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|The New Artists and the Mayakovsky Friends Club (1986-1990)
Text: Hannelore Fobo, 2021
Chapter 15. The NCh-VCh Club
previous page: Chapter 14. Document I. Mayakovsky Friends Club. Application to the Main Department of Culture 1987
next page: Chapter 16. The Mayakovsky Friends Club Party 1990
Table of contents: see bottom of page >>
Regarding the Mayakovsky Friends Club’s first year of its existence, it could be shown that only a few activities were connected directly to establishing it as an official association – those two or three meetings which took place at the Vodokanal Club, its host organisation, in 1986. After that, practically all activities, listed in the report about the first year (Chapter 12. Document H), appear without any reference to the Mayakovsky Friends Club in other documents - in Ksenia Novikova’s chronicle and Timur Novikov’s New Artists text from 1987 (text no 6 in “Timur Novikov’s New Artists list” more >>). In these documents, the same activities are mentioned as New Artists activities instead.  It also highly probable that the application to the Main Administration of Culture (Chapter 14. Document I), signed by Novikov and Bugaev in the name of a “group of artists from the Mayakovsky Friends Club”, was the last attempt to institutionalise the club, since no other official document follows this one.
Anticipating the next chapter which resumes the Mayakovsky Friends Club period from 1988 to 1990, it can be said that from 1988 on, all events concerning Mayakovsky or the Mayakovsky Friends Club were unrelated to any formal requirements of a registered association, such as working plans, council meetings, reports and the like. The Club of Friends of V.V. Mayakovsky remained a name that could be used freely whenever it looked appropriate.
Put differently, is not at all clear to which degree, if at all, individual New artists identified themselves with the Mayakovsky Friends Club by the end of 1987, given the fact that the first exhibition carrying Mayakovsky’s name took place in the summer of 1988 on the occasion of Mayakovsky’s 95th birthday, in the club rooms of the NCh-VCh (НЧ-ВЧ) more >>.
The chronicle refers to this exhibition in the following way: "Leningrad. NCh-VCh Club. The New. The 95th anniversary of Mayakovsky’s birth.” (New Artists, 2021, p. 279). In other words, there is no reference in the chronicle to the Mayakovsky Friends Club as an association or organiser of the exhibition. Instead, there is a reference to The New, that is, the New Artists.
The location for the exhibition dedicated to Mayakovsky’s 95th anniversary was not chosen accidentally, as there were a number of personal contacts and friendships between the New Artists and the NCh-VCh Club activists. For instance, Oleg Maslov and Oleg Zaika, who had their studio in the same building, formed a group of their own group with Alexei Kozin, "Novye Dikie, /The New Wild Ones”, but also exhibited with the New Artists.
The NCh-VCh, located on Kalyaeva, 5 (today Zakharyevskaya street, 5) actually constitutes a successful example of using the advantages offered by the “Law on amateur associations and interest clubs” from 13 May 1986. It also registered its activities at the Dzerzhinksky district, but with a different institution. According to Andrey Khlobystin, the place opened in 1986 but was formally registered on 10 July 1987. In her book “Gegenkunst in Leningrad” (München, 1990 p. 73), Jule Reuter writes that the first exhibtion at the gallery took place in March 1987.
A number of artifacts from Andrey Khlobystin’s collection relating to Nch-Vch activities are now in the Archive of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and can be retrieved from the website of the RAAN, the Russian Art Archive External link >>. In his book Schizorevolution, the artist and art historian gives a detailed and colourful account of the NCh-VCh‘s existence in successive squats until the beginning of the 1990s (pp. 257). The following information is from Khlobystin’s book.
NCh-VCh, pronounced N- tshe V- tshe, is an acronym for Nizkie Chastoty / Vysokie Chastoty (“Низкие Частоты / Высокие частоты”), or Low Frequency / High Frequency. New artist Oleg Kotelnikov, himself involved in punk-music, made up the name NCh-VCh for a band of rock musicians as an allusion to the rock band AC/DC, where the four letters stand for alternating current/ direct current. Alexei Sumarokov, one of the musicians, convinced his father Oleg Sumarokov (1929-2002), a retired geologist, to help the band finding room for rehearsals and concerts.
Oleg Sumarokov, a gentleman from a noble family of German descent, as eccentric as dynamic and engaged in a variety of social activities, managed to establish the club‘s headquarter in a courtyard building with exits towards Tchaikovskaya street, 20, and Kalyaevaya street 5 (Zakharyevskaya street 5) – the latter located opposite the main entrance to the Leningrad KGB building, so that KGB people used them as a shortcut to go to work. The tenants had been relocated because the building was listed for major repairs. Although artists‘ studios and the clubroom had no running water and no heating, it soon became a main centre of Leningrad‘s subcultural life.
In the context of this article, some formal aspects of the NCh-VCh come to the fore: the club’s official membership cards and an official stamp, each an irrefutable proof of it being a legal entity. In the USSR, official stamps were produced only by official request and only for official organisations. Such stamps validated membership cards.
The elaborate stamp can be seen on the poster for the exhibition “Black and White” at the Nch-VCh Club (Leningrad, April 1988), which is now in Andrey Khlobystin's collection. However, a restriction must be made: the same poster was reproduced in “Gegenkunst in Leningrad”, p. 116, without a stamp. Since “Gegenkunst in Leningrad” was printed in 1990, this means that the poster was stamped later. At that point, the Nch-Vch stamp was employed on all available documents, as Andrey Khlobystin wrote me in a private email. In his book Schizorevolution, Khlobystin reprinted two invitations showing the NCh-VCh stamp as an element of an artist’s drawing; they look quite appealing (p. 261).
The circular stamp has the full name of the НЧ-ВЧ: Низкие частоты высокие частоты (Low Frequency / High Frequency) in the centre. Around, in three concentric circles is the name of the type of organisation and the name of the Vodokanal Club’s higher-ranking organisation:
Music and Art Amateur Association of the Housing Trust No. 2 of the Housing Administration of the Executive Committee of the Dzerzhinsky District Council.
By contrast, the Mayakovsky Friends Club had neither a stamp nor membership cards, which makes it plausible that Novikov and Bugaev never fully completed the registration process. Besides, the same situation applies to the Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity, the "sister" association of the Mayakovsky Friends Club: it also lacked membership cards and a stamp. To be exact, no official stamps were ever seen on any of their documents, except for a stamp from the Pavlodar city department of trade in industrial goods (Павлодарский Горпромторг) on an otherwise empty sheet of paper, which somehow ended up in Vladislav Gutsevich’s collection. it is now in Sergey Chubraev’s collection.
However, some some “light” (artistic) versions of stamps turned up on some of Novikov’s documents. One was a simple red circle printed on his text for the New Artists exhibition at the Sverdlov House of Culture in April 1988 more >> “made with the lid of a photo-film canister”, as Ekaterina Andreeva wrote (Brushstroke, The Russian Museum, 2010, p.33). In 1990, a similar version, a violet circle with a square inside, appeared on a complimentary ticket for the a dance party at the Radio Workers’ House of Culture (see next chapter).
Khlobystin also printed Ivetta Pomerantseva‘s member card of the “NCh-VCh Music and Art Amateur Association” (p.259). But Ivetta Pomerantseva, a filmmaker and scriptwriter, was not a simple member; she held the office of a council secretary, which gave her the right to countersign documents issued by NCh-VCh director Oleg Sumarokov. Issuing a member card was another privilege of an officially registered association. Pomerantseva had member card No. 78, which means that the number of registered NCh-VCh members surpassed those seventy-five real or fictitious members of the Mayakovsky Friends Club Novikov indicated in his report about the first year (Chapter 12. Document H).
In a private conversation on 29 May, 2020, Ivetta Pomerantseva confirmed that without the exceptional role of Oleg Sumarokov, his knowing the right people in the right places and his willingness to do all the paperwork, the NCh-VCh would never have come into existence, let alone thrived for a number of years.
 It might be objected that if the New Artists constituted a section of the Club of Friends of V.V. Mayakovksy, the Club was implicitly included. Yet this argument is not convincing, because there are indeed two events in the chronicle which mention both groups simultaneously.
Uploaded 17 August 2021