Feb 25, 2009

Russian Performance: Gerlovins

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Costumes, 1977)
“Since 1977, the Gerlovins have created many performances in which they have participated as actors. The Gerlovins’ performances have no spectators, only participants. One of their basic concerns is the creation of “an atmosphere of a play.” Elements of non satirical (basically moralizing) and entertaining fun are present in nearly all their work.

(Rimma Gerlovina, Combinational Play-Poem (Paradise-Purgatory-Hell), 1976)
In 1976, Rimma Gerlovina created one of her first “poems-constructions” entitled Paradise-Purgatory-Hell, which was hung on the wall like a painting. The honeycomb-like structure was filled with cubes with names of famous people such as Socrates, Raphael, Nobel, Confucius, Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Torotsky, Shopenhauer, Newton, and the Beatles. These cubes were supposed to be handled by the spectators, who could rearrange the cubes, write their own poetry, and pass judgment. The cubes with the names of different personalities drift between “paradise,” “purgatory,” and “hell,” the layers of a final destination, fixed and infinite at the same time.

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Zoo, 1977)
One of the Gelovins’ wittiest photo documents of their performances is the famous work Zoo, March 1977. The Gerlovins argued that at birth each person appears in a physical body, which the ancient Greeks associated with a cage. In Zoo the two artists spent a day, naked, in a cage labeled “Homo Sapiens. Group of Mammals. Male and Female.” The resulting photographs (by Viktor Novatsky) were interpreted by the Western press as a ‘symbolic image of Russian artists’ during the 1977 Eastern European Biennale in Venice. According to the Gerlovin, the life of an artist is usually full of deviations from social standards and has many elements of the wilderness of nature itself. As the artists stated, their Zoo experience ‘appears symbolic of social and emotional isolation and introversion to the point of contact with the unconsciousness or the anima/animus structure (which the title suggests).’ The artists believe that it is ‘of of the uneasy points of departure from the life of a regular social man, since visually it looks like a contamination with bestial elements’. Mankind is ‘stuck midway between the gods and the beasts.’ Zoo demonstrates man’s instincts of possessiveness, rivalry, and desires.

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, 2+2=4, 1977)
Conversations, 1977, a series of photographs documenting of the Gerlovins’ ‘still’ performances, alludes to the absorption of time, space, personalities, and events. It presents the Gerlovins in coversatino with various important personalities of different ages and laces, including Joan of Arc, Lao-tsu, Leonardo, Catherine the Great, and John Cage.”
And a 2D work:

(Valeriy Gerlovin and Rimma Gerlovina, The Interchangable Graphic of Happiness (The Wedding of Liubov and Viktor Novatsky), photographed by Igor Makarevich, Moscow, 1978)
(text from: Rosenfeld, Alla, "Stretching the Limits, On Photo-Related Works of Art in the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection," pg. 139-144, BEYOND MEMORY: Soviet Nonconformist Photography and Photo-Related Works of Art, edited by Diane Neumaier, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 2004.)

No comments: