[ISEA94] Curator Statement: Marat Guelman — Conversion: Russian media artists working with military technology

Curator Statement

Customs Office and Warehouse Building, Helsinki

ln Russia, a peculiar relationship between art and new technology has always been predominant. The technical innovations were for a long time regarded as follies, something one really did not believe in. Still in the 70’s, a normal audio magnetophone was considered dissident.  The possibility of manipulating information with technology was the privilege of the State. The only official centers for new technology were provided by corporations of the military complex. This is why “Conversion” – the recycling of military technology for peaceful purposes – became synonymous for the “Eastern way” as opposed to the “Western way”. lSEA94 premieres the new works of the Conversion art project, silently prepared for six months. The exhibition features works by

  1. Nikita Gashunin – Global Ambitions
  2. Savadov & Senchenko – Work in progress
  3. Gia Rigvava – You Can Trust Me, You Are Powerless
  4. AES Group – Work in progress

In Russia, a peculiar relationship between art and new technology has always been  predominant: think only of Levsha, the left-handed smith of Russian folklore, who knew how to shoe a flea, but with the help of technology that was primitive indeed. The technical innovations were regarded as follies, something one really did not believe in. For a long time, the theory of
N.Wiener was looked upon as a bourgeois pseudo-science; which is why the concept of new technology had an overtone of idealist philosophy. Even in the 70’s, a normal audio magnetophone was considered dissident. The possibility of manipulating information with technology was the privilege of the State. The only official centra for new technology were provided by corporations of the military complex. This is why “Conversion” became synonymous for the “Eastern way” as opposed to the “Western way”.                                        Nikita Gashunin’s work “Global Ambitions”, a sculpture filled with electronics and microprocessors, symbolizes a technical miracle put together from debris in the backyard. The moving sculpture reminds us of the phenomenal gift of the Russians to turn unusual the commonplace.
The works of Savadov & Senchenko unite the two directions of Conversion: to recycle Army property and to exploit the technology developed in the military factories. As stated above, information technology was considered a medium only for propaganda, oppression, and conceit.                                                                                                                                                            Gia Rigvava’s works “You can trust me” and “You are powerless” start from this notion. “You can trust me” uses the genre of the “talking head”, sublimating the characters of massmedia: Jesus, Terminator, Gorbachev.
The relation of man and technology is revealed in the work of the AES Group (Tatjana Arzamasova, Lef Evzovich, Yevgeni Svjatskin). The work demonstrates the impossibility of organically uniting man with tehcnology: a tank, whose body has been dissected with the
aid of computer, is being reclad into human skin.

  • Marat Guelman, curator,  Guelman Gallery, Moscow, Russia. Marat Guelman was born in 1960. Since 1990 he has been the director of “M. Guelman Gallery”. He is Dean of Art Management Academy. Curated exhibitions, connected with “esthetics of participation”: “Dedicated to the 7th congress of the People’s Deputatest”, “Conversion”, “Conformists”,
    “People’s choice” etc. He has organised more than 60 exhibitions during the last four years.