Deep into Russia, deep into bog
Oleg Kulik's performance 'Missionary' at Regina Gallery, 09.10.12
On 9th of October Oleg Kulik presented his show 'Deep into Russia' in the Regina Gallery at London. The private view was filled with pseudo-zoophilic photography, scent of expensive perfumes, taste of champagne and Russian language. That was not yet the performance, though it could be considered as such, that was the half-an-hour expectation for an artist to start the in-depth tour to his cultural motherland. The motherland was presented in a poetically-metaphorical, but quite profound view of an aquarium situated in the street in front of the gallery. The aquarium was filled with fishes, who were unlucky enough not to get to the supermarket and be consumed in some usual and worthy way, but to get involved into a hell circle of artistic consumption. However, they just shared the destiny of the public who came to see the event which was the remake of Kulik's performance of 1995.
The aquarium was full of water. When the artist, enchained, wearing a monk's cassock, dived into it, the emerged waterfall immediately engaged the soaked audience into the performance, creating at the same time the puddle-sized distance between the artist with his fishy collaborators and rest of the people. Kulik was diving into the tank with a Bible-looking book in his hands, and from time to time showing his head over the level of water and prophesying in Russian to the audience and to the fishes. The phrase could be understood as one and the same - approximately 'And every earth's animal is weeping and is awaiting for the revelation from human sons' (author of this article might be slightly confused in the transmitting of the prophetic word, as it often happens in such cases). Besides, the action of each earth's animal was oscillating between 'weeping', 'calling' and 'yawning' ("stenayet", "vzyvayet", "zevayet"), while the latter was the most responding to the actual mood of the event. After that, the naked-legged monk was diving back to his shelter in order to look out when the air finishes. Then, in the best Tarkovsky's style, this action was repeated until the viewer gives up and feels involvement into this quasi-meaningful spiritual consequence.
The persistence of the body at the same time in the limit between two environments: water and air, must have called to mind a thought (supposedly, ironic) about the instability of the human position in relation to animal world, an idea that we all went out of the water at least at the moment of birth, an assumption that the communication with god (russian 'bog') requires an existence of boundary, and can be performed just in a moment of actual suffocation and resistance to a nobody's, transitive, territory. Nevertheless, this mask of a trickster, worn by many artists before and after, in case of inversions of Oleg Kulik rather was used in some kind of a circus action where the most strange and exotic things are in value (such as exported and mythologized 'Russian spirituality' in connection to 'zoophrenia'). This kitsch combination of simulated cultural references and images forms the main interest of this performance, like a room of curiosities in a village fair.
Photo: Regina Gallery