a different reality, its contextual meaning.

A "bulldozer", an "armored train", a T-34 tank or any other 'item' just as meaningful as regards "another art" may prove to be that reality. This motivation cannot be excluded in an attempt to monopolize social and cultural space.
This project is about bulldozers and tractor drivers.

Alexander Petrovichev (project curator)

opening reception - September, 9 2009 at 6 p.m.


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