alexei shulgin on Sun, 7 Mar 1999 00:45:43 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> YOUR help needed!! - Russian artist under prosecution for his art

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   circulated on nettime-l <> on 6 March 1999
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[apologies for cross-postings!]

Moscow artist Avdei Ter-Oganian is about to go to prison for his
performance "Young Anti-Christ" which he made in last December at "Art
Manege" Fair in Moscow. 
During the peformance he was proposing to the fair visitors to profane
mass-produced copies of Orthodox icons and was giving instructions how
to do it, i. e. crash with an axe (which was supplied), write obscene
words and put obscene drawings on them. Few icons were profaned in this
way. The action caused negative response from part of the audience which
grew in a scandal. His installation was taken off the wall and further
performing was prohibited by the Art Fair director. Moreover, the
curator of non-commercial part of the Fair has later lost her job.
Avdei's action attracted a lot of responce in media. Most negative (and
very fast) one came from a right-wing oriented TV channel "Moscovia"
which devoted few (!!!) programs called "Russian House" to convicting of
Avdei and calling to requital. They were accusing him of being a Satan's
envoy, offender of national sanctuaries, Orthodox religion, Russian
Nation, fathers' faith and Russia itself. In these programs all
participants of the performance as well as artists and curators who
share Avdei's ethical and aesthetical principles were named (virtuos
people should know their enemies!). In TV programs and newspaper
articles Russian Orthodox priests openly called for punishment for
After this massive media attack Moscow City Public Prosecution
Department has initiated a case ("Kindling of religeous hatred"). Now
Avdei is treatened by 2-4 years of prison.
Avdei says about his action:
"I am continuing ironical thread in art. My action was a parody on
modernism. Using banal gestures of agression towards public, culture,
etc. I am coming back to the roots of epatage. This was the main idea of
my work and as we can see it absolutely doesn't fit our orthodox space.
Analyzing it from the social and political points of view one can talk
about protest against coming back ideology (this time - orthodox), one
can talk about unjustice: look - people are not getting salaries for
their jobs and at the same time enormous money is being spent on
reconstruction of aesthetically miserable Temple of Christ the Redemptor
(in Moscow). Orthodox icon was not an accidental choice, It was an
attempt to find the painful point of the society. Today, when Russian
intelligentsia is turning right without any reflection about that I
consider my action as very topical. Intelligentsia was bought by
clishes. It's interesting to try to stop it and make thinking."
Advocats of Avdei have their points: his action must be evaluated  by
art critics and by the Church, but not by the state. He did offend
religeous feelings of people but the question is: should true christians
reply with forgiveness or should they apply to the Public Prosecution
Avdei can be convicted very soon. Besides his personal problem this
would bring real danger to the freedom of artistic expression in Russia
because it creates the case.

You can help now!
1.  By writing to Russian Embassy in your country and expressing your
attitude to this situation.
2.  By acting through media.
3.  By writing directly to Moscow City Prosecution Department
(Novokuznetskaya Ul. 23A Moscow 113184 Russia) and/or to Khamovniki
District Court (7th Rostovsky pereulok 21 Moscow 119121 Russia). Please
point "Avdei Ter-Oganian case".
4.  By sending emails to - they will be forwarded
to the above-mentioned institutions.
5.  Spreading the word.

If you work for an institution please make your letter as offical as
If you would like to contact Avdei - his telephone in Moscow:
007-095-2617172 (speaks only Russian). You can also contact him via
email through me.

You can see one of Avdei's projects at:

Alexei Shulgin
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