Art as the fifth power. New scandalous performance strikes Moscow again.
On the eve of the celebration of the anniversary of the Second World War, one of the biggest holidays in Russia, the activists from the Austrian art-label XXXXi̶s̶m̶ TOSHAIN/ MAKOWSKY/ CEEH publish the information about the performance they have recently executed right on the Red Square – they stood with provocative slogans for peace! Ten people dressed in civilian clothes with armored vests arranged in a row just a few minutes before being arrested. On the vests with invisible paint, specified later by the organizers as a special military paint used only in the United States, artists from various conflict spots around the world share their messages for peace. The hidden texts can only be seen through a dedicated infrared device. Among them are slogans like “GO BOMB YOURSELF” by the Afghanistan artist Ammanulah Mojadidi, „HE KILLS ME, HE KILLS ME NOT“ by Parastou Forouhar from Iran, whose parents were killed by the regime, the Russian artist and activist persecuted and living in the United States fighting for the rights of homosexuals, Slava Mogutin with „LOST BOYS“, the German artist Olaf Nicolai and his „KEINE HEIMAT (I have no Homeland)“, the american artist Lawrence Weiner „HERE TODAY, HERE TOMORROW“ and others.
At the fourth minute of the performance on the square, the participants scattered, but got arrested. Seven people were questioned and detained. Among them was one of the two artists-activists and organizers Anna Ceeh, her daughter, who also participated and the 6-year-old son of the artist. Miraculously the version that it’s the avant-garde wedding of her daughter and that the vests “symbolize the values of the marriage behind which they stand“ was able to work and the performers were released the same day. After their successful return to Austria, XXXXi̶s̶m̶ TMC reveal the cards and share the scandalous action.
Already in a safe place in Austria, the artists connect with the cultural activist and journalist from Bulgaria Martina Stefanova, to whom they decide to trust in order to tell the public what happened.
“Everything was a tough preparation. To us it was clear where we were going and that things were not a kids game. We didn’t think that if someone was arrested, it would become a sensation. We didn’t chase this. We’ve learned from Pussy Riot, who were detained three days after their performance became public, and tried to cover every trace before going out in the press. For us it was important the action to happen itself and after it to come home safe, not to rush into arrests, depicting martyrdom. We knew it could happen and were ready for it. Yet things have gone out of control. Finally it is important that we are already in Austria and everything is fine“, says Iv Toshain, the second part of the art group XXXXi̶s̶m̶ TMC, in a conversation with Martina.
The Red Square has long become a stage for protests of numerous activists and artists on various hot social and political topics. Among the highlights are the actions of the scandalous Russian artist Piotr Pavlenskii, who, as a metaphor for the apathy of the Russian society, stabbed his genes directly on the square, as well as the young artist, Catherine Nenasheva, who made a public change of the bandaging of the gay-disabled guy from a children’s orphanage attracting attention to both problems, etc. The series continue, but the control and consequences are getting tougher.
After the arrest of the participants in the performance were confiscated, filmed and later returned part of the vests with the hidden inscriptions. One of them was „GO BOMB YOURSELF“. What saved them was using the invisible paint available only in the United States and nowhere else in the world that can only be seen with infrared device.
„The performance in Moscow is not against one particula person or regime. It’s much more common. This is an appeal for peace, and it is normal to happen where there is no peace. But as well where there is peace to remind us. It is a symbol that makes people think about it in any way. Especially on the eve of the World War II anniversary”, shares Iv Toshain with Martina Stefanova.
The same performance was shown last year at the Venice Biennial with 28 artists, most of them from conflict zones in the world (Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Pakistan) and the most important of these slogans is being the coverage of the current global political situation.
Anna Ceeh and Iv Toshain are well-known Austrian artists with Eastern European background. Anna is from Russia and Iv from Bulgaria. Although for peace, for this work, they were denied any institutional support, including visas or the transport of props. This, however, didn’t stop the artistic duo from scandalizing the red square days before the anniversary of the World War II.
“The audience is educated to embrace art with the function of decorating and looking good. We are pushing intangible art that speaks to people about socio-political topics. What we do can be said to have amputated functionality, it can not be put anywhere to decorate, but to make you think.“
Thus, according to Martina Stefanova, the cultural activist and journalist with whom the artists resently connected, art, after the media, becomes the fifth power. It no longer esthetes, it speaks and should be heard.