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Hannelore Fobo

Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists

October 2018

page 2New Artists documentation sources and references

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page 2New Artists documentation sources and references

Apart from the publications mentioned in the first chapter, Ksenia Novikova’s chronicle of New Artists’ activities, published in “The New Artists” 2012 catalogue, is of great value to start this labyrinthine journey, although with regard to a number of events, it needs verification of participants, dates and venues. For instance, the participation of New artists at TEII exhibitions (ТЭИИ – Товариществo экспериментального изобразительного искусства / The Society for Experimental Visual Art, 1981-1991) differs from the TEII’s own lists. The same can be said about Novikov’s list of New Artists at the TEII exhibition in May 1986, published in the Anthology p. 99 and quoted by Andreyeva in Brushstroke, p.34: Savchenkov, Mertvy (Kurmayartsev), Zhigunov, and Tsoy are not in the TEII list.

Here is another example regarding dates: the chronicle has the so-called “First concert of the utiugon” dated to December 1982 (New Artists, p. 271); with my research “Leningrad Collective Improvisations”, I was able to establish the date to August 1983 and to extend the list of participants at the jam session from six to twelve more>>. The chronicle’s lack of references to sources poses an additional problem; we have no possibility to check the entries.

Another important source is New artist (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov‘s large photo archive from the Leningrad 1980s, which is in our (Kozlov’s and mine) private collection. So far, I have used it for publications on three New Artists exhibitions from 1984 and 1985 – at the ASSA Gallery more>>, the Erik Goroshevsky Theatre more>> and the Rock-Club more>> –, as well as on several other New Artists activities, among them “Fashion Show” (1984) more>>, two “New Theatre” performances (1985) more>> more>> and a number of Sergey Kuryokhin’s Pop-Mekhanika concerts see overview >>, where New artists took part as performers. In many cases, Kozlov’s pictures constitute the only visual documentation of New Artists activities.

Furthermore, I published Pop-Mekhanika concerts documented by Hans Kumpf and myself see overview >>. Maria Novikova-Savelyeva, Timur Novikov’s daughter, sent me the scans of Novikov’s typescript catalogue of the “Happy New Year” exhibition” more>>. In the course of my research, I was able to fully or partly reconstruct missing data – of those events I examined – with respect to artists’ works and lineups of participants.

Still these findings constitute but a fraction of the whole picture. Such articles are a desideratum. They would allow us to operate on the basis of facts and generate a “frequency distribution” of artists’ participation in joint activities, thus determining the group’s expansion.

Wherever such data is lacking, researchers commonly use information from Timur Novikov’s texts. This is an obvious choice: because of Novikov’s role for the New Artists, these texts are considered to be authoritative. What is more, the earlier texts from 1985/1986 (published under Novikov’s pseudonym Igor Potapov) constitute the only contemporaneous documents on the group.

In order to determine the structure of the New Artists’ evolution, I have concentrated on Novikov’s texts, too – yet with a strictly formal approach: On the basis of Novikov’s articles and speeches accessible through public sources, as well as with material from Sergey Chubraev’s archive, I compiled eleven New Artists lists covering the period between 1985 and 2002. They contain those names Novikov either explicitly or implicitly referred to as New artists. An overview of these texts follows in the chapter “Timur Novikov’s texts”, and a short description of each text is given in the addendum.

In order to facilitate a comparative analysis of the lists, I subsequently inserted those names into a table.

Although I cannot exclude the possibility that I have missed other important texts by Novikov, those eleven texts already lead to an important result: no two lists are congruent. We would, of course, expect the later texts to contain more names than the earlier ones, but in fact such differences are not all that not significant. Rather, the texts demonstrate that Novikov assigned different individuals to the New Artists even with regard to one and the same event. A number of discrepancies also appear upon comparing these texts with documentation available through other sources.

Because the information given by Novikov is often detailed and looks accurate at first sight, such discrepancies constitute a problem for researchers: depending on the text or even paragraph we choose for quotations, we may arrive at diverging conclusions. And since other scholars rely on those conclusions, they are quoted as facts, not as hypotheses.

There are different assumptions explaining such discrepancies. In some cases Novikov might have simply confounded similar occurrences, as in his lecture from 2001, when he listed American rock musician Joanna Stingray among musicians at the Pop Mekhanika concert on December 27, 1985, where she is not documented, although she was present and filmed at other Pop-Mekhanika concerts in 1986.

In other cases, the mistakes seem to have been made deliberately. We can find an example in the same lecture, where Novikov stated that Georgy Guryanov presented his paintings at the Happy New Year exhibition. This is contrary to Novikov’s own documentations from 1985 /1986.

Here, my assumption is that Novikov’s lineup ambiguities were the result of his concept of the New Artists as an artists collective. In his text from 1985  ”New Trends in the Contemporary Painting of the New Artists”, he argued that collective works were “one of the characteristic aspects of the New Artists” (New Artists, 2012, p. 35; text no 1). From collective works he inferred the existence of an artists collective, and vice-versa:  “The entire New Artists collective worked on the [New Theatre] performance, which is indeed a collective work.” (New Artists, p. 107; text 2).

A collective has a collective identity, and Novikov at times changed his opinion with regard to who formed the collective body.

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© Hannelore Fobo, uploaded 29 October 2018

Updated 11 June 2019