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Virtuosi of Deception. An insight into the universe of the group Collective Actions.

The Third Belgrade. Belgrade, Serbia, October - November 2011

The installation „Virtuosi of deception“ in “3. Beograd” (October 2012) consisted of a photo- and text-documentation, 2 video projections (Russian World / 1985; The tenth notebook / 1994)) and an arrangement of definition texts (the terms of the „Collective Actions“) from the “Dictionary of  Moscow conceptualism” shown on the windows of the exhibition hall. Curated by Sabine Hänsgen (D) & Mirjana Peitler-Selakov (A/SRB)

Virtuosi of deception

“Trips out of Town” is the connecting subject of the “Collective Actions” organized since 1976. As a rule, a group of participants heads into the countryside around Moscow, - that is, away from the sphere of the metropolis, saturated with symbols and texts, into an unmarked, “empty” space. Often a field of untouched snow is the stage for minimal actions thematizing perceptual patterns and categories below the level of conventionalized language and image worlds (presence/absence, appearing/disappearing, sound/silence, rhythmical sequence, interval, pause...

Part of the Suprematist tradition of Kazimir Malevich, Martin Heidegger’s “clearing” or the buddhist conception of “shunyata”, the white field becomes a space of demonstration for the protagonists and a space of perception and reflection for the participants. The introduction of minimal elements of action aims at the extension of the process of expectation which in the course of the performance is emptied of any concrete contents. With several tricks and maneuvers - i.e. the “distraction of the gaze” or the “expectation without fulfillment” - in the “empty” action any assumed objectives and contents are nullified.

This is characteristic of the group’s programmatic series of “slogan actions”. On January 26th 1977, the group hung up its first slogan banner. The banner was printed as follows: “I am not complaining about anything and I like everything, even though I have never been here and know nothing about this place.” One year later, on April 9th 1978, another slogan action took place, referring to the first. This time the banner bore the following words: “Strange, why did I lie to myself that I have never been here and know nothing about this place – in fact, this place is no different from anywhere else, only you feel it even more intensely and don’t understand it even more deeply.” The inscription of the slogan banners with lyrical texts by Andrei Monastyrski in the tradition of zen-buddhist koans means a reflection of the strategies of aesthetization in the ideological culture simulating an all-embracing harmony in which truth and lie, fact and fiction are indiscernable.
The “Collective Actions” can't be reduced to the instantaneous perception of a situation on the field, on the contrary, the enigmatic character stimulates quite a large number of commenting texts. Into view comes the border between language and reality beyond language, between text and non-text, in fact, the situative gesture of “experience” more closely equates to a new impulse in an endlessly interpretative spiral in which text and situation enhance each other again and again. In the “Collective Actions” textual paradigms (instructions, rules, structures) are translated into real actions whose documentation once again creates spaces of texts and abstract categories which then become the motivation for new actions.

For more than thirty years until now the „Collective Actions“ have realized 128 performances. The last performance presented „Decoration-2010“ is the transformation of a planned slogan action: Instead of a slogan banner a decorative „golden shining“ object was installed outside in a wood which is, after the end of the Soviet Union, a kind of reference to the fascination of glamour and the demonstration of wealth and power in the new ideology of the Putin-aera.

By means of documentation the “Collective Actions” are accessible to a viewer who himself did not take part in the performances. The installation ”Virtuosi of deception” enables the visitors to go on a ”secondary“ journey through the multiple layers of the documentation comprising descriptive texts, narratives by the participants, theoretical comments, discussions, drawings, photographs, videos and a website. The visitors not only become participants in the reconstruction of the actions' events but they are enabled to use the experience from the installation to generate new perspectives of action. In Belgrade, the impulse of opening up new perspectives was achieved through the cooperation of the “Collective Actions” with the artistic group “3. Beograd”: Thus a new relationship between action and reflection, familiarity and distance, identification and estrangement was created. (Sabine Hänsgen)

Treći Beograd: Collective dream  

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