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Hannelore Fobo

Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists

October 2018

page 9Sergey Kuryokhin’s “Pop-Mekhanika”. The principle of reciprocity.

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page 9Sergey Kuryokhin’s “Pop-Mekhanika”. The principle of reciprocity.

In the chapter “The New Artists group and the New Artists movement” I argued why, in my opinion, a New artist per se is a visual artist plus.

I can now support this view with three more arguments.

The first refers to the report “Mayakovsky Friends Club” report from 5 October 1987. It explicitly mentions the New Artists group as the main members of the visual art or painting section (Отдел изобразительного искусства состоящий в основном из группы Новые художники […])

The second is based on the 1987 list (text no 6): all of its sixteen artists are painters, although they are not only painters: S. Bugaev, T. Novikov, V Ovchinnikov, V. Gutsevich, E. Kozlov, I. Savchenko [sic], O. Kotelnikov, A. Ovchinnikov, O. Maslov, A. Kozin, Yu. Krasev, K. Khazanovich, E. Yufit, M. Taratuta, E. Kondratev, I. Sotnikov.“ (text 6)

The third argument is longer and also subtler. It has to do with Sergey Kuryokhin’s Pop-Mekhanika which Novikov considered as particularly significant for New Artists’ activities. It actually appears twice in the above-mentioned “Mayakovsky Friends Club” report: in the musical section and the theatre section. This also demonstrates that those activities of the “Mayakovsky Friends Club” listed in the report were simply “borrowed” from regular New Artists happenings, but did not follow an independent concept.

In essence, “Pop-Mekhanika“ was not an orchestra, but a gathering of musicians and artists on specific occasions. In other words, “Pop-Mekhanika“ was not Pop-Mekhanika plus some guest performers. Rather, anyone on stage would be a constituting element of a given Pop-Mekhanika performance, although there were, indeed, a number of core members – mostly musicians, but also some New artists.

In his autobiography from 1998, Novikov writes

    “The New Artists merged with the Popular Mechanics group as musicians showmen, set and costume designers etc. Sergei Kuryokhin contributed to two New Artists exhibitions as an artist, creating an entire installation for the Stockholm exhibition.” (Timur, 2003, p. 13[1])

Когда появился ансамбль «Популярная механика», «Новые художники» влились в него как музыканты, шоумены, декораторы, костюмеры и так далее. Сам Сергей Курехин дважды участвовал на выставках «Новых» как художник, достаточно вспомнить выставку в Стокгольме, где Курехин построил целую инсталляцию.

What is interesting here is that Novikov demonstrates a reciprocal element: just as a New artist performed with Kuryokhin, Kuryokhin also showed his works at New Artists exhibitions. It is hard to say what the “entire installation for the Stockholm exhibition“ could have been, since neither the photographic documentation of the 1988 Stockholm exhibition “The New from Leningrad“ nor the video of the Pop-Mekhanika concert from the Stockholm festival shows any such installation.

Novikov presents the concept of reciprocity again in his 2001 lecture. Here he chose the example of the Happy New Year exhibition and the Pop-Mekhanika concert:

    Сергей Курехин показывал свои работы как художник, Виктор Цой тоже, выставлял свои картины Георгий Гурьянов; Андрей Крисанов, Сергей Бугаев-Африка играли в группе “Кино” и выставлялись с группой “Новые художники”. / Sergey Kuryokhin showed his works as an artist, and Viktor Tsoy, too. Georgy Guryanov presented his paintings; Andrey Krisanov and Sergei Bugaev-Afrika played together with the band “Kino” and exhibited their works with the New Artists.

The first part of the sentence stands in contrast to Novikov’s own account of the Happy New Year exhibition – both to his article “The Celebration of Art“ and his description in the catalogue he edited after the exhibition. Tsoy and Guryanov from the Kino band were also painters. We can take it for granted that Novikov would have mentioned them in his 1986 article and catalogue had they indeed participated at the “Happy New Year” exhibition. Kuryokhin was certainly talented in a number of fields, yet nothing is known of him participating at any New Artists exhibitions, be it in Stockholm or elsewhere – or about him painting, for that matter.

The second part of the sentence, “Andrey Krisanov and Sergei Bugaev-Afrika played together with the band ‘Kino‘ and exhibited their works with the New Artists” also needs interpretation. Did Kino play in the first part of the evening, before the intermission? Alek Zander‘s article published in the Leningrad samizdat magazine Roksi no10 (Sep-Dec 1985, published in 1986) gives a short description of the evening more >>. He mentions Viktor Tsoy for the first half of the evening, but not Kino. Given the fact that the other Kino band members are in Kozlov's picture from the Pop Mekhanika performance, it seems plausible that no just Tsoy, but the whole band performed before the intermission, and Bugaev and Krisanov might have joined them, as they had done before.

It seems to me that the principle of reciprocity led Novikov to add what could have been to what actually happened. Tsoy and Guryanov did paint on stage, so why shouldn’t they have participated at the exhibition? And Kuryokhin might have done a drawing or pinned his script of the Pop-Mekhanika performance to a wall.

To emphasise that musicians were visual artists in their own right was particularly important. Visual art caused a musician’s transfer from the New Artists movement to the New Artists group.  

Yet Novikov did not establish such reciprocity to its full extent: Kuryokhin’s name is not even among the chronicle lineup of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity“, although we might have expected him to be the music section. Only once, in his 2002 lecture, did Novikov explicitly relate Kuryokhin to the New Artists:

    Потом к нам стали примыкать и музыканты, например, Георгий Гурьянов, Виктор Цой, Сергей Курехин, Игорь Веричев тоже относились к группе “Новые художники”./ Later, musicians began joining us: Georgy Guryanov, Viktor Tsoi, Sergei Kuriokhin, and Igor Verichev, for example, were also considered New Artists. (Timur, 2013, p. 115, text no 11)

Thomas Campbell translated “относились к группе “Новые художники” as “were also considered New Artists“. One possible translation of относиться [otnosit’sia] is, indeed, “belong“, but perhaps here it would be better to use its slightly undetermined meaning as “had something to do with“, the main idea being that the musicians “stood in (close) relation“ to the New Artists, just as примыкать [primykat’] is not only “to join”, but “adjoin“. In the same lecture, Novikov did use the more formal term “member of the New Artists“ referring to Evgeny Yufit: Юфа, тоже член группы “Новые художники”, “Yufa, likewise a member of the New Artists (Timur, 2013, p. 123). If we do not believe that he used such terms at random, we should be aware of such nuances.

In my opinion, Kuryokhin’s personal authority explains Novikov’s somewhat cautious approach to “make“ Kuryokhin a New artist. Kuryokhin was a leader in his own right, no less gifted with organisational skills in the field of music than Novikov in the field of visual art. And although he started collaborating with Novikov and some other New artists quite early (no later than 1983, see my article on “Leningrad Collective Improvisations“), such collective projects constituted only part of his musical and other projects. Pop Mekhanika, the most important collective project, was clearly Kuryokhin’s creation, and on stage he was Pop Mekhanika’s undisputed leader. Therefore we may say that the New Artists performed with Pop-Mekhanika, but neither Pop-Mekhanika nor Kuryokhin himself performed (exhibited) with the New Artists.  

Novikov essentially made the same distinction. In his lecture from 2001 we read:

    В Москве было затишье, и москвичи приезжали в Ленинград вдохнуть воздуха свободы, который шел из рок-клуба, благодаря вот этой залихватской деятельности рок-н-ролльщиков, Сергея Курехина, группы “Новые художники”.

    Moscow was quieter and Muscovites came to Leningrad to breathe the air of freedom, which parted from the rock-club because of those dashing activities of the rock'n rollers, Sergey Kuryokhin and the New Artist group. (text no 10)

There were numerous points of contact between Novikov and Kuryokhin, including their both joining the press-conference of right-wing politicians Alexander Dugin and Eduard Limonov in the spring of 1995, but to consider Kuryokhin a New artist seems to stand beyond good reason. Here, I would say, Novikov’s authority to name someone a New artist finds its limit.

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© Hannelore Fobo, uploaded 29 October 2018
Last updated 27 May 2020