Alexandra Rudyk: Why did two very young artists call their first one-day exhi- bition (1967) “Retrospectivism”?

Vitaly Komar: Since childhood I have dreamed of creating a new movement. At that time, Socialist Realism allowed masters of various painting and graphic styles to coexist, but it was strictly prohibited to create any alternative trends. And, as you know, forbidden fruit is sweet! For me “Retrospectivism” was the first conscious attempt to do it. The movement’s title was connected with the word ‘retrospection’ understood as a look from a dark future into a bright past. It looked like an apparition of the avant-garde theatre of the absurd, depicted in the style of the 17th century genre scenes.

AR: Was Sots Art therapy or reflection?

VK: Sots Art was a “movement-character”, both a parody and a travesty. Freud called the artist a “self-healing neurotic”. Seen as self-irony, Sots Art could act as therapy and clear my mind of the agitprop cliché once instilled in me as a child.

AR: It seems that there are no new trends in contemporary art. What does this over- whelming eclecticism mean? Where does it lead?

VK: The old allegory of art, "the monkey with the mirror", realistically reflects this eclectic salad of ideas and concepts that fills our heads today. Maybe, it is thanks to this "conceptual eclecticism", that we have not yet scorched on a frying pan with atomic mushrooms in a sour cream. I would like to remain an optimist who lives in the time of the “last beginning”.

AR: Humour and irony have disappeared from contemporary art. What has hap- pened to it?

VK: The irony has not disappeared and is still alive today. It remains one of the original components of the Gutenberg galaxy. For me, Sots Art was not aimed to deride or mock anyone. It was self-irony, direct- ed at the agitprop clichees imprinted on my mind. Potentially, taken seriously self-irony can be detrimental. Pervasive self-irony can suppress the self-preservation instinct and give rise to the mysterious instinct of self-destruction.


February 11, 2019