| || | Curators of the Vodka project - Tatyana Voskovskaya, Sergey Lobanov May 22 - June 12, 1997
| || The participants in the project |
The Gallery in the Tryokhprudny Pereulok
Avdey Ter-Oganyan (curator)
Hooch stills from the collection of home-made domestic appliances
Curators of the Vodka project
Tatyana Voskovskaya, Sergey Lobanov
General Sponsor of the Vodka project
The hard-drinking topic is inherent to the Russian culture. Under the Soviet power hard drinking was a bugbear against which the whole of the country was presumably fighting. At the same time teetotalers have been always treated with sort of suspicion in Russia. Here it would not be superfluous to add that in popular judgment the image of an artist is connected with that of a heavy drinker. The Gorbachev perestroika began with the topic of a struggle against hard drinking. And recently we have witnessed an alcohol production's state monopoly draft law to be passed.
The Vodka project of Guelman's gallery can be probably divided into two parts. One part is the art exhibition proper in the traditional sense of the word. The participants in the exhibition are the artists in whose creative work the alcoholic topic plays a very important role. They include the Mitki group, Avdey Ter-Oganyan, Nikita Gashunin. Their works will be displayed on the exhibition, including both those made long ago and well known to the public and new ones specially created for our project. To the second part of the project belong the so-called "functional sculptures", i.e. hooch stills which were functioning during the whole period of the exhibition making drinks for the guests, breaking at the same time the state monopoly on alcohol production.
This second part of the project is, on the one hand, sort of provocation and a deliberate attempt to test if the laws really function, and, on the other hand, this is a demonstration of the fact that we have already got used to a wide choice of alcoholic drinks which is going obviously to shrink due to adoption of the state monopoly law.
EXCERPTS FROM THE CATALOG
Heavy drinking as a subject of art and philosophy
Towards epistemology of alcohol use
Drinkers differ sharply from teetotallers. The tipsy one, he who has had a drop too much, or the completely boozed up person shifts in the dimension of the different world. He joins the vast crowd of those who have gone astray: vagabonds, crazy persons, radical sects adherents, exhibitionists, gays, etc, who are outside the civilized society. In the words of Zh.Batay, the boozy person goes out of the homogenous dimension and settles in the heterogeneous dimension. The truths and values of the anthropocentric civilization are not for him, and he is not for them. It goes without saying, he may try and adhere to the rules of this civilization, and sometimes with success, too. But the fact that he is able to tie his neck-tie, to get himself understood clearly, to piss in the urinal (in general, to find the toilet for persons of his sex) or to do rational conclusions in scientific and para-scientific conferences is not at all an unrefutable demonstration of his true adherence to the world of the norms, forms, quotations, popular tongues (and other sign systems). From the view-point of post-classical philosophy, the intoxicated person should be rightly called the "trespasser" (according to Nietzsche's notion of Ueberschreitender). The systems of reason and morals which clearly describe an ideal perfect man are not a prescription for the inebriated person. He joins in the numerous category of "those who are outside" who are removed by the enlightened humanistic society from its communications and circulations. As a Russian proverb says, the sea is knee-deep for a tipsy man. It should be noted that neither grammar, nor family, nor career, nor Pushkin, but the sea, i.e. then oceanic substance, the primordial element and the fundamental principle of life. The drunk man's place in the water, in the maternal element. The intoxicated men look (some of them deeper, some of them a little bit) into Heraclitean stream of being without the beginning or the end, without the cause or the result, without the center or the periphery.
The destiny of the drunk man and his oceanic soul leads him to transformation of whichever thing into whichever thing, an easy determination of a connection and closeness between logically incoherent objects, and vice versa, disintegration of evident logical ties of this world. History of the world art knows remarkable attempts to realize this seemingly fragmentary, but in fact torrential picture of the world. Suffice it to bring back to mind the dissolute pictures of the pub scenes by Adrian Van Ostade (misunderstood by most guides as parodies on wooziness), or "Overthrow of the sinners" by Rubens, which is remarkable in showing a sense of dizziness and indomitable vomiting ("I shall puke Thee from my mouth" - here is the word of God for the sinners). The attributes of an intoxicated soul, such as movement, quivering, chance, spontaneity, the elusive play of the unrestricted brush, freely wandering along the canvass, make a great artist Velasquez, who began his way in the art from pictures such as "Bacchus, or Drunkards" (representing with great competence the revelry of street ragamuffins), "The Woman Cook" (the process of preparation of angels and devils on horseback as accompaniment to drinking) and "The Water-carrier" (a hymn to the blessed quenching of alcoholic thirst the day after a drinking bout). One could incessantly go into depths of the ways and nuances of development of this huge topic, touching upon the masterpieces of the polished toper Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and setting up of cubism by Picasso who was drinking like a fish at that time (which, by the way, accounts for much in cubism), and so on and so forth. But this would lead us too far. Let us better return to the topic: excessive drinking between paradigms of civilization and inhuman naturalness.
The student of the subject should not be confused by the seemingly paradoxical aspect that there are no two drunkards alike: some of them are transformed, to put it in the sober people's terms, into the beasts and outrageous insolent fellows, whereas others are approaching the rank of the angels incorporated, so that their sentimental love for their neighbors reaches a stage when they are ready to get in a close and confident touch, including embraces, kisses, etc, with such people from whom they would turn away with contempt, when they got sober. But the angels are not humans. Being on the other side, or, if you wish, above, they also belong to the dimension of the other world. Theology asserts that angels do not know logical causal relations of the anthropocentric reasoning. Their sphere, let us allege, is not so much water (the ocean, a puddle, a gutter), as the thinner and fiery substances, but not the substance of papers and tablets with inscribed norms and commandments of the cultural (believing, illuminated, social) Super-Ego , in any case. This is clear to anybody who has attentively read in "The Karamazov Brothers" the scene of a talk between the "angel" Alyosha and the "demon" Ivan, which was taking place, by the way, in a tavern. The important thing is not, who of them drinks, but who does not need to drink (because there are some happy people who are drunk without wine or vodka from their intoxication with the Cosmos). The important thing is that they catch the meaning of what the other speaks at once, and when the talk turns to power, civilization, violence (the indivisible triad), not the "demon", but the "angel" exclaim, "They should be shot!" It is now that we understand that they are in fact brothers in certain metaphysical, not only in physiological sense.
Heavy drinking as a phenomenon of the anthropocentric culture
It is only natural that organized social communities, worried about the problem of power and control of the anthropocentric order over the biocosmic (Heraclitean) Chaos, address with aggravated concern the problem of a crowd of citizens who transgress the norms. Direct prohibitions and restrictions on excessive drinking are recorded in the critical communities under the risk of instability, such as radical and secluded confessions of monotheistic religions (from Islam to Orthodox Church) or the late ruined with drinking Soviet system, when the latter started the perestroika with loud but inefficient slogans of "struggle against hard drinking and alcoholism".
However, in the eternal opposition of two paradigms - imperious pretensions of the Socratic-Hegelian bipeds, who has assumed the name of Homo Sapiens, and his good-for-nothing brother Homo Alcoholicus, - the latter was threatened not so much by bans, monopolies, restrictions and regulation of the Super-Ego (which were and are destined to fail) as by the strategies of taming and cultivating insobriety. Both the wine civilization, and the vodka civilization (this is probably the only reliable criterion of classification of the world civilizations after former quasi-scientific ones have staggered and tumbled down) did everything in their power to make an illusion that heavy drinking belongs to the dimension of the civilized senses. Excessive drinking was given a shape and a norm in various rituals, which were especially developed in the wine civilizations (French, Italian, Caucasian). The sense of the corresponding words and gestures consisted in imitation (simulation) of the order, logic and human measure in a deed like drinking spirits. It is obvious that the very fact that the drinks consumed in these countries belong to soft drugs has permitted playing with symbolic games of feast - with so much success that the main style of the anthropocentric philosophy of the Ancient Greeks has taken the form of "symposium", i.e., a feast.
The vodka civilizations, being situated more to the North, have shown to this anthropocentric disguise of drunkenness a kind of coolness, which is also quite understandable: after a glass of vodka most participants in the Athenian symposium would hardly be able only follow the exquisite arguments of a man like Socrates; experiences show that a turn from wine to vodka shatters the perfect order of realization of no less exquisite social hierarchy. Nonetheless, a kind of elementary order of drinking and taking something afterwards symbolizing the order and system of the society itself is being formed even in chaotic Russia and described in her classic literature from Gogol to Mikhail Bulgakov. Insobriety is a factor of emotional attitude, humanity, and an attribute of the "kindly" man and the soil-related company of true Russian souls and hearts. This myth lives on in the modern Russian art just like mythology of wild illicit inebriety. Therefore, we face two myths: maternal and oceanic drunkenness and patriarchal and humanistic one. It is to these two myths (or probably archetypes) that the Vodka exhibition is dedicated. The Marat Guelman's Gallery has made a regular attempt to raise an urgent topic of modern Russia, with its roots in the unexplored historical depths.
As art of the late 20th century is directed largely towards the problem of how it is possible either to do or not to do art, and which particular actions (pictorial, speech-related, bodily and others) represent the social role of the so-called artist, it would be strange if the topic of how a man drinks, how an artist drinks and what connects him with alcohol did not appear in the foreground of the Moscow artistic scene. Homo Alcoholicus, an artist and a man who has stepped over the border and become "alconaut" enter the topic which seems to lie on the surface, but it was Marat Guelman's Gallery that had to realize the topic. As usual, the art manager turns out to be the key figure of this front-page event. In fact, in the central exhibitions of the end of the century in the West the main news-makers were not any art stars, but creators and moderators of infrastructures. The Vodka project has undoubtedly a scientific meaning, not in the meaning of the 19th century positivism-based science (which is taken for genuine science by some people yet), but in the meaning of post-classical science, which studies relativities and uncertainties, fractals and streams, acausal turbulences and other quite real things, which however do not blend with Aristotelian logical system with "yes" and "no" , but without something else. To diagnose a historical, artistic, social phenomenon, it took a working model of large enough dimensions approaching real ones and possessing an ability to do unpredictable actions and uncontrollable senses (i.e., to destroy itself). Obviously, this had to be as if simple, discernible and elementary, but at the same time to possess properties of the so-called super-complex system not controllable through direct commands and behaves enigmatically. This working model is set up by itself, as if crowning the traditional cultural topics of Russia after Peter the Great. Two clearly perceptible zones of the exhibition represent two capitals of the country: Asiatic and feminine Moscow and European masculine St.Petersburg. We can see distinctly the way people drink in Moscow and in the capital on the Neva. Each large section (Asia - Moscow - feminine; Europe - St.Petersburg, masculine) is also subdivided (according the same as if comforting binary logic) into two sub-sections, an archive-historical and actual. These are general conceptual frames. At first glance, the situation is controlled by a logical, rational, differential, "statesmanlike", and "scientific" approach to business. Boozers, heavy drinking, all kinds of conceptual and artistic tricks and stratagems to manage alcoholic realia (a bottle, a bottle label, acquisition of a drink, cracking a bottle, the state of transgression into the "other world", and social consequences of these actions, like a row, reproaching words, treatment etc) are illustrated in both sections with details and competence.
The way people drink in Moscow
The archive and historical sub-division of the Moscow division is dedicated to documents and records connected largely with famous artistic and alcoholic enclave of Tryokhprudny Pereulok. This Moscow subculture is notable for brave gestures and fantasies of the very Asiatic and materialistic type. This is the collective exposition (form and content) - a turbulent and wild wave (spread on the wall with a drunken broom, to put it in Russian terms) representing those archetypes of the turbulent sea which are associated in the national tradition with both folk heroes, such as Stenka Razin, and scholastic figures, such as Pushkin and Ayvazovski. This is a romantic and heroic image of the wild elements which, of course, will hardly reach the knees of the well-drunken Moscow ruffian artists, obviously means the formless and fluent oceanic and cosmic "contents" so much appreciated by soil-related patriotic post-modernism of the Orient, whereas the "form" (culture, discipline, norm, community, humanism) is depicted not without an ironic grin as a set of fragile cups on a table - as a ghostly micro-landscape from well-formed glass, which will not certainly comprise in their 100-g capacities the sea of spirituality, energy, will, and vodka that is going to fall down on our heads while delighting true Muscovites and frightening formalists and cultural Westernizers. This archetype of Heraclitus and Stenka Razin inherent to typical Moscow vodka-related demiurgic brotherhood varies in a lot of retrospective objects and documents backed by N.Gashunin, K.Zvezdochetov and others drinking "trespassers" of Eurasia. I would like to emphasize especially demonstrative pieces of evidence from the recent past. First of all, they include two wall-fitted taps with inscriptions "Vodka" and "Wine" (the author: V.Kasyanov) - a kind of dream of a city nomad of the late 20th century, linking ancient motifs of the sources of the water of life and death with details of urbanistic piping. (It goes without saying that an installation of the kind has a meaning only when its work is fail-safe and reliable, not when it just teases the thirsty people with its alluring inscriptions). But as early as at this stage an attentive observer or a meditative analyst may note that the Moscow oceanic myth is contaminated with other ones with obvious European implications revealing a remarkable ambivalence.
In fact, the meaning of the tap (just like any other piping-system part) is to let flow a stream of liquid (or a liquefied mass) in the spontaneous mode. The tap is what jets, spurts, inundates, and if this vitality of the directed stream is associated with the vitality of the "firewater", what is meant is an unprecedented source of mass intoxication, oblivion of the things of this world, and immersion into the waves of otherworldliness which has nothing to do with this very civilization on this very planet. But at the same time, the tap is an instrument of cruel control of a sober and merciless hand, a kind of a picture of a militiaman, a mother-in-law, a school master, a Duma deputy, who are always on the watch and ready to terminate our free streams. Alcoholducts with taps are extremely ambivalent in their semantics. They incorporate wild elements, impulses and shapeless, lawless and disordered kinds of energy, analogies of "Scythian" and precultural visions of A.Blok and B.Lifshits. At the same time, this symbolic object is far more becoming to Moscow that the double-headed eagle or the Hammer and the Sickle, being a sign from grammar of power and dominion, and an attribute of humanism, urbanism, technomania, and other discourses of Homo Sapiens. Thus, e.g, the wild wave turns into a bridled communication line, whereas the Moscow forest-steppe violence of the drinking brethren transforms into the Pushkin-like power drama born by a rebellion and killing itself.
As an illustration to this hopeless drama we can cite a famous photograph showing nearly the most desperate work of the Moscow alc-art: an unconscious body of A.Ter-Oganyan immersed into vodka-produced nirvana while sleeping on the floor in the exhibition hall. "Vodka" of 1997 includes the author's replica of this unique piece of art. The central place in the modern subdivision of the Moscow section is taken by machinery for making moonshine as a turn of the topic earlier tested by M.Bode who has achieved an almost classic lucidity and persuasiveness in the design of hooch stills. This is a highlight, a hit, a blockbuster of the soil-related and effervescent representatives of the Eastern capital of Russia. The drama between freedom and power, between culture and nature comes to its apogee. The hooch still in the sacral space of Guelman's Gallery should function and demonstrate a miracle of creation of vodka as if from nearly nothing. Rude, intolerable for many people, muddy, with unpleasant smacks and "overflavors", this substance is the very moonshine which from times immemorial symbolizes the spiritual independence of a native of the forest-steppe regions in central Russia, Siberia, the Urals and adjoining areas. The authorities and those engaged by the same see in a hooch still, just like in the cudgel of Ilya Muromets, or in the machine-gun of Makhno, an exit of the peasant in bast shoes, a factory worker or a Bohemian drop-out of the Stolypin-Chubais epoch into the other world, into the virtual reality. The hooch still has taken the place of the magic carpet, the magic hat and other means for escaping and transgressing to those areas where a hand of teachers, benefactors, custodians, and demiurges cannot reach. But its congruity is tragic no less than that of the sculptures of Henry Moore and Iosip Tsadkin inspired by the horrors of the century. Dry and cadaver-like, twined with tubes, the hooch still wheezes and exhales a fluid like a dog dying from pest. It is an artificial mechanical thing, a by-product of technological civilization, which is ready to produce any kind of tool and does not distinguish between the tools aimed at strengthening the civilization order, on the one hand, and tools made for annihilation of civilization, on the other. The hooch still is just as paradoxical as A-bomb or the intercontinental missile with electronic self-guidance. All of them shuffle the cards of a thinker and an artist.
We are losing our bearings for identifying various phenomena. We pour and gulp, as if trying to catch the thread again. But shall we find it in those areas where the fiery stream is taking us away?
The Way they drink in St.Petersburg
The St.Petersburg alc-art is represented by the creative work of the everlasting drinking Mitki (I cannot but spell this name with a capital letter). As is known, for them all alcoholic drinks are equal, but vodka is more equal than others. The history and archive part of their exposition consists of printed words. This is an comprehensive collection of documents describing the alcoholic life way of the heroes, including various certificates and reports drawn up to testify the misdeeds they have committed, their rap sheets, deportations, severe warnings etc. However, one should not see here the vanity fair of the youth. The Mitki would like to be humble and are trying to overcome the sin of pride. They have exhibited certificates testifying that the so-and-so have passed the training courses at the Anti-Alcoholism Center in America and are now diplomaed specialists in the field of prevention, preservation, abstinence and something else in the same American vein. In fact, the very alcoholic biographies of the Mitki, drawn up in imitation of the unforgettable so-called "objective information" collected by the previous and current services for control and care, refute the idea of recklessness and oceanism of boozed-up Moscow with their dry and protocol-like medical language. St.Petersburg is no less liquored up, but somehow in its own way.
One grasps at a sight that even in the state of intoxication, St.Petersburg likes to write and read. At best, Muscovites talk and sing (at worst, they shout and use bad language), i.e. in other words, like true nomads and Asians, they cherish the oral tradition. They are complete strangers to the Writing, the sacral and useless act of the civilized man, who fills in paper, papyrus, parchment, or hard and soft disks with his signs and letters, when he is seated or lying motionless and silently like a dead man, refusing from life and its torrents and constructing incorporeal figures of writing instead of the real world. The capital on the Neva is a nest of the scriptural and settled culture. It is difficult to imagine that a master of art and booze in Moscow could write a text which would be not just a faint copy of the weary and tattered soul, but an imitation of a literary work with composition, consistency, readability of a story or an anecdote, an essay or at least an intelligible piece of graffiti. Muscovites write in an art magazine unintelligible delirium-inspired, may be even genial texts, but a reader does not want them, as if he is sober, he will not understand them, and if he is drunk, he does not need them, because he is already There. However, texts from St.Petersburg, despite all their soakage, are articulate and intelligible for everybody, i.e. amazingly democratic and social. The Mitki do not refuse from a contact with the authorities or the people; whether they are wise or crazy, they write texts worthy of a plain militiaman, a plain nurse, a plain journalist from a plain newspaper. One of their leaders, V.Shinkarev, is no less than a literary man who can write articles and books to be easily read even by a retired colonel on a way to his country cottage, which is equal to a free command of all European tongues or playing the harp for the Moscow scene. To put it in other words, the St.Petersburg masters of alc-art, even having passed through the stages of heavy drinking and alcoholism, extremely dangerous both for themselves and the surrounding people, remain "masters of culture". Thereby, they try in their own manner to solve the task of squaring the circle. This melancholic and Byronic gesture is predestined to reconcile the main contradiction of the epoch, i.e. a split between the cosmogonic Eros of life outside Man and the structures of his consciousness and language, about which Kant already had known that they are substitutes of the contact with outer reality for bipeds. St.Petersburg may put on even the dirtiest striped vest and play the hoarsest accordion in the foulest gateway among the sloppiest strumpets, but the hidden dream of Culture, which can assumingly either replace or correct the wild delirium of the inhuman nature, does not give in to exterminating from the St.Petersburg soul, be it a soul of the aesthetic A.Benoit, the visionary P.Filonov or souls of the alcoholic brethren A.Florensky, D.Shagin, V.Shinkarev. Moreover, heavy drinking and alcoholism are regarded by them as a way to the realm of the good, humanity, universal brotherhood. They have decided to find in vodka and its analogues an instrument to recover the human culture closely connected with writing. They are not only culture admirers, but also humanists. The modern part of the exposition of the Mitki centers around their ideal sober-up station erected in a nearby room. In the epistemological sense, the sober-up station is a gate from "here to there", from heterogeneous other world into the grounds of the anthropoid culture world, where govern rules, languages, conduct norms and systems of values cut out to the anthropomorphic measure. For most drinkers, this is a bad dangerous and hard place where we, just like children going out of the mother's womb, get from the free cosmos of irresponsibility and euphoria into the dimension of society and culture, knowledge and morals, and we are knuckled down. The Utopian Mitkis are trying to transform this gate of despondency into a home of enjoyment, an abode of unpretentious simple happiness induced by such a trifle like a bottle of beer or a sun beam through a curtain with bright-flower pattern. They cover the walls with a tissue with a pattern imitating the striped vest so dear to them. They lay down clean sheets on beds, knitted carpets under the feet, a fridge (probably with beer), and even a view on the Kremlin. The incorporated vision of a good sober-up station as is dreamt by a kindly drunken crank, where he could feel at home, not among angry and indifferent strangers, brings us into a folklore-based and Utopian dimension of the dream about a good society, an orderly society with the authorities, warlords, bookkeepers (let them be!), but where life would be not such as it is now, but such as it is there, in the Ocean, in a womb, in a real Home.
In the Direction of the Object
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 27.08.92
The name of the action is a parody of the famous exhibition "In the Direction of the Object" set up at one time in the Museum of Modern Art which had been just opened. This Museum was attached to the Museum of the Decorative and Applied Art in Tsaritsino. At that time, a group of pro-West-minded young art specialists made a heroic attempt to include the Soviet alterative and unofficial art into a wide world context, proceeding from the premise that the truly radical modern art is always an art of the object. Avdey Ter-Oganyan, known for his persistent work in mastering the museum-related modernism, has already carried out actions aimed at re-activating its basic samples. Thus, e.g., during the action "Non-Fountain", Dushan's Fontain-Urinal was put into movement. This time, the artists himself was represented as an object, dead drunk and lying on the floor of the gallery. The "museum" discourse, which opposes internally the eternal movement of modernism to new horizons, was therefore reduced to its logical conclusion. Only the absence of a really working museum of modern art in Moscow and the notorious inertia and conservatism of workers of other museums did not permitted displaying this object in a "real" museum. The "object", excellently played by Avdey according to Stanislavsky's system, removes the chronic complexes connected with eternal lagging and "jumping over steps", when many chapters were overlooked at a distance in the unforgettable book "Modernism". In the actual Moscow situation, this doing of the artist, who pretended a bottle-drier, in a very strange way corresponds to Kulik's actions, which witnesses obviously of the realia of an inopportune appropriation-experience of the ideology of the "missed" steps not literally, but spiritually. The aesthetics of softness, equanimity, and unintrusiveness received at Tryokhprudny Pereulok differs from the vital press reigning in the Regina, therefore, the very action "In the Direction of the Object" and a careful preparation to it practically did not disturb the usual creative rhythm of the studios in Tryokhprudny Pereulok.
Funeral Repast for Artifact
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 27.08.92
The cherished fruit of the Moscow "ready-made" art found under the beds of cramped municipal flats knocks forever in the hearts of home-bred classes, as the notorious artists of the infamous rubbish heap No23 have overcome with their simple pumps and shovels the majestic towers of the Evil Empire. Following a defeat, the eternal search for the roots and longing for the lost spirituality began. The bodies and the deeds of the hero-artist and the victim-artist intertwined in the last hysterical embrace in the Museum of Museums. The time has come to answer for everything, to return to Reality, and to fall asleep as a Righteous man in the maternal womb of the gallery's cosmos, with the naive yearning of Benjamin to imitate the ancient, severe, and sober Forefathers... The body of the artist who is dead drunk at the funeral feast and therefore dreams, who has pretended the Bottle-Drier or the Black Square for the occasion, will mean a celebration of the great dream of the Art dreaming of the Art. Filled with badly cleaned exhalations of spirituality, Ter-Oganyan will be museified and put into the Necropolis of Modernism. The other day, those who wish will receive an unprecedented occasion to know about the dreams which worry the installation on the opening day.
Art should be pleasant to the masses (A.K.). But the hangover condition is known to be rather unpleasant.
MASS MEDIA ON THE PROJECT
The Mitki against monopoly, Stolitsa, #7, 1997. In M.Guelman's Gallery the Mitki set up the action "Against Monopoly". They are advocating vodka with the means that are available to them. A commodity that does not need advertisement.
Moscow Mitkopolitan, Yekaterina Akimova, Stolitsa, #8, June, 1997.
Tatyana Shcherbina, Commercant-daily, #76, May 24, 1997. In the alcohol vein, Marat Guelman spoke this week, having opened the exhibition entitled Vodka.
Guelman finds solace in vodka. Argumenty i fakty, #22, 1997. The aim of the action was proclaimed by Guelman as follows: to test, if the laws function in Russia. I have found out that they do not function. Not a single officer of the law-enforcement bodies has visited the exhibition...
Vodka/Mitki, Avdey Ter-Oganyan, Vladimir Arkhipov.
Milena Orlova, Itogi, June 3, 1997. ... Famous for its predilection for hot social problems, Marat Guelman's Gallery has dared to show the alcoholic art of Moscow and St.Petersburg of the last ten years. The exhibition demonstrates the whole "technological process of hard drinking, with its phases and corresponding states: from scrutinizing the forms of the bottles arranged as still life exhibits and tasting their contents till hangover and understanding of what has happened". "In addition to aesthetic and moral aspects of excessive drinking, the exhibition touches upon ethnographic and historical and political problems connected with the tradition of moonshining. Talks about possible introduction of the state monopoly on vodka put the collection of hooch stills of Vladimir Arkhipov in the foreground of the alc-art. These discreet devices made by artists from the people display the deepest connection between creative and alcoholic thirst, resistive to any bans.
Alexey Zhigailov, Komsomolskaya Pravda, May 30, 1997. Marat Guelman has arranged an exhibition entitled Vodka in the presence of hooch stills and the Mitki artists. Vodka was flowing directly from the tap. From one tap. Wine was flowing from another one... The guests drank 70 l of vodka and the same quantity of wine during an hour.
The Mitki against monopoly, With participation of Avdey Ter-Oganyan and others, Maison Francaise, May, 1997.
The Moscow Provoker, Grigory Nekhoroshev, Litsa, May, 1997.
The Green Snake should belong to the people, Yekaterina Babenko, Segodnya, #103, May 23, 1997.
La situation de l'art contemporain en Russie, Frederic Bougle, Art presence, May 1997.