The Coming Futurist
Sergey Guskov

Destruction in art is no longer an honour. It is enough to recall the reaction to recent art projects based on the elimination of objects marked, at least remotely, as “heritage.” In the discussion that unfolded around Danila Tkachenko’s photographic series Motherland (2017), for the production of which the artist allegedly burned down abandoned village houses, apart from purely emotional reactions, the most frequent were claims of violation of ethical standards. Everything has already wrecked in the northern villages, which are mostly abandoned by the inhabitants; they should be preserved, not subjected to transgressive acts of creativity; even if it is a fake and staged, it provokes further vandalism of our heritage; symbolic destruction isn’t better than the real one, etc. The condemnation clearly prevailed over support. Such art projects are now read exclusively as an expression of the author’s bloated ego; no deeper symbolism justifies them anymore. At the same time, before our eyes, the world is at war with monuments. At first, since the mid-2010s, monuments associated with the socialist past began to be overthrown or removed from the streets of Eastern Europe in a process called “decommunisation.” In recent months, the United States, the United Kingdom and several other Western European countries have witnessed spontaneous demolitions of monuments associated with racism and colonialism. Others who failed to get off the pedestal have been vandalized – from inscriptions to symbolic head beheading. At the same time, some activists advocated similar weeding of history, literary, cinematographic and museum canons. Artistic projects that were built on the protection of the overthrown – such as Mykola Ridny’s Monument (2011) or several works by Christina Norman about the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn – seemed to hang in the air and their rhetoric suddenly became outdated. Few have survived. Except for film by Deimantas Narkeviius Once Upon a Time in the Twentieth Century (2004), where the dismantling of the Lenin monument in Vilnius is neutrally depicted. Or Dmitry Venkov’s video Crisis (2016): it reproduces a Facebook polemic around the possible demolition of the monument, also to Vladimir Ilyich, but this time in Kiev, the author is defiantly soaring over the battle. However, with each passing day, there is also less tolerance for the position of the artist, who refrains from taking sides. One cannot act as a destroyer in the artistic sphere, which is still considered a place of individual and usually privileged expression, but one can and must act in the social sphere, where the collective affect makes any revolutionary violence fair. This rule now looks truly immutable, working across legal norms that have not yet been repealed or redesigned. In such a system of coordinates, it would seem that a new futurism is impossible…

October 8, 2020