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Hannelore Fobo

Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists

October 2018

page 7The New Artists group and the New Artists movement

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page 7The New Artists group and the New Artists movement

By a common understanding, the term “group“ conveys some kind of shared worldview or task. In art, the term doesn’t claim homogeneity of its members with regard to style and attitude, but the group cohesion would be higher than that of a movement, which typically comprises a larger number of adherents.

In 1984 / 1985, the number of New artists increased with several dadaistic performances, first with “Fashion Show” in 1984, and in 1985 with the “New Theatre“ and Sergey Kuryokhin’s “Pop Mekhanika” concerts. The question is whether in 1985, the New Artists should still be regarded as a group or already as a movement.  

Earlier this year I published an article about the exhibition “Happy New Year“ at the Leningrad rock club – the New Artists’ first large solo group show more >>. It opened on 27 December 1985, and on the same evening, a Pop-Mekhanika concert took place at the rock with the participation of many New artists (an earlier version of this article erroneously dated the concert to the 29th of December). The double event constituted a turning point in the New Artists‘ history, marking its passage from a private to a public phenomenon. I already referred to Novikov’s to description in “The Celebration of Arts“ and published his catalogue; in fact, the exhibition is a frequent subject of Novikov’s texts. Kozlov documented both the exhibition more >> and the concert with negative films and slides more >> .

Comparing these documents with later lists, I found that names appearing in them stood in relation to Novikov’s 1998 autobiography and came to the conclusion that

    by and large, the "New Artists" group, this steadily growing movement, had defined itself with the exhibition ‘Happy New Year’, opening on December 27, 1985, and the painting-performance at the Pop Mekhanika concert the same evening more>>. Together, the exhibition and the concert included sixteen out of Novikov’s twenty New Artists’ names from his 1998 biography – ten and six, respectively. more >>

We see that at that point I still wasn’t quite consistent with the use of either “group“ or movement. In fact, I used them as synonyms.

Those sixteen artists are: five founding members – Sotnikov, Novikov, Khazanovich, Kotelnikov, Kozlov –, as well as, from the "second" generation or wave, Andrey Krisanov, Sergei Bugaev, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Evgeny Yufit (the founder of Necrorealism), Valery Cherkasov, (made a New artist by Timur Novikov posthumously; see chapter 1, text no 1), Georgy Guryanov and Viktor Tsoi (both from the KINO band), Vladislav Gutsevich, Inal Savchenkov, and New Composers Igor Verichev and Valery Alakhov.

The other four artists named in the “Autobiography” joined in 1986: Oleg Maslov, Alexey Kozin, and Oleg Zaika from the “New Wilds” group, and Andrey Medvedev.

I intuitively regarded these twenty artists from the 1998 autobiography as a group, since they were all (also) visual artists – they had the same profession, in a manner of speaking – with the exception of New Composer Valery Alakhov. Valery Alakhov is also one of the sixteen names I established for “Happy New Year”. I added him although he is a musician, not a painter (he occasionally does objects or other works), because I included Igor Verichev, his partner from the “New Composers”, and Verichev is also a visual artist. In other words, I made an exception for Alakhov as a non-visual artist, but decided to ask Alakhov himself whether he considered the New Composers as part of the New Artists or not. Here is his sibylline answer from 12 September, 2018. It proves that my meticulous categorising of the New Artists can hardly find an understanding among those it concerns:

    в то время, в конце 1983 года […]  мы были новыми художниками и художники(Тимур) были новыми композиторами, то есть все были вместе, но недолго... / At that time, at the end of 1983 […] we were new artists and the artists (Timur) were new composers, that is, everyone was together for a short period of time …

Admittedly, a group of nineteen painters and one musician is a somewhat improbable phenomenon, but I regard this as a formal description: each of these artists belonged to the group around 1986, but not necessarily earlier or later. In fact, as long as the New Artists existed, those artists might have exhibited together only once, or at least many of those nineteen: in 1988, at the Leningrad Sverdlov Palace of Culture – if we are to believe Novkov’s flyer for this exhibition. As we see, this requires a double condition to be fulfilled.

However, their works were shown in New Artists’ retrospectives, such as the exhibition “The New Artists” at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2012, with Andreyeva´s corresponding catalogue quoted in this article.   

In his autobiography, Novikov is even quite precise about the succession of those fifteen artists adhering to the group's five founding members (see table), although it is one of Novikov's "seeming” accuracies: for instance, the New Composers appear together with Oleg Maslov, Alexey Kozin and Oleg Zaika, which is definitely too late.

Unlike Novikov, I do not include Sergey Kuryokhin for reasons I will explain in the chapterSergey Kuryokhin’s Pop-Mekhanika. The principle of reciprocity”. In the “Happy New Year” article, I didn’t include artists from “Pirate Television“ either, because, as I have written above, I hold “Pirate Television” to fall into the transition period to Novikov’s next art project. But this is a matter of interpretation. On reflection, I am inclined to exclude “Pirate Television” from the New Artists group, although I would still include it into the New Artists movement. This is a due to the periodisation I made, where the years from 1989 to 1991 constitute a kind of late period or appendix to New Artists’ activities. The difficulty here lies with the fact that Novikov himself contributed to “Pirate Television”, and so it is counter-intuitive to align this project “only” to the movement and not to Novikov’s group.

Another important point of Novikov's autobiography is that he only speaks of the New Artists as a group and doesn’t return to the term “movement” he created for the flyer from 1988, while he again occasionally uses “movement” in his two lectures from 2001 and 2002. I will come back to this point later.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention Novikov’s reference, in his autobiography, to the movie ASSA. Novikov writes that it is “essentially dedicated to the New Artists group, as well” (“который, в сущности, также посвящен группе «Новые художники»”), but I have doubts about defining ASSA as a New Artists movie. Although Bugaev played the main role and Kino played some important songs, the plot as such has nothing to do with the New Artists.

Andrey Khlobystin writes

    «АССА» — фильм в духе поздней советской школы, конечно же, был совершенно не в духе параллельного кино «Новых художников» хотя их музыка, актеры, фрагменты фильмов, произведения, объекты и интерьеры во многом определили самые интересные моменты, новую для зрителей фактуру и успех этой ленты.  (Shizorevolutsiia, p. 107)

    ASSA is a movie made in the spirit of late Soviet cinema. It goes without saying that it had nothing to do with the New Artists’ Parallel Cinema, although it was mostly their music, actors, works, objects and interiors that created the most interesting moments and a texture that was new for the audience. This is how the movie became a success.

According to Khobystin, Novikov was well aware of the fact that ASSA was a far way from Antonioni’s masterpiece (“это, конечно не Блоу уп» / This is not Blow Up; Ibid, footnote 260).

But even if we did include this movie, it wouldn’t add new names to the group.

In the chapter introducing Novikov’s texts, I defined one of four possible approaches to deal with these texts. No 4 was “One of the (later) lists is more authoritative than the others.” I also wrote “In the fourth case we need good arguments why one text should be more important than others.”

The reason why I consider the autobiography from 1998 as more reliable than the two lectures from 2001 and 2002 is simple. In his lectures, Novikov tended to name those present, among them Necrorealist Yuri Krasev (Tsirkul) and artist and art-critic Andrei Khlobystin (text no 10), while ignoring some of those not present – e.g. Cherkasov and Gutsevich. It is likely that the audience’s physical presence had some influence on his speech. In this respect, I believe a written text to be more carefully composed than the lectures.

In other words, I somewhat adapted the 1998 autobiography to make it my authoritative source. This allowed me to consider the group’s formation as completed in 1986. Accordingly, all other New artists – be it prior of after 1986 – would belong to the New Artists movement.

Provided that we wish to differentiate between "group“ and “movement”, I think that on the whole, such a classification makes sense. It is certainly not the only possible classification – although so far, no one has offered any other. As I wrote in the introduction, I am convinced that the definition of the New Artists as a group as opposed to a movement is related to the classification of a New artist as a visual artist or not.

Although Novikov himself uses both terms in his lectures in different ways – “group” in relation to New Artists and “movement” in relation to the movement of the “New“ (движение “Новых”, dvizhenie “Novykh”) – the distinction isn't all that clear. The Russian language allows two interpretations of the movement of the “New“: it can be a short form of the “New Artists” movement, or it may refer to New in a general way, which would then include the New Artists group.

Throughout his writings, Novikov offered two conflicting definitions; interestingly, the examples always relate to the years up to 1986. We find these mutually exclusive definitions even in a single text, his lecture from 2002. We could call them the principle of exclusion and the principle of inclusion.

The principle of exclusion holds the New Artists group to be a group of visual artists running parallel to groups from other genres – theatre, literature, music –, all expressing the spirit of the “New”:

    Собственно, “Новые художники” - это была только часть группировки “Новых”, поскольку одновременно существовал и “Новый театр”, “Новое литературное объединение”, вот “Новые композиторы”. (Timur, 2013, p. 115, text No 11)

    The “New Artists” were only part of the “New” as a group, because the New Theatre, the New Literary Association, and the New Composers existed at the same time. 

The English sentence is somewhat different in Thomas Campbell’s translation for the catalogue “Timur”, which I adapted to make it sound more literal. Campbell wrote: “The New Artists per se were only part of the New Artists movement.” Novikov, however, spoke of a part of a grouping or group, not of a part of a movement.

Campbell, a highly experienced translator and expert in the field of the Leningrad and Saint Petersburg art-scene (he also translated Andreyeva’s catalogues), opted for a another differentiation: the New Artists per se versus the New Artists movement. If the New Artists per se are neither performers nor writers nor musicians, then they are, by way of exclusion, artists in a narrower sense of the word – visual artists.

This makes way for a double definition: the New Artists per se would be a group of visual artists, and the New Artists in a larger sense would be a movement that included the New Artists per se plus artists from fields other than visual art (I will now use the terms New Artists group and New Artists per se as synonyms.)

At least such an interpretation would be logically plausible, and this would explain why Campbell chose to write “the New Artists movement“, thereby correcting Novikov’s terminology, and not “the ‘New’ as a group“.

Unfortunately, establishing two separate categories or sets has not yet solved the problem. Actually, they cannot be regarded as separate. We now proceed to the principle of inclusion. In the same lecture from 2002, Novikov explains how the New Artists “per se” , that is, a group of visual artists, became artists in the broader sense of the word: a person skilled in some task or occupation. New Artists turned into a general term including all artistic genres.

    Но что же произошло дальше? Освоив перекомпозицию, “Новые художники” стали осваивать разные жанры: музыка, литература, театральное действие, кино - все было подвластно их деятельности. Нужны были проникновения одного жанра в другой. (Timur, 2013 p. 153, text no 11)

    But what happened next? Having mastered recomposition, the New Artists set about mastering different genres: music, literature, theatrical performance, film – everything was subject to their endeavours. What was needed were infusions of one genre into the other.

Such mastery is not only a demonstration of talent; it is also mocks the rigid Soviet system, which claimed to rightfully keep every citizen within the limits of some desired or tolerated activity according to their formal education. Here visual art figures as the higher-ranking category for all other genres, which thus become “branches“ of the New Artists per se. Speaking in terms of set theory, “musicians”, “poets”, “performers” etc. are all subsets of the set “visual artists“.

This offered an advantage: Novikov could “recount“ the same artist in different categories: in the set and the subset. 

For instance, in his article “The Celebration of Arts” (Праздник искусств), Novikov lists ten groups participating in Pop-Mekhanika‘s “Happy New Year” performance. Among them are “a group of artists”, an“ industrial group“, and the “New Theatre”. The group of artists consisted of “Leningrad artists Oleg Kotelnikov, Evgenij Kozlov Timur Novikov, Sergei Bugaev, Vladimir Gutsevich, Moscow artists Nikita Alexeev and Nikolai Ovchinnikov”. (Antology, p. 91). Of those, Timur Novikov, Sergei Bugaev belonged to all three groups or sets, and Vladimir Gutsevich to two, namely a “group of artists” and the ”New Theatre”.

This doesn’t violate the principle of the higher-ranking category “visual arts”. All members of the ”New Theatre” and the“ industrial group“ (noise-producing artists), were also members of “a group of artists”. The group doesn’t get larger – it doesn’t turn into a movement.

Hence, if we want speak of the New Artists movement, what we need are people who are not New Artists per se but collaborate with them in their “side” projects – those people Novikov called “other artists, musicians, strangers and passersby.” (New Artists, p. 107, text no 2).

Let us consider the case of the New Theatre. In his autobiography, Novikov wrote about the “New Theatre”:

    В театре играли, помимо «Новых художников», музыканты группы «Кино», Наталья Пивоварова, позднее ставшая лидером группы «Колибри», тогда еще начинающая певица Жанна Агузарова, стиляги, некрореалисты и модники. (Timur, 2003, p. 12, text no 9)
    Apart from the “New Artists”, with the [New] Theatre performed musicians from the Kino band, Natalia Pivovarova, who later founded Kolibri, Zhanna Aguzarova, at that time beginning her career, Neokrorealists and fashionistas.[1]

To my knowledge, at these performances, the musicians of the Kino band and the Nekrorealists were each represented by a single member, Georgy Guryanov and Evgeny Yufit, respectively. A little earlier in the same text, Novikov listed them both as New Artists.

    вскорости к нам присоединились Георгий Гурьянов […] Котельников привел молодого человека по имени Евгений Юфит, (Timur 2003, p. 12, text no 9)

    We were soon joined by Georgy Guryanov […] Oleg Kotelnikov introduced us to Evgeny Yufit.

Thus, Guryanov and Yufit were part of the New Artists and its subset New Theatre. Novikov could have simplified the sentence in the following way “Apart from the New Artists, with the [New] Theatre performed Natalia Pivovarova, who later founded Kolibri, Zhanna Aguzarova, at that time beginning her career, and fashionistas.” But this would have made the performances less grandiose, and this was not Novikov’s intention.

With regard to Guryanov, it is interesting that Novikov never regarded him as a New Artists founding member, although during the zero object scandal, Guryanov was just as active as Khazanovich in taking position for Novikov and Sotnikov. This supports my thesis that only visual artists should be counted among the New Artists per se. In 1982, Guryanov was engaged only in music; he took up painting somewhat later.

Now we are left with the remaining performers. Natalia Pivovarova, Zhanna Aguzarova, and fashionistas were definitely not members of the New Artists per se, but they participated with the New Theatre troupe. Would a one-time participation be enough to make them members of the New Theatre? Should they then be included into the New Artists movement?

Suppose we do. This doesn’t really get us very far, because the New Theatre is the most evident example of a New Artists’ group activity with “other“ people, that is, extending to the New Artists’ movement. The situation is less clear with music, film, and literature.

In the 1980s, the “New Composers” strictly remained a duo and never turned into a larger New Artists movement. KINO was a band connected to the New Artists per se only via two of its members, Guryanov and Tsoy. Film was represented in the first place by Evgeny Yufit, the leader of the Necrorealists. Necrorealist members contributed to Yufit’s films as actors, but were also painters. Evgeny Yufit connected the New Artists and the Necrorealists in persona. Are such selected personal links enough to regard KINO and the Necrorealists as part of the New Artists movement? Names of Necrorealists – Yufit, Krasev/Tsirkul, Mertvy/Kumaryatsev also appear in the New Artists Anthology from 1987, a compilation of texts and poetry. Here they figure as New Artists.

In essence, there are three questions: one – how substantial or influential was the presence of one or more New artists in some kind of common activity with other individuals or groups? Two – if they were influential, were they influential in their quality as New artists? And three – at what point can we speak of those other individuals or groups as belonging to a New Artists movement?

I know this sounds rather formal, but the idea is that a movement is formed around a core of people drawing others into their orbit. Who exactly were these people “orbiting around” the New Artists per se?

Since there existed no formal – written – chart of the New Artists, there was no need to give a definite answer. Groups and individual names could all subsumed under the extremely vague term “New Artists movement”.

[1] The English translation in Timur, 2003, is not very accurate and has “other members of the alternative scene” instead of “Neokrorealists and fashionistas”

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© Hannelore Fobo, uploaded 29 October 2018

Last updated 31 May 2023