The exhibition is dedicated to my late uncle, who lived as best he could, and died like a milksop.
This is the altar of the poor and the miserable, the invisible, but endowed by God with the ability to express themselves.
My altar is the altar of the poor in spirit and poor in body. This is a picture of the Russia that never existed.
---------------Dialog between Pahom and Osmolovsky
Sergey Pakhomov: Hi, Anatoly, I am Sergey Pakhomov. You know me.
As a child I watched an Italian film about a painter-maniac who murdered girls all the time. He had a home altar, similar to a folding set of icons or a small cupboard. And I was deeply affected then, firstly, because, like any Soviet boy I was drawn to everything bourgeois, and secondly, it was an ALTAR... And this dreadful man, this maniac came home, though perhaps I am inventing some of this, and opened his folding set of icons, not related to any particular faith, but filled namely with the traditional altar meaning of worship. So, this is what I want to talk about.
Tell me, what does the altar mean for you?
Anatoly Osmolovsky: Hi, Sergey! This is a serious subject. It seems to me that the altar has a certain form, but the content may differ. And modern artists of the past five to seven years have been reflecting on this subject actively. That is why I think your work is very interesting. First and foremost, what is of interest is the position of the holy fool, the madman. It comes from the nineties, and, in fact, you are a man of the nineties.
SP: Of course. Continuity is very important to me.
AO: And mind you, this current subject is being talked about not only in artistic, but also in everyday life around us. In Russia the Church and certain religious rituals are becoming topical. Millions queue up to venerate the Holy Belt of the Virgin. People are drawn to the spiritual, though for them the spiritual means only religion and rituals. But I have no intention of discussing or criticising this...
SP:...and perhaps they are even drawn to such mysteries as death...
AO: Wait, I'm expressing my point of view, when I finish, you'll have your say. In this sense, artists, the perceptive artists, cannot but respond to it. I have also made such works and continue to do so, and I think about this subject... And I even have my own hypothesis, that there is a particular subversive atmosphere to which we, on the one hand, are compelled to react, but, on the other, it is actually interesting for us to do so.
And so, in this sense, I'd be very interested to see what you will do because you have your own, very original, position, which is uncompromising. You even started our conversation with a harsh, hardcore example Ц with a maniac. Therefore, it will be exceedingly interesting for me to see what you fill this form with.
SP: I would not like to employ the derisive approach, because all directions in Art have been feeding on each other for a long time, and have made one another featureless. There is no Conceptualism, Abstract Art, Action. There is a single information field, so I rely on the only thing that I know myself and have absolutely no doubt about it. I rely on my own memories, feelings, emotions... I used to have an uncle, who died. Uncle Zhenya. An alcoholic and poet. A true altar man. Now I understand that. He would meet me in Shabolovka, in his room in the communal flat, holding a pan of fried potatoes, over which cockroaches used to crawl...
AO:... and why did they crawl over it?
SP: Well, because he could not pay enough attention to everyday life... He did not manage it. He was slightly hunched, but, nevertheless, majestic. A true poet. And then he died in strange circumstances. Under pressure he married some Chechen girl, the following day he, as one would expect, was found dead in his own yard, and two days after the wedding he was lying in the morgue of Hospital No. 62. Well, that is, someone simply took possession of the room... And my altar, one of its parts or even the skeleton of this altar, is precisely the fate of such an uncle Zhenya, my Uncle Zhenya.
Or there are also the cardboard signs with which people stand in the underground, at train stations: "I am a former professor... I am raising my son alone... I was born in Pokryshkino..." In this I see schizoid geography and the pulsation of graphics. Fine, handmade graphics Ц just remember the style, the handwriting on these signs. And they hang them on their chests, like icons. In general, I would like to make an altar, not derisive, but an altar of worship, an altar of understanding and acceptance that Hell has already arrived. A tragic altar...
AO:... of the drama of humanity...
SP:... and of vanity.
AO: Yes, of vanity. This is interesting. Will it be wooden?
SP: Yes, wooden. Seven rows (the sacral seven) of twelve works each, built up to the ceiling, so that it is impossible to see what is at the top. Done intentionally. Usually in churches the size increases so that you can see something from below. But I want to play on the theme of scale in the plasticity of places of worship.
AO: And how big are the works to be?
SP: They are very small. 25x30 cm. Eighty-four objects. Seven rows: the row of rejection, the row of orders, the row from beyond, the row from outside. Some strange forms, but, at the same time, precise and defining our life, my life. At the sides there will be two guards. Two large wooden sculptures.
AO: Have you made them yourself?
AO: Carved them out of wood?
AO: That's interesting.
SP: There are guards because the altar is a gateway. A door between the past and future, between the life-giving and the lethal, between being and nothingness.
AO: It seems to me that only in the Orthodox tradition the space behind the altar is not accessible to anyone except the priest. This is not the case in either Catholicism or Islam, there is absolutely nothing hidden there. And I think that this hidden area...
AO: Yes, yes, yes, as Andy Warhol said, you have taken the words right out of my mouth. It tempts. This is the place where ambiguous energies rage. On the one hand, it tempts, serves as a place of mystery, of the sacramental divine presence, on the other hand, it provokes monstrous intentions in the Russian people (in the past and now, judging by the recent events at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour). Breaking in there, shitting, doing something awful, remember what was going on in the year nineteen seventeen.
SP: Creating a total ecstatic frenzy, raised to the state of being equal to a church service. Because being a holy fool and in an ecstatic frenzy is part of being blessed.
AO: The reverse side. Yes, breaking in and doing something quite outrageous. Because you're confronted with this mystery, spellbound by this mystery, you worship it and do it for so long that discontent arises. You ask God for some favours, gifts, and He, as it seems to you, does not give them. The discontent grows, accumulates, and then turns into indecent acts. This is one of the features of the Russian character. The unpleasant, uncontrollable, untameable double is always lurking somewhere deep within...
And it appears to me that you, Sergey, explore this double. It is your position in culture, when you act in Svetlana Baskova's films or in others. Unfortunately, in the "Chapito-show" you only had a small role, but you created a very interesting image. Firstly, it is archetypal for those southern areas, and secondly, it is in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin's silent cinematography. You do not say very much in the "Chapito", but your movements and gestures hark back to the silent movies. Your position is expressed both in film and performance-art (if one is speaking of the Moscow scene), and in Fine Art.
SP: So would you trust me with such a topic as the altar?
AO: Absolutely. I think you can interpret it in an extraordinarily original way, as no one else could. It will be a unique work, and I'm looking forward to it eagerly.